I heard Brandon Fleming speak at a school board member conference this year. He was dynamic and engaging, and he told a remarkable story. I bought his book so I could know even more about his story. Fleming is an African-American who excelled in basketball in high school. In spite of virtually no support from his parents, he earned a basketball scholarship. Then, early in his college career, he sustained a career-ending injury. Left to succeed on his academic merits, he failed miserably. At first.
Fleming tells a beautiful story of hope, perseverance, and giving back. He shares how, as a black man, he had never heard that black persons were an important part of American history and intellectual difference-making. It speaks to the critical importance of each child seeing that people who look like them matter. As he states, “My life would have been completely different had I known these truths. But I knew them now. And I was ready to do the work of undoing my own miseducation.”
And not only does curriculum matter . . . people matter even more. Fleming rose from the ashes because certain teachers believed in him. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It was caring people who helped Fleming to do what he has done.
Brandon Fleming tells an important story that all educators should hear. We need to do all we can to do to make each child feel seen, to let them know their culture mattes, and to make sure they know that they matter and they are cared for. Pretty simple really. Except, it’s not.