Twenty Someone: Ahmed Ahmed

Hometown:Washington,DC

College: Boston University

Age: 23 (35 according to my students)

Occupation: Intellect Acquisition Facilitator (Because “teacher” doesn’t do the job justice)

1. Describe your job in three words: Find a way…

2. What was it like growing up with your first and last name being the same?  I get this question a lot but I think it made life a lot simpler. I learned to write my full name much faster than the other kids, I always have a memorable first encounter with people as I clarify that it is actually my real name (sometime I need to pull out ID), and I can bubble in scantrons really fast when I take standardized tests. Although, there is the awkward moment when i introduce myself and people think I am saying “I’m Ed” and proceed to call me Ed.

3. Greatest accomplishment from college? Honestly…. graduating. I know it seems silly, but considering the harsh realities for Black men in America the fact that I was fortunate enough to make it through college with a degree is a life accomplishment I refuse to take lightly.

4. You got into Johns Hopkins. What made you choose Teach for AmericaI arrived on the campus of Boston University vastly under-prepared. My education did not equip me to be even remotely competitive with the students that sat around me. Quite frankly, this reality enraged me to no end. It was far from fair that I had to work twice as hard to make half the grade day in and day out. This was my first encounter with the “achievement-gap” and my spite for its existence refused to allow me to succumb to it. This started my exposure to working with schools in Boston and my realization of the joy working with kids brought me.  When I left home for college, I was dead set on becoming a doctor and mainly out of pride, arrogance, and stubbornness I proceeded with my planned degree without taking the time to evaluate how my growth throughout my collegiate career would affect where I saw myself career wise. I found myself as a senior going through the motions of medical school when I had long ago determined that my heart wasn’t in it. After that moment, the decision to do Teach For America was a no brainer.

 5. What is the hardest part of your job? The realization that my opportunity to fundamentally change the life trajectory of my students has an expiration date. I deal in the lives and futures of children on a daily basis and nothing is more frustrating than struggling to reach a child that you see going wayward only to realize that there is a time limit on your opportunity to correct their path. Regardless of everything I do in the classroom, at some point my students will leave my class and fall victim to the uncertainty of their future. The hardest part of being a teacher is the looming question of, “what if I haven’t done enough?”

6. What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is that moment when the most struggling of your struggling students finally understands how to solve that problem they wanted to quit on long ago. There is a moment when they just… get it. It is in that moment that your pride in them is only matched with the pride they have in themselves. That moment is where mindsets are shifted, mentalities are changed, and empowerment is born.

7. Who is your role model? Why? Vivien Thomas. Most people do not know who he is but he was an African-American surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He basically had no education past high school, faced poverty and racism, and became a pioneer of cardiac and a teacher of operative techniques to many of the country’s most prominent surgeons. He worked with a White surgeon for years developing these techniques and never received any recognition for them. His story reminds me to not do things for the recognition or accolades but rather to stay true to real purpose.

8. How are we going to fix education? We are going to fix it right? Absolutely we will fix it. It will take quality teachers and a system that holds EVERYONE that has a stake in educating our youth accountable for the success of our students. I think we always choose a party to blame whether it’s the teachers, students, school system, or government, as opposed to holding us all accountable for the individual roles we play. Beyond that, as a people and a nation we need to prioritize education in this country. Such a prioritization is seen in the allocation of time, resources, and oversight to make sure the job gets done.

9. Three things everyone should know about being a teacher. 1) 9-5 is a dream. If you aren’t putting in at least 12-14 hours a day you aren’t doing it right. 2) Don’t call us after 11pm. 3) As much as you may try, it is impossible to leave work baggage at work. These kids and your experiences follow you into your dreams.

10. In ten years you will be… finding a new way to save our future generations…

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