The Teacher’s Voice is a Powerful Tool – BTR Cohort 18 Graduate Speech

BTR Graduate and Honored.org’s May 2021 Honoree, Kylie Webster-Cazeau shared a powerful speech taking us through her journey at BTR and lessons she learned along the way. Continue below to read an excerpt from Kylie’s speech.

“Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the Pawtucket and Massachusetts people whose land we are on today. I would like to acknowledge their ancestors who lived in this area and were removed from this land, this space, and for some, our memories. 

We live on the traditional lands of these people, and ultimately hold our celebration today on stolen land. As we move through our ceremony today, do not forget that this house sits on the original homelands of Pawtucket and Massachusetts tribes, and do not let their loss, nor their memories be forgotten. 

With that being said, Good evening everyone! My name is Kylie Webster – Cazeau, and I am proud to stand before you today as a member of Boston Teacher residency’s cohort number 18, a native Bostonian, as a black woman, and as a survivor. Take a minute to think about the people or person who have brought you here to this space today. Close your eyes. Really, think about that person or group of people. Sit in how they make you feel. Sit in the excitement you feel when it comes to celebrating with them. Honor that. Honor them. Celebrate each other yall! We all, especially residents in this program have had a tremendous year. We deserve to celebrate and be celebrated! We’ve laughed, we’ve questioned our life choices, we’ve cried … a lot. But it ultimately brought us here today. And proud is an understatement. I feel truly blessed and honored to be sitting here among the people that I can always call my co residents. 

Now Boston … this is my city. I grew up here. I became a person here. I went to school here. Experienced so many firsts here! So when I decided to come back to Boston to further my education and become a teacher, I was very hesitant and nervous, especially due to the ongoing pandemic and global crisis. I was unsure if Boston was ready to receive the new Kylie. I was unsure if I would be able to grow in the way that was needed to, to be the best teacher I could. I was scared. I was nervous. I had no idea if I would be successful at online learning. If I would be able to create new and meaningful relationships. I really did not know what to expect, nor what would be expected of me. I was a ball of anxiety, questioning every move I made and every word I said. I knew deep in my core, that the classroom is where I belong, and that I love teaching, but I was still terrified. The easy thing to do was to doubt myself, was to make excuses, and find more reasons as to why I may not have been good enough, or may not have deserved to be here. But I am truly blessed because this cohort has thrown all my fears right back at me and told me that I’m doing the most and I’ll be just fine. This cohort has taught me an uncountable number of things – but to our guests, families, and support system, today is your lucky day because I am going to share three of them with you! 

  1. Trust your gut. 

Don’t second guess yourself!! We are teachers! We always have to be prepared for anything, whether it be from our students, our school leadership or district. We are put in impossible situations all the time. I know this year we had our fair share, but remember how you responded to those moments and take them with you. We became teachers during the pandemic! That’s unprecedented! Unheard of! We did it, we made it, and we made it because we trusted our gut in that this was the right time and place for us to be right here. And if those seeds of doubt start to sink in, remember each other – and reach out. This is for life. 

  1. Set boundaries and always make time for joy. 

This was definitely one of the harder things to learn … and for me something I had to learn the hard way. Teachers hear and talk about burnout way too much for comfort. This year this cohort taught me to remember that I am and always will be Kylie before I’m Ms. Webster. This cohort taught me to love and protect myself the best that I can so that I can not just show up for my students, but show up for them consistently. This cohort taught me how to say “no”, how to say “ouch – that hurt”, and how to say – “actually, this isn’t okay.” This is a cohort of survivors. We survived this year, and this program, and didn’t lose ourselves completely in the process. I promise you we are tired, and beyond ready for summer – but we are here with peace in our minds and hearts.  And I urge residents – do not  forget Audre Lorde when she states, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,”

  1. Do not underestimate your voice. 

For those who know me, my history, or simply who I am as a person, you know that my voice is the most powerful thing I have, the most precious thing I own. This city, for me, always serves as a reminder for how powerful my voice is, how powerful the voice of young people, and new generations are. This cohort reminded me of that. This cohort stood together. This cohort has faced almost every possible challenge we could encounter together. Whether it was advocating for a more accommodating final, or demanding a safe space and cohort for residents of color, or asking for an in person graduation celebration. We never underestimate ourselves or our voice, we knew how powerful we were. 

I’m going to quote my good sis Audre Lorde again when she says, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” 

Cohort 18 – Dare to be powerful. Never forget how powerful you are. We are one of a kind, and no one in this city can say they have gone through what they have gone through this year. 

I would be remiss if I walked off this stage and out of this program if I did not challenge and urge Boston Teacher Residency to do more. You have had the utmost privilege of working with this cohort. Let our power inspire and influence you. Do not continue to let our voices go unheard and unvalued. Like our silence would not have protected us, your silence will not only not protect you, but residents like us. You have ushered in a new class of teachers – a new generation of teachers – and a new kind of teacher. Do not take that for granted. 

 

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