As part of a personal project, I have been photographing a friend (or couples) every day since January 1st of this year. I haven’t done much photographically in the past year so this is one way of re-honing my skills and doing a project that I have always thought about doing. Along the line came the sudden reopening of schools, so I decided to switch to photographing my educator friends and colleagues. It’s my own minute way of telling their stories regarding the sudden return to in-person instructions in Durham Public Schools (and other districts across the country). Today, my fellow educator is an artist who I have seen in the area and chatted with off and on for years.

Q: What is your name?

Malcolm Amilcar Goff

Q: What do you teach or do in the school system and what grade do you work with?

I teach Visual Art to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

Q: What made you or inspired you to become an educator?

In my freshman year of college, I was an art major and I was in the process of picking a focus. I had gotten involved with activism on campus and we needed the help of an activist professor for something we planned. People said go talk to the Art Ed professor, Dr. Rikki Asher. She’s an activist, she can help you. So we, artist activists, went and talked to her and at the end of the conversation she said to me, “Have you thought about majoring in Art Education?” Ummm No. I was not interested. The summer after freshman year I was desperately looking for a job all over New York City. I applied to snooty Manhattan galleries and all kinds of places. I got a job hawking cheap watches at the South Street Seaport and a really good long-term babysitting job for this lawyer couple’s kid. But the best job that summer was as a teacher’s assistant at the YWCA in Coney Island Brooklyn. The YWCA job really hit me in a way that I didn’t expect. I was always finding ways to teach them art and developing lessons. The kids would tell me all kinds of stuff about their lives. I found the loves and struggles of my students very interesting. On my last day, the kids begged me not to go. And that night I dreamed about quitting college and staying to teach them. I woke up and thought no I need to finish college, but the dream still sat hard on my consciousness. The kids and their world were so real and I felt like a big part of the art world seemed like art and artists were just pawns in a rich man’s game of collecting fetishes. But I still loved art and creativity even though the art world seemed to go against my developing world view. How could I balance these pulls in my life? Let me go talk to Dr. Asher from the Art Ed program. That’s how I’ll gain that balance of the things I love.

Q: How are you feeling? What is your mood like right now?

I love teaching and I was really excited because I had a solid art syllabus for this semester. So I’m annoyed that we planned for one thing that the politicians and school leaders said would not change. Then they jerked all of us around the other way.  

Q: How do you feel about the sudden return to school buildings?

Typical NC education jumping on the bandwagon of trends that haven’t been fully thought out. Many of us felt so honored by our school board and Admin when they made the decision to keep us virtual. We felt like our lives and the students’ lives really mattered to them. But then they caved in when outsiders came up with this half-cooked SB37 garbage to punish Durham for our vision and strength to protect students and teachers. As of me writing this, we are 2 days in from DPS elementary return to school and there are already 3 COVID cases associated with this rushed return. 

Q: How do you think it affects or impacts the students’ learning?

Students need consistency and safety to learn. So I think we should have finished the year virtually and returned strong and safely in the fall.

Q: As honestly as you can, do you think it’s time to return to the building? If not, when do you think will be a more appropriate time?

I think we could have come up with a better plan for the students who were having various struggles. I agree with the sentiment that we needed a better way to address those students’ needs. But we have needed that for much longer than COVID-19 has existed. We educators who view our job as part of the Abolition movement fight for our students and communities every day but keeping everyone safe is always our first priority. A school cannot function if the people do not feel safe so waiting to finish just this one-quarter of school, not even a whole spring 2021 semester, is nothing within the bigger picture of the long history of the civil & human rights movement. We could have come back stronger than ever in the fall of 2021.

||||| 0 I Like It! |||||