“Middle school students are just in an awkward stage,” Lee said. “People underestimate how much development goes on during middle school.”
She is currently studying education at Lee University with the intention of taking her lessons to inner-city schools. Attending a low-income school in her own middle school years sealed her decision.
“Some teachers treated the children like they didn’t want to come to school. They were just there for the paychecks,” Lee said. “The security guards had a better relationship with the students than the teachers did.”
Students were often unwilling to get close to their teachers. They did not want to give instructors respect. She said the good teachers sparked their students’ interest by making their subjects come to life.
Lee hopes she can do the same for students in her English and biology courses.
“Teachers should not settle on ‘good enough’ for their students. They need to help them reach their highest potential,” Lee said.
Some people would balk at the challenge, but not Lee. Challenges have always been a part of Lee’s life whether at school, sports or understanding racial dynamics.
She currently plays starting wing on Lee’s Women’s Rugby Football Club team. Like most players on the team, she had no knowledge of the sport prior to joining. Her position involves patience and running with the ball while people twice her size give chase.
Joining the team gave her an opportunity to broaden her friendships. As a sophomore, Lee rushed Epsilon Lambda Phi with the same goal in mind. She said her Epsilon sisters in purple helped her to open up.
“I want people to see me as a caring, giving person who is easy to talk to. I think it is really important to be a listener. I hope people feel comfortable around me,” Lee said. “Being dependable is a big thing for me.
“I hope someone feels they gain something out of a friendship with me.”
Sometimes, Lee admitted, she feels she falls short of the mark.
“I am really, super-unorganized. Sometimes, I am too easygoing. I procrastinate. I can be loud and obnoxious. Sometimes, my filter is not as good as it should be,” Lee said with a laugh.
The list continues before Lee remembers to look at the positive side again.
“I am lighthearted. … My friends say I am really good at cheering them up on bad days. I’m a good listener,” she says before becoming sidetracked. “I hate the word ‘chill.’ Everyone says I am super chill. What does that mean?”
Lee said she has made one or two observations about racial dynamics between growing up black in modern America and engaging in people watching.
“I guess I really didn’t notice race when I was younger, because me and my mom lived in a neighborhood with lower income whites and blacks. We were all the same status, I guess,” Lee said. “When I got to high school, I noticed there were definite differences between races.”
She said tension still exists between whites and African-Americans.
“When I was in high school, they told me I was too black or too ghetto to do this or that,” Lee said.
Despite jokes made about her race, Lee said she remained proud of her history.
“My mom and dad and my grandma have always brought me up to be proud of my race,” Lee said. “…We love to talk about our history. It is not something we are ashamed of and it is not something we joke about.
“It is something we take pride in. It is not something we say brought us down. We see it as something we have overcome.”
She said she has come in contact with both African-Americans and Caucasians who are ignorant of the other’s culture or race.
“What is even more baffling is when black people don’t know their own history or don’t take pride in it,” Lee said. “It’s our history. We should know where we came from, where our dialect came from.”
Continued Lee, “It is something to be explained. It is not stupid. … Especially, when you are talking about dialect. There is a whole history behind why we talk the way we talk.”
Lee said her observations will guide how she interacts with her students in the classroom.
“If I am in an inner-city school and I am in an all-black school with one white kid, it is about making sure the kids know there is no race,” Lee said. “…I understand knowing backgrounds [of races], but I don’t understand why it is still such a problem. Why would a parent not be OK, if their child is dating someone from another race?”
She said she hopes to follow her parents’ examples.
“I hope I bring my kids up the same way my parents taught me,” Lee said. “I was very much educated in my race and in my background, but I was always told never to discriminate or be prejudiced against any race.”
Continued Lee, “I was told we are all God’s people and all God’s races … I was never taught to discriminate based off of color.”
A year still stands between Lee and educating the minds of tomorrow’s future. She has a wide variety of interests and friends who keep her busy and on her toes. The young education major has the world before her and is looking forward to embracing new experiences.
She said she would like to try skydiving, swimming with the sharks and hang-gliding.
Running with the bulls has been firmly taken off the table.
“No. No, I will not be doing that,” Lee reiterated.
It is good for Lee to know herself so thoroughly while still young in life. It will only aid her as she leads her future students on their own paths to self-discovery.