Why I Teach: Ms. Hairston

An interview with Ms. Hairston with our reporter, Aidan Mandap

Why were you inspired to work in education?
I was inspired to work in education by my father. He was a state representative in Charleston, SC and he saw the inequities. The inequality, shall I say, when it came to education on everything was not fair, nor was it equal and he worked tirelessly to correct the flaws that he saw in the system. He thought it was very important that everyone received or had access to the best educational opportunities. And his example inspired me.

What do you love about teaching?
What I love about teaching is the transference of information when students master a skill or take information and make it their own and they have that “ah-ha” moment, the light bulb goes off and they connect with it and you know that it’s now a part of who they are and they can actually apply the skill, the information to their life.

What is the least favorite part of your job?
My least favorite part is that you never stop working. You’re always working as a teacher and educator because there are so many opportunities that you basically stumble upon outside the defined hours. It’s after-hours, making yourself available, and things like that. But it’s again not anything that I would complain about or say “Oh I’m going to walk away from education.” It’s just something that you have to adapt to.

What makes a good day at your teaching job or school?
Just having the impact on students and my colleagues, you know, just interacting with people. Learning something new because as a teacher, I’m not only giving information to students, but students are also giving information to me, so it’s a fair exchange that makes my day exciting because both of us are learning, we can make mistakes. Students make mistakes, teachers make mistakes and we just share those experiences and move forward together.

How do you show your school spirit?
I like acting out in class, you know because everyone learns
differently and you just can’t be so flat and boring. But not menacing, you have to find different ways to motivate your students. I’m going to say for a lack of a better term, your audience. You know you have to watch the body language, the facial expressions. Because just from that alone you can tell if a student is connecting with you. If they’re following, like your train of thought. With that information, you’re trying to convey, and sometimes you just have to do something a little different. Keep it spicy, keep engaging to keep the kids attention.

What was your job before teaching?
My job before teaching I was an executive director at Saint Vincent’s Medical Center in New York and my departments were focused on customer services and marketing. Being able to serve the needs of people allowed me to practice my listening skills and patience.

What was a normal day like for you there?
Oh my god, it was alive, it was. It was nonstop, I was on call 24/7, beepers you kids don’t know anything about. But being on call 24/7 because I was dealing with people’s health it didn’t matter if they were in Walmart, ShopRite, or whatever they would stop and have a conversation. So my day would start at 5:30 because I had to commute from New Jersey to New York with two young kids. My day would technically start at 7:00 PM.

What are some of your hidden talents?
Some of my hidden talents, from a fabulous cook and baker to a personal trainer. I’m a photographer. I love to travel. I love reading. Soccer is my first love. Within the scope of travel, I love beaches.

Is there anything you would like readers to know about?
Pretty much what you see is what you get. I believe in being honest, telling the truth, sharing the good and the bad because that’s the only way we can move forward as a people. As a society, I don’t like to sugarcoat things because it makes things confusing when you’re trying to share information, let people know how you feel. The best way to say it is to just honestly speak from the heart and you know folks can sense the sincerity in your approach. The best way to say it is to just honestly speak from the heart and you know folks can sense the sincerity in your approach and that will cause them to feel comfortable. It will allow them to open up and have a clear and direct conversation with you and leave it there.