Devine connections and life purposes become unveiled once you go with the move in your heart. A cliché statement that I believe in is that everyone has a book inside of them. One of my biggest intents when interacting with people is to learn about their story. This often leads me to learning about their mindset, life purpose, and what brings them happiness. When our company published "Little Zilla's Big Wait" by retired NFL player and now Best-Selling Author Antwon Blake, it reminded me that authors such as he and myself took on writing as a profession after embarking on another career journey. That divine connection led me to another.
Antwon and Jasmine McGee, the magnificent illustrator on “Little Zilla’s Big Wait" connected me with Arnonsia Jones. One of the first things I noticed after interacting with Arnonsia was her passion for instilling in kids’ hearts that they are more than enough. Bullying often crowds the spotlight as the sole social struggle of childhood. Not fitting in during childhood has underlying effects that often go undetected throughout a person’s life.
Reassurances in the household often diminish negative energy outside of the home. Within moments of speaking to Arnonsia, it was evident that one of her life purposes is to be a voice of reassurance for children worldwide. Her new book and career journey are applicable to anyone who has a dream they want to accomplish.
Often, we don’t discover our life purposes on our first career endeavor. Ideally, each step forward is logistically directed to our destiny. The second step of Arnonsia’s career path delivered her to one of her life’s purposes.
In 2016 she transitioned to the education realm and began teaching. While there are mainstays in grade school education, one universal change has shifted the paradigm. The opportunity to express yourself has been optimized to new heights. Unfortunately, that has resulted in a more judgmental and isolated society. This ranges from the board room down to pre-schools. The pre-schoolers and early elementary-aged kids are affected the most.
During Arnonsia's first years of teaching, she noticed the shift in the classroom and on the playground. To impact those who felt it the most, she began teaching special education in 2019. Early into teaching students with special needs, she grew the desire to continuously seek ways to impact children who need to know that they are more than enough.
When did you first think about becoming an Author?
The first moment I thought about becoming an author was also the first day I wrote and finished, More Than Enough. The majority of things I've done up to this point is typically random and very sudden, but somehow, they all seem to work. It was Easter night of this year, and I was preparing reading materials for my students. As I was scrolling through the book options, I realized how "bland" the book selections were. None of the books were relatable or familiar to my childhood or my current life, and in that very moment the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, "Write the type of book you desire to see." I immediately stopped what I was doing, pulled up Microsoft Word and went at it.
That’s inspiring! Procrastinating is one of the most common barriers for executing in today’s society. What advice do you have for people that are facing challenges executing their goals and visions due to procrastination?
Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? One thing we constantly take for granted is time. The saying “time is not on your side” is very true! Whatever is in your heart to do, DO IT! The more you think about it, the more you think yourself out of it. A wise man by the name of De’el Woods always says, “Believing that you can is way more profitable than believing that you can’t.”
What were the reactions when you first opened up to others about writing a book?
One thing about the people that I love, trust, and respect is that they are always supportive of any and everything that I do. They were confused initially because I'd never talked about writing a book before, but once they read the first draft, they loved it! I don't have a huge family and my circle is more like a dot, but it’s definitely quality over quantity for me.
How did that alter your energy?
Their reactions didn't alter my energy at all because whether they were supportive or not, the world was going to get this book!
What advice do you have for people that receive determent about their dreams from loved ones and their close circle?
Focus!! Drown out the noise and focus! Let your results speak for you. Eventually, they’ll be telling the world how they know you.
What motivated you to switch your profession from healthcare to education?
Working in healthcare means that you're typically at work when others are at home. In 2015, I volunteered to host Thanksgiving at my home. However, I was stuck at work, hoping the phones would stop ringing so I could leave early and help my mother and grandmother prepare for Thanksgiving. I told myself that I needed a career change for two reasons: To spend more time with my son and family, and to leave work every day with a sense of fulfillment. In December of 2015, I graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown, resigned from my job in March of 2016, became a substitute teacher in August of 2016, and an Official Teacher of Record in August of 2018.
How did connecting with children on a daily basis change your life?
It definitely increased my patience, compassion, and empathy. Children know more than adults give them credit for, so a lot of times they take on adult responsibilities. A lot of times we get upset with the students, but once we meet their parents it all makes sense. Some of those babies don’t stand a chance when you consider their home life, so that’s when patience, compassion, and empathy goes into overdrive. I understand that I can’t save all of the children in the world, but I will give everything in me to at least try!
What would you change about the education system?
There's so much about the education system that is flawed, but one thing I would change for sure is the STAAR test. The fact that a student can work tirelessly throughout the entire school year, just to be faced with the daunting task of an end of the year, make you or break you test is completely asinine. The STAAR test is stressful to both the teachers and students. Oh, and Special Education students that typically receive Oral Administration, can only have the questions read to them during the Reading portion of the STAAR. How is that fair to them? So now you have to spend all of this unnecessary time teaching them test taking strategies when that time can be spent teaching them how to actually read.
What are your biggest takeaways from teaching special education?
My biggest takeaways from teaching special education are that SPED students are simply general education students who require different learning measures and techniques. I knew during my time as a substitute teacher that SPED was my calling. My teaching philosophy is to build confidence first. If you can convince a child that they can master the task that's in front of them, they will do it every time. Every child needs someone to pour into them, but SPED students need a little more because their emotional and cognitive abilities require a tad more tender love and care. I've had students to go from sitting in the back of the class trying not to stand out to boldly raising not one, but both hands so the teacher can call them to the whiteboard and solve a problem. Academics are important, but confidence will make a student that technically reads on a 2nd grade level pick up a 5th grade level book and say, "I can read this, watch." The late great Rita Pierson whom I love, admire, and often try to mimic, has a Ted Talk video that completely changed my outlook on teaching. I go back and watch it ever so often just to get a refill on the gems she shares. She has a saying that I made my students recite every morning. They hated doing it at first, but eventually it grew on them and like she said, "If you say it long enough it begins to become a part of you." I'll end this with her saying, "I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I'll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education I get here."
Having that type of impact on students is truly a gift. What advice do you have for parents and teachers to let their children know that they are more than enough?
VALIDATE, VALIDATE, VALIDATE! Parents please validate your children and how they feel. We nurture them when they’re sick, but neglect them when they’re sad. There are too many emotionally unavailable adults because their parents never validated their feelings. Yes, as parents we know they will get over it, but for the child it feels like the end of the world. Don’t brush it off or minimize the way a child feels, acknowledge the feelings and immediately pour positivity into them. Every child should have what I like to call a “safe space”. A safe space should be at home, but unfortunately school serves as that safe space for a lot of children. That safe space is where a child can go to just vent, cry, and speak their heart while being free from judgement and chastisement. Children desire to be heard just like adults.