It was ten years ago that I tried to quit teaching for the first time due to a grave mistake I made. As a new educator, I had forgotten to take into account who was not included on the last day of awards and accidentally left one of my nine-year-olds in the audience as the rest of his class stood in the front of the assembly. I returned to my classroom to an ugly email exchange with the parents and principal that ensued. Later that week, tearfully attempted to tender my resignation in the principal’s office. The principal–a toweringly tall, twenty-year veteran at that time–wouldn’t let me, talking me down from the ledge and through the importance of acknowledging accountability in order to move forward.
There’s more to that story that I won’t share, but having a female mentor like my first principal is one of the reasons that I have been able to find my footing and flourish (AAUW, 2016). My second principal was also vital in building me up, encouraging me to find new opportunities that would lead me into administration. Specifically, having strong women to help lead and advocate for me has been so vital because for so long my role wasn’t that of that as leader but as follower. Having come from immigrant roots where I was encouraged to “stay in my lane,” follow directions and fit in as my parents had taught me. This was meant to help us fit into this country, but certainly did not help us to grow, to be assertive, to be leaders within a bigger society where people didn’t look nor sound like me, where I could only expect my good inventions and decent grades to get me to a certain place.
Similarly, Leigh Patel’s insights on marronage (2016) echo the same meritocratic attempts of many immigrant families: getting good grades, doing what’s expected in order to succeed, and yet falling short of the mark through false starts and stops, experiencing microaggressions, and the ultimate feeling of not being able to get ahead, not truly being able to feel one’s success in the bigger community, perhaps being paraded as a minoritized version of success and diversity.
As a leader and educator working in a space where many of my students look like me, it’s become vital to help provide that next step in order to help others get their voices heard, dream and dare to hold onto goals, take those next steps forward in order to normalize success for people of color in the mainstream and not just within our own cultural communities. Ultimately, it’s about being a leader in order to foster growth, success, continued leadership, and knowing what may befall them if I don’t continue the path of mentorship in my own way and imparting my own particular set of wisdom and experiences, particularly as a child of immigrant parents (Santamaria, 2014).
Doing so comes through various paths: through lots of self-reflection on who I am and where I came from in order to make conscious choices of who I want to be. It’s taken a lot of work to acknowledge that I don’t need to have to maintain the same mindsets that were passed to me by parents and culture, as well as to relinquish mainstream values that don’t necessarily tie in with who I am. Forging a path for myself is sometimes tough and lonely, but looking to guidance from mentors, seeking community, and taking rest from the work (Love, 2019) is all important to help me continue forward.
I acknowledge that this may not be the experience of other immigrants, and that others may disagree with me. That’s ok! This is but one account of resistance and trying to make it up in the world, specifically The United States of America. When we don’t take the time to acknowledge the voices of all, then we only continue to perpetuate the harms that divide us and prevent us from moving forward together as a whole.
AAUW. (2016) Barriers and Bias. The Status of Women in Leadership. Washington, DC: AAUW .
Love, B. L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.
Patel, L. (2016). Pedagogies of Resistance and Survivance: Learning as Marronage, Equity & Excellence in Education, 49:4, 397-401, DOI: 10.1080/10665684.2016.1227585
Santamaría, L. J. (2014). Critical change for the greater good: Multicultural perceptions in educational leadership toward social justice and equity. Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(3), 347-391.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.