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Teaching Confidence: An Interview with Alexander Major II

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Not everyone’s a winner. Those who strive and work hard, they become winners. Those who lose, they learn from their losses – and if they’re motivated because they really want that particular win – they’ll work for it. As long as you’re striving, you’re not a loser.

Growing up in the Astoria projects in Queens, NY, a shortage of resources was the least of his problems. In the shadows of racism, discrimination, and crime, Alexander clambered at any opportunity to provide a better life for his family. He challenged himself to be the agent of change in his life. He picked up a paper route; giving the majority of his weekly pay to help his family. This sacrifice allowed him the chance to spend time at the Boys & Girls Club where he picked up lifeguarding and gymnastics. As Alexander explains in our interview, this was the starting point to a fulfilling career. 

Alexander Major II is a physics teacher at E-Cubed Academy in Providence. The school’s motto, “Educational Excellence through Empowerment”, is perfectly exemplified by his unorthodox, but proven approach to teaching. From acting out roles in a soap opera to kitchen renovations, Alexander entrenches his students in the ‘real world’ application of science.

“You have a responsibility for what you don’t know,” says Major. His teaching method guides students to hold themselves accountable for their own learning. “This way, they’re never behind on anything,” he said. “If they need a particular skill, they can seek it out themselves and actually teach themselves going forward,” explained Alexander. Seek help, ask for resources; it’s no one else’s fault if you don’t understand. Alexander builds accountability into his curriculum

Kids – when they look at you – are looking for a role model or someone they can relate to; someone who can tell and show them they CAN DO IT. Students of color make up 90% of E-Cubed Academy’s population. Because of Alexander’s skin color and hurdles he overcame; his students can relate more closely with Major. He tells us, “When they see a person of their particular race, color, or religion, they can say, “Hey! I can be that person, too. I’m capable of learning. I may not have the same resources, but I still have the same responsibility to LEARN.”

“My main thing that I don’t know is what you’re going to be, but I demand that you be an agent for change.” Alexander’s hope is that his students leave with not only subject knowledge, but also feeling empowered and accountable to facilitate change. He closes our interview by saying, “Students can perceive a better world and make the changes that needed to be done because many things change through the years, so we need people educated who lived through it because they can see what needs to be changed.”

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