Teaching 8th grade history remotely during a pandemic requires unique skills and plenty of passion.
This interview was conducted during the 2020-2021 winter break.
It’s 6:30AM on Thursday, March 12th, 2020. Chidimma Emelue (Ms. Emelue to her students) is driving down Shelby Drive in Memphis— yes the street Drake raps about with BlocBoy JB. Spring Break starts tomorrow. She’s headed into work early to get ahead and prepare for break. As soon as she’s done Friday, there are just a few hours until her morning flight to Nigeria. Pssssssssssssh. Flat Tire. She doesn’t have a spare and calls a tow truck. As she waits on the side of the road, she receives a message from her principal, “Don’t let students know. We’re going to shut down school today…” To say her day, month, or year to come would be less hectic than that morning would be an outright lie.
Motherly. That’s how Chidimma says her friends would describe her in one word. She and I have been friends for over a decade, and sure motherly describes her, but that’s not the word I would use. Concertgoer or Dreamville stan is how I’d describe her. Play any song by Jermaine Lamarr Cole (J. Cole), Ari Lenox or anyone else on the Dreamville roster and you’ll see the real Chidimma come out. In our conversation, you’ll hear us reminisce on the time we saw electro-hip hop duo Chiddy Bang and got the chance to hit the club with Chiddy but one of us wasn’t twenty-one yet– I won’t say who. She truly is a Hip Hop Head! In fact, she taught me how to recognize the next song in a DJ’s set before the DJ switches tracks.
Chidimma's love for music not only makes her a great friend but also makes her an even better teacher. She connects with her students around their music tastes, especially if they’re Dreamville fans. She also gets to know their families so that when a younger sibling enters her class years later, she can truly help that student from a more knowledgeable perspective. During Covid, to ensure her students’ have just a slice of normalcy, for their birthdays she orders the entire family Domino's pizza - our favorite pizza chain from our college days at Rhodes College. Chidimma realizes the thin line she walks and never intends to overstep. And know, this is no small expense for Chidimma who has 20+ students per class. She’s not ashamed to let you know that she has student debt like the roughly 44.7millions other American borrowers. ($ChroniclesofChi is her CashApp if you want to slide her some duckets).
And that’s what makes Chidimma who she is– a selfless teacher who truly cares for the student as a whole, not just academically.
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Check out the playlist that pushes Chidimma during this pandemic below.