Thursday, March 15, 2012

Educational inequities

I tell my students no whining. "My dad didn't let me whine. He has a sign up in his office that says NO WHINING. This is what a whine sounds like: [insert my best whine here]. You will not whine." But what I really feel like doing right now is whining. Ranting, perhaps. I feel that I do that enough with my coworkers, and David, and my mom, and my friends...but sometimes...the positivity I try to keep in my classroom makes me want to be Negative Nancy after school. In the classroom, if a student tells me "TEACHERRR SHE'S LOOKING AT MEEEE" what I really want to do is tell him/her: "IT DOESN'T MATTER. YOU'RE BEING RIDICULOUS AND SILLY. STOPPPPP!" in my best whining voice. Yet instead, teacher voice wins and I give a look, patiently (or not quite as patiently) tell them to look at someone who's making a nice face at them (like me) and then I smile huge and try to get a laugh, and continue. Some days this is very, VERY hard. There could be worst things. You'd think I'd be used to the falling out of the chairs, repeating each other, tattling, and touching everything that is so customary of first graders. Oh, I'm used to it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't drive me bananas. Sometimes I'll even tell that to the kids...well, more so in the frame of "stop acting bananas." ARGH. I didn't even have a bad day. But I have this itching to just let it all out....the frustrations and gripes I have with the education system I work within. I want to complain about things far beyond my classroom, about inequities that exist in this world and this country everything that is going wrong with education in general, but particularly with urban education and the areas where families and children need the MOST opportunities and resources to be able to survive, let alone thrive. I am SO incredibly happy to work where I do, in a beautiful community with so much to offer and so many brilliant, inspiring people. I will not pretend it is not hard, though.
I am also exhausted. I am exhausted and I am not even working myself to my full potential. I am not as exhausted or overworked as some of my coworkers. I make sure I get time to take a bath everyday and to leave work at a reasonable hour (5:30 is usually my limit of being able to stare at my walls or the papers surrounding me and decide to give it a rest.) I then come home and work on differentiating or creating materials until bedtime, usually. But I have a wonderful roommate (slash boyfriend) who makes dinner most nights, helps with correcting papers or cutting laminations, and gives fabulous advice on what I should do for lessons. I have a supportive work environment, principal, and coworkers. Most of the parents of my students are dedicated to their students' learning, sweet, and trust my decisions for their students' learning. In the grand scheme of things, I've got it really easy.
And yet...I feel conflicted when looking at popular teacher blogs from all over the country. I am so pleased by the high level of rigor and talk of differentiation and essential questions and on and on, and I've personally learned so much from looking at the lessons and experiences of teachers from throughout the country. The internet is truly a beautiful way to collaborate, share, and commiserate. Yet what I see makes me realize at the striking disparity in this country, that grand difference between the haves and the have-nots, the access to not only a better education, but a more fun, multi-faceted one too, that's laden with art activities EVERY day, and P.E. teachers who have actually studied kinesiology, and elaborate class parties where teachers don't stress out about missing 30 minutes of valuable instructional minutes. I see clipart of white children or tan children with white features on lots of these activities, and I see the heroes and holidays approach to teaching multiculturalism in so many teachers' classrooms across the country. I am in awe of what these teachers are able to accomplish, and then I notice that most of them are in homogenous communities with teacher aides and parents helping out in the classroom. Most of the families in my community work long hours and speak a language other than English at home. I have lots of help in terms of field trips, but most days I am the only one in the room with these children. I feel like I am failing them sometimes..I want to be super-teacher and do everything, much like a lot of their parents are doing...EVERYTHING. I feel discouraged when I look at these blogs and see what some children are experiencing (multiple adults in a classroom, parents who can afford to send their kids on multiple field trips, freedom of curriculum, art, music, science EVERY DAY, etc, etc.) and I think about what our students experience and the limitations placed on communities in need. We are so incredibly privileged to have what we have at my wonderful school, but the reality is...those in power get more, those with less power get less. I see beautiful student handwriting, perfect grammar, and incredible learning experiences. I see smartboards and craftivities and I just feel like this shadow of a teacher...
And then I realize, I'd rather work here than anywhere else. I have lots of opportunities, I get to teach children who have a unique experience in this country of ours, and I am appreciate of my own privilege every single day. I get to think about race and fostering English in these students, and what access it will give them to speak, read, and write in two beautiful languages. I am humbled by their parents' experiences of hardship and violence in this community, and I am reminded of resilience and brilliance in children whose odds are all against them. I am so very lucky to do this job I do...and from the whining and ranting comes these realizations. I still feel this intense bubbling in the pit of my stomach when I think of all the injustices innocent children have to endure because of the power structures of our nation...and yet, I'm grateful to be a part of the road to close these achievement gaps and to at the very least give these students a safe place to come to day after day.

1 comment:

  1. Kiki,

    I can so relate to this post and actually touched on some of these things in my last post about having patience.

    I teach at a Title 1 school that is also a magnet school for the GT about huge extremes. MY kiddos are children of poverty who really don't have a lot. It can be very frustrating. Then, I remind myself that I might be the only one to love these kiddos for the day. It doesn't always make the job easier but it reminds me of the importance of what I am doing.

    I am a new follower and would love for you to come visit me when you get the chance. =)

    Heather's Heart