What would the other teachers at my school say if they stumbled upon this blog? What would the parents say? What would my students say?
I’m frustrated with Teach For America right now. This past weekend, we held our Oklahoma Regional Summit — an opportunity for the entire Oklahoma corps to get together and…well, mostly, re-energize us and reground us in “the movement.”
What would my kids say if they knew that each day in our classroom was part of a “movement,” a battle against educational inequity? Would they feel empowered, like their work carried a significance beyond solving math problems & accomplishing the day’s objectives? Would they feel belittled, like they are simply cogs in a grandiose plan, significant because of their socioeconomic status and not as individuals? Would they feel misunderstood, like their well-being & future is being discussed by people who come from very different backgrounds, people who can never truly experience what they have felt?
I do not feel effective when I talk about hope & vision apart from my kids & my school community. I feel condescending. I feel misguided. I feel like I am trying to grasp at some big, bold idea that will transform the lives of kids without their input, or the input of their friends & family & people who have cared about them long before I knew them. I have limitations in my ability to understand my students & their environments, and quite frankly, I find little authenticity (“critical hope,” as Duncan-Andrade called it in “Hope Required“) in talking about such bold vision with people who are as limited as I am in understanding this problem.
There are moments when I wonder if I have the courage to enact bold, “transformational” changes in my classroom, and by extension, in my kids’ lives. I am afraid of “putting myself out there” in the classroom, of committing to ideas that my kids may feel are childish or pointless. I wonder if I am coming up with excuses to justify this fear, claiming that because I have not walked in my kids’ shoes, I cannot come up with authentic, visionary ideas for them.
So, here is my resolution: I will not use this feeling of inauthenticity to allow me to stagnate. Instead, I will turn this frustration into action. I have not walked my students’ paths, but I must try to see their paths clearly. I must engage them, their families, and their other teachers in this conversation. I must accept my limitations (which are many) and ask for help from people who can fill those gaps, even when it’s not comfortable.
How? Going on home visits. Initiating challenging conversations with figures at my school. Pushing myself to see more. Involving my kids in the conversation so we can come up with a vision, together, that is both challenging & meaningful.
To stop talking about my kids & members of my community, and to start talking with them.