25 April 2012

The one where I complain, realize I'm a hypocrite, then feel better about myself...

I am really good at thinking less of myself.  I have used many negative words to describe myself lately, selfish, immature, irrational, CHB, etc.  However, I am also really good at making myself feel better about these words..."if I don't look out for myself, who will?" "If you can't have fun, why live?" "If I make a quick decision, it must be what I really want." And let's be honest, I'm pretty proud of my CHB status...not really, but I can't rationalize it.  So if I can do this about my personality traits, why not about education?

“I don't want my children with THOSE kids...” I answered the phone today at my school that is closing and heard this statement. We are trying to see if we could be housed at another school that is also closing after next year. This parent was not happy about her kids going to school with "those" kids at the other school. Demographically, they are very similar. The other school just has a bad rep-but really it's not that bad. When I told people I was working at this school current school, I got a lot of "I'm sorry" and "why??". It really ticked me off that people would say that-and now these parents are judging another school.  Both of these schools are less than 5% White, majority African American, a few Hispanic.  It really ticks me off to think if you go back 50 years to integration, these same words were uttered-unfairly and unjustly. People should really watch their words, connotations and feelings.

At the magnet forums Durham had before all the closings were announced there was a campaign "don't roll the dice, make all the schools nice." Well it wouldn't matter. It's a nice sentiment, but seriously, people's preconceived notions trump the truth.  Hillside High was a tough school when I was in elementary school in Durham.  It got a new building, tried to change the districting but basically stayed the same.  However, now the school is beautiful, the teachers have been trained in tons of new techniques and they have good administration.  I was talking to a teacher about the school the other day and she mentioned she would never want to work there because it's so bad, with "those" kids.  Even educators keep reputations alive.

 When I tell people that I am going abroad, I hear a lot of “Why?” and “Are you teaching Americans?”  When I tell them I am teaching Arabic students they have a little freak out.  They are letting their preconceived notions about the Arabic communities guide their thoughts.  I spend a lot of time trying to calm fears and questions for people.  But then I start to wonder….am I calming my grandmothers’ (probably all four of them) fears or my own?  Am I worried about teaching THOSE children, in THAT country?  Am I continuing the stereotypes or am trying to defy them?

 When I first got teaching fellows I thought that I wanted to teach remedial math to low performing students.  I then got into teaching for real and realized that I did not have to be at a “bad” school or teach the “low courses” to give help where it is most needed.  While it would be great if all of the schools in a community were on the same playing field, it won’t happen.  What CAN happen is that the community can support the teachers and students attending ANY school.  Everyone needs and deserves an education.  If we are not educating our youth, we are not supporting our future.  One reaction a person had to me moving abroad was, “what about Americans?”  How can we think like this when we live in such a global community?  Education is a worldwide need.  Not just in America, but everywhere.  Yes, there are many perks to going abroad, and yes, they are the reason I am going, but I do believe that “THOSE” kids need education too-and a darn good one. So I realized that I am a little bit of a hypocrite, saying I am doing research to calm others' minds, when I am really calming my own too...and also admitting that this advocate for public education is now teaching privately...but again, I embrace my downfalls.

 So when it comes down to it-should I stay here and fight the good fight?  Am I running away from the problems I see facing America or am I running to new problems?  Both.  I want education to be about the children, not about the teachers.  I want students to deem education as a privilege, and to treat it with respect. I want school to be a students’ safe place or home, not their enemies.  I want administration to support teachers’ new ideas, not to worry about the political reasons not too.  I want the LEA to support all of the schools, and provide equal resources, no matter what the scores, money or community.  These problems are everywhere.   Mrs. Richmond (from NE) put it perfectly-we are trying to solve problems with solutions that cause new problems.  We are solving problems, with problems.  I know that moving will not be a cure all, it will bring about new problems.  However, I am hoping to learn, grow and redefine education, for myself.  I will teach "those" kids.  When I come back I will teach a different group of "those" kids.  But one day, I hope that I can say I teach "our" kids.  No matter where I work....


  1. I hope I`m not the only one who had to Google "CHB"

  2. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chb
    CHB in your context is a variation of definition #2, right CJ? as in "Certified Hot Berglund"?

  3. HAHAha! Okay, I know the rest of it was very serious, but I do appreciate Emily's definition. : o)

    Carissa, this makes me think of something I just came across this morning (yes I am finally getting started on our project!) about bridging the gap between American perception of Islam and reality. http://www.asmasociety.org/index_splash.html

    Two things: one, I want to say that by going abroad you are serving "our" kids by deepening your world view. We want our students to be 21st century learners and global thinkers, but so many of our educators in America rarely leave our country, are mono-lingual, and essentially read only American news. Second, "those" kids that you are going to teach are going to be the future leaders of countries and corporations. You are working to shape our world. People said these things to me before I moved to Brazil, but I thought it was them justifying their move. With the benefit of hindsight, I am learning the depth of truth in these statements.

    I am looking forward to you, Patrick and I building bridges across continents, and helping "our" kids and "those" kids taste the world in a much deeper way than through National Geographic videos or Google Earth.

    You are a CH(amp)B and don't you forget it!

  4. I didn't know there were so many options for CHB. I'll let you all decide which one defines me :)

    Katy, I am having a hard time with accountability, education and stereotypes/preconceived notions in general. Thanks for always being an ear for me to vent to/with!