Why I Do What I Do

“You’re in the profession of developing humanity, one class at a time.” This is Dan Meyer, quoted in my last entry.  I’m passionate about my job, and my students. I work with economically disadvantaged students in a district with declining enrollment. It is sometimes difficult to express to non-teachers the challenges these students face.

“The Unfulfilled Promise of Brown v. Board of Education” by Richard Rothstein explains these challenges better than I ever could. Compared to students of higher economic status, my students have language challenges at home and their parents have less education. They have less access to enrichment opportunities at all ages. They get less adult attention, and have poorer health.

As to why students continue to live in racially isolated neighborhoods in the twenty first century, listen to “House Rules”. It’s a legacy of generations of discriminatory housing policy. Just because things are better now doesn’t magically erase everything that happened in the past. Consequently, some students – through no fault or achievement of their own – are better poised for success, just based on who they are, and who their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were.

Which all brings me to the thing that made me jump for joy today:  Why Interactive Notebooks are a Tool For Equity and Social Justice. I’ve mentioned how glad I’m am that I used interactive student notebooks this year. I’ve viewed them as a way to teach note-taking and studying skills to a population that is sorely lacking. What I didn’t realize is how much more ISNs can do for my student population. This article also touches on another challenge my students face: childhood trauma.

I’m reminded of the advice my sister, also a teacher, gave me when I first started out. She told me that my job is to love my students first of all. I am to give them a safe place to be, and to model appropriate adult behavior. I am to encourage them and gently guide them into responsibility. Only after all that is my job to teach math.

It goes back to the Hierarchy of Needs. Students can’t fully engage with education until their basic needs are met. And for lower-income, minority, immigrant, and disadvantaged youth, those needs are less likely to be met than for students of higher socioeconomic status. As educators, we must work to close the gap as best we can, and to make sure our students don’t fall through the cracks.

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