the first cut is not the deepest

i love the holiday season and all that it brings. It is a wonderful reminder of all the blessings in our lives, a time to enjoy the company of our family and friends, and an opportunity to look back over the year and make wishes for the future. As this time of year is so full of generous and thoughtful gift giving, however, it can also bring up the difficult and complex issue of socioeconomic status and its vast disparities.

Teachers get to witness and take part in so many wonderful moments in children’s lives, but our job also has its fair share of saddening experiences. Seeing a student wear the same outfit to school all week tugs at teacher heart strings because we care so deeply. This year, I had my first experience of wanting to hug a student extra tight or take them home with me. You find yourself thinking about that student throughout your day, prime evidence of how teachers take their work home with them each night.

At first, I caught myself thinking, “it’s just hard this time because it is my first personal experience with this,” but then I realized that I will always feel the same way about future students. In this case, the first cut is not the deepest; every single cut is equally deep and affective. I also wondered why I only noticed this in a classroom setting this year. Maybe no one I went to elementary or high school with had these struggles? That, unfortunately, seems a little idealistic. I think the more likely answer is that I was oblivious before; I had no knowledge or need to notice these differences and how they affected students. It is amazing how much stepping into a teacher role can change your view and open your eyes.

On a brighter note, I believe that the teaching profession allows all students the opportunity to succeed and feel proud of their strengths and accomplishments. Teachers can make school a wonderful experience for their students. Perhaps our education system is not quite there yet, but I think that school should be a place of equity and fairness when the world is not.

I think it is also important to note that there is a misconception linking low socioeconomic status to unhappiness. Kids don’t need brand name clothes or an iPad to be happy. This is also a wonderful notion to share with students: some things in life are worth a lot more than what money can buy us and we don’t need material things to make our lives better.

In closing, I have included a few little gems I shared on Facebook in the past few weeks that I thought connected well to this topic. They are both definitely worth a few minutes of your time to take a look at. Warning: they both tug at the heart strings.

Why I Hate Going to My Students’ Games by Love, Teach

A wonderful blog post by a teacher about how socioeconomic status can affect school sports teams.

Kid Receives Cutting Board as a Gift video

This is such a sweet little video. The little boy is from a family that struggles with money and he receives a cutting board for his birthday. He graciously thanks his parents for the gift. Little does he know that his mother has saved up enough money to get him a tablet. His reaction warmed my heart and truly made me realize how much we take things for granted these days.

Thanks for reading and have a fabulous holiday season! Don’t forget to take a moment to realize all that you have to be thankful for which cannot be found underneath the Christmas tree.

-KKF

why am i (really) here?

I wrote an autobiography about what moments in my life led me to become a teacher and now, in true teacher fashion, I am going to reflect on what I wrote. The main aspect we were to focus on was our aversion to addressing our race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. 

In my autobiography, I did address these parts of my identity, but I took a questioning lens. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“Was I unknowingly steered into this field by society because of my identity as a white, middle class, heterosexual female? While I like to think that my passion for education is all my own, I can’t deny the fact that a large portion of the teacher population is made up with those who identify themselves the same way.” 

(I also addressed this question in a previous blog post, “just a little tuesday afternoon thinking…” from March 19th, 2013 if you want to hear some more of my thoughts on this matter) 

So while I did let the reader know who I am in regards to these identifiers, why didn’t I include an outright proclamation of these things as the very first sentence, or in the first paragraph? When we introduce ourselves in real life, we usually don’t have to say, “Hi, my name is ______ and I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual female.” And my question is, why not? We can’t determine any one of these things just by looking at someone. There are people in the world who may self-identify as black even though their skin may look to be a lighter shade. There are those who feel they were born in the body of the opposite gender of who they really are – so while they may look male on the outside, they self identify as a woman. We can’t judge socioeconomic status or sexuality by merely looking at someone, either. So why don’t we introduce these things about ourselves?

Obviously, it is not a cultural norm. But WHY not? Is it because only privileged people who are close to us get to know some of these deeply personal things (like sexuality)? Is it because we are embarrassed of a part of who we are? Is it because we expect people to know these things without us saying them? It is interesting to think of an alternate universe in which we are open about these fundamental parts of our identity. While this (most likely) will never catch on in society, it does make us question if we are hiding pieces of our identity from ourselves for some reason.

As a future teacher, I think that uncovering these pieces of ourselves is an important stepping stone into truly knowing yourself – which is the first step to realizing and appreciating differences as a window to anti-oppressive education.