Equity Walks, Money Talks, Truth Speaks, Future Seeds

Posted on July 20, 2011

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So here we are in a bit of a moral conundrum. I just took a job as a soccer coach at the United Nations International School in NYC. That’s good. I also agreed to let the athletic director forward along my info for potential teaching positions.

That’s where I feel not so good.

The problema is that I have been working in high needs (read: low income, low graduation rate, higher risk behaviors, students growing up in the midst of lots of violence and gangs, few seeing a light of an alternative way) schools in Oakland the past four years. It has been hard work, and has tested my own limits, but in a way I have loved it.

I went in my first year with the white man complex that I was going to “correct” these inner city youth, and show them the way. From my prestigious college and fancy private high school, that I could be the great white hope and turn everything around. That I would teach them content, but also provide tricks to make it in the world. As I come out on the other side four years later, I realize how much I was taught by them.  And now, I have just given an iota of thought to teaching in a private school, and it pains me. It pains me not so much because I don’t think it would be rewarding in it’s own right, and a place for me to further my own personal growth as an educator. Not because I could potentially be working with some of the most privileged kids in the whole world, because the bottom line is that kids are still kids and fun, innocent and impressionable no matter where they are from. The problem is the issue of equity. I have been to the far side of the moon and seen what so few want to talk about in our higher institutions and government office. I lived and worked in the neighborhoods that are solely depicted in the media as down trodden villages of criminals and low lives. I have heard the incessant talk from youth about “bad neighborhoods” and places to stay away from, about taking advantage of what I’ve been given to make my own way in the world, about always looking out for #1 (me), and I want to spit on it. It is so grossly unfair what is offered and available, that to transition from public schools that faced just about every story you could imagine (from one of my middle school students getting shot and killed by another youth, catching 6th graders smoking weed, calling CPS for child abuse, getting physically attacked by a student, watching my kids come to school hungry, not having slept, having been falsely arrested and thrown in the back of a cop car because of skin color, and on and on and on) into the lap of luxury with swimming pools and personal chefs and laptops in every desk and students driving BMW’s to school, it just seems wrong.

So my dilemma is not much of one I guess (now that I have allowed the writing to help me process, see writing can be a form of therapy too). Money speaks only so loudly to me. I know I will always be able to get by, make it work, enjoy food and music, take my lover on dates, and that no salary will make me feel good about myself at the end of the day if it is propagating further inequity.

I just wonder why nobody else seems to talk about it, besides the handful of super impassioned people working in urban public schools trying to break the cycles of oppression that have been in place so long.

Damn it feels good to be a teacher.

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