2 years later
Ok, so it hasn't been two years since I've written, but sometimes it feels like it's been that long. The past two years of my life have been long. I moved to Alabama full of hope and passion and big ideas about what I would do in my classroom. I was going to change lives! Children would learn stuff! Don't get me wrong, children definitely learned stuff, and I feel confident enough to say that some lives were changed, but I can't help wondering what it all means. For the past two years, I've fought every day. I've fought for my kids and sometimes against them. I've worked to motivate and inspire them. We've read books like The House on Mango Street that they see themselves in. We've read Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. Two of my students grew four years in reading over the course of one year with me.
But when I reflect on my time in the classroom, I wonder how much I actually did. I didn't change the situations in which they live. I didn't change the policies that are designed to make sure they don't succeed. I may have had students grow four years in reading, but some of them are still going to start ninth grade reading below grade level.
I think there are many ways of measuring success. Based on data, I think I was a pretty successful teacher. Depending on which student you talk to, I was either extremely successful or an extreme failure at character education. I've seen my kids grow from immature 13 year olds into responsible 14 and 15 year olds. They've gone from below grade level to honors classes.
The problem is, I don't know how to help them. I don't know how to tell them that there is a system out here built for them to falter. I don't know how to explain them that they need to be distinctly proud of who they are and where they come from but that they have a right to pissed off about the fact that their living situation is a direct result of systemic racism.
I don't have answers. I don't know how to fix the problem. All I know is that over the course of 2 years, 150 kids taught me about race and privilege, and stole my heart in the process.