Saturday, March 24, 2018

Answers to Ponder


On this March for Our Lives day, I thought it fitting to write about our realities, choices and opportunities to grow. One reality is, people argue. A lot. (Yeah, I used “a lot”. We could argue about that, too.)

Even teachers don’t all get along in one big happy.

Disagreements are expected and can be a healthy source of learning, but how do we find common ground? I write about the need to do so...a lot. I also write about how much we actually do share in common (good and bad) and how we can grow...a lot. My book, Dear Teachers, is an example of that.

Alas, there are HUGE HUGE HUGE differences in our experiences, even within the same country. People have much in common. We all are born, love, fear, get angry, laugh, and die. 

How we live...now, that’s another story altogether.

We're doing a poor job today in working together and respecting our differences. With my writing, I seek to connect and explore what "together" really means. Some may scoff at my goals. Others may sneer at me and call me newly “woke” to the problems. Maybe. Better late, than never? Perhaps. Still have a long way to go? Probably. Always looking to learn something new and change? Always.

I think we all have an obligation to do that.

I wrote the following questions out a few months ago when a teacher pointedly remarked that his needs and experiences didn’t match what he saw in Twitter’s education world. He expressed frustration that he would love to have what other teachers moaned as “problems”. 

He felt alone.

These questions are based on my desire to help bring us together in understanding of each others’ experiences. From blindness, we can start seeing. From seeing, we can move to doing. By doing, we can shift gears to change. I’m trying to do the same in other projects on healthcare and mental health because I have immensely personal experiences with those two subjects, too. We have much in common. We have different experiences. We can reduce that gaps and our societies can benefit.

If we don’t reduce our gaps, we’ll all soon be living in tiny mental and physical forts, protecting our resources and unable to tap into others. That teacher feeling alone? To me, that’s an outsider looking at a fort he can't enter. Right now.

I imagined asking a variety of teachers and members of different communities to answer these questions and then allowing them to look at the overall responses.  I was hoping to build some empathy. I’m dancing a dangerous border, apparently, as can be seen in the recent problems at Oconomowoc High School when students were given the opportunity to take a privilege aptitude test.

My intention is to simply remind people (including myself) of what kids are facing in their personal lives. As the H. Jackson Brown, Jr.  quote I selected summarizes, children reflect the care they get. This problem and its consequences were also pointed out in a recent Education Week article, entitled This Map Shows How Much Is Stacked Against Students in Your State.

Our children are our future, so if they have it unnecessarily rough or inherit a world where their peers are viewed as enemies...That’s one ugly garden to consider.

I posed this questions to give a tiny glimpse of the range of experiences kids have in the United States. I was inspired by what I learned in Matthew Desmond’s Evicted. I welcome edits or additional ones to further clarify if you have any suggestions based on your experiences. Imagine the different futures available to different kids based on the answers. Imagine the immensely different present realities these kids are living.

All in the same country. Today.

We can and should do better. It’s not teachers’ responsibility to fix everything. It is teachers’ responsibilities to be voices and cultivate voices. It’s administrations’ responsibility to advance those stories outward, connecting to communities. It’s communities’ responsibility to amend the systems to reduce these differences in experience.

See. Do. Change. Grow. Together.


Answers to ponder. Most of my students have at home:

1)     at least enough nutritious food for a week
2)     1-2 days worth of nutritious food
3)     a few snacks/soda
4)     no food
5)     what home?

Answers to ponder. Most of my students personally:

1)     don’t have a family member or friend who’s been jailed, shot &/or violently killed
2)     know of someone personally who has told them they have experience with family or friends getting jailed, shot or with violently killed
3)     has a close family member or friend who was jailed, shot &/or violently killed
4)     has multiple family members &/or friends who have been jailed, shot &/or violently killed

Answers to ponder. Most of my students have at home:

1)     high-speed internet & multiple electronic devices 24/7
2)     high-speed internet & 1-2 electronic devices to share w other family members
3)     no internet but have devices & access to a public library wifi
4)     no internet, no electronic devices or public library services
5)     what home?

Answers to ponder. Most of my students personally:

1)     were read to regularly at home from birth to at least age 5
2)     were occasionally read to at home in early years
3)     were never read to at home
4)     do not have a steady home, let alone books or time to read

Answers to ponder. Most of my students have at home:

1)     enough to pay for housing, utilities & necessary expenses, with leftovers for fun
2)     just enough to pay for housing, utilities & necessary expenses
3)     need support to reach enough to pay for housing, utilities & necessary expenses
4)     overwhelming debt, & have been evicted & services cut at least once in last 12 months
5)     what home?

Answers to ponder. Most of my students personally:

1)     Are happy and have hope for themselves and the world
2)     Are usually satisfied but worry about their own and the world’s future
3)     Are regularly anxious about their future
4)     Are regularly anxious and dealing with real hazards in their daily lives
5)     Are constantly battling direct dangers and severe feelings of anxiety and hopelessness

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