My First Week

It’s 5 am again. Maybe this is just reflection time and I should embrace it. (Though I should probably go for a run instead.) It’s Friday morning at the end of my first week of teaching and there are two truths I have found:

  1. Teenagers are extraordinary human beings
  2. Being a teacher is more difficult than it is hard

Classrooms at Oakland Technical High Schools are the healthiest most vibrant communities I have ever been a part of. I have worked in a lot of places and been part of a lot of communities, none of them as diverse across so many spectrums as this one. Monoculture or a deficit of difference leads to intellectual inbreeding. Monoculture is the source alt-right movement. The Oakland Tech environment is fertile ground.

I can remember exactly where I was, walking with a close friend in college in the late 80's, when I made an ignorant statement about homosexuality and she stopped, turned to me and said, my sister is gay. From that very specific moment, I was forced to begin to wrest my perspective away from my experientially stunted understanding of gender and sexuality. I can remember similar experiences regarding race. The students in my classroom live daily within many spectrums — culture, race, gender, ability, capacity — and they are healthier for it. Multiculturalism and diversity are undergoing a massive backlash right now and being lumped in with childish definitions of political correctness. Those who isolate themselves from difference are doomed to be irrelevant. My students are brilliant.

One specific example is how they relate to their peers with special needs. Yesterday I saw a student use her body to temporarily shield their group project from a peer in her group who was compelled to draw smiley faces on it. So much beauty in that simple gesture. She has in no way questioned her peer’s right to be in the room and in her group. She has in now way questioned his participation and his contribution to our classroom. And, she is working towards excellence in this fertile and frustrating environment (with strategically placed smiley faces) — like we all do. These students see each other and they see their difference as ordinary. If they only knew the richness of this reality, especially in the face of the world that is telling them they are ‘poor’. I truly feel privileged to be a member of their community.

Maybe I’ll save “teaching is more difficult that hard” for the next sleepless morning.

Your Neighbor,

Steve

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