Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Discovering My Pressure Points When Working Between Wealth and Poverty. A Tale of Two Worlds

It has been an interesting journey trying to position who I am in the world of education. I've always promoted the achievement and success of urban schools, students and teachers, beyond the deficit construction labeled upon them by institutions with linguistic and economic capital that often exist on campuses and suburbs.

I experienced greatness with my own public school education and benefited even more from teaching in an urban school with a mission for academic achievement and diversity. From working with a wide-arrange of student learners and collaborating with tremendous educators from multiple content areas, I gained knowledge on what works and benefits learning for heterogeneous groups of youth. It wasn't until I did a doctorate that I learned that such work was placed on a petri-dish for academics and researchers (of whom I am now) to study. One world was a lived experience. The other world was one of probing, positioning, referencing, and competing.

By day, I live in urban schools while working with K-12 youth to become better writers in a wide variety of genres: informative, argumentative, and narrative. I operate among public school teachers and hear their frustrations about a lack of resources, the additional expectations place on them, the challenging out-of-school lives their students live, and the ever-changing professional development they receive. By night, I teach courses that try to provide context for the K-12 world that pre-service teachers will inherit and in-practice teachers already know. The university world offers flexibility, time, freedom, and resources with libraries, grants, and budgets. The K-12 world was far from that.

Balancing a dialogue between both worlds is extremely challenging. I've referred to Connecticut as the land of zip-code apartheid and it is true that two worlds exist: one with opportunities and and the other with obstacles and a lack of resources. I suppose my work is 'therapist trying to help the dysfunctions that result from the disparity of those who have and those who do not'. Now that I'm on the other side (drunk the Kool-Aid, as some might say) I'm having a difficult time curbing my impatience. 

One location has lunches provided to discuss the issues urban educators face and the other location has urban educators trying to find ways to feed kids who are hungry. I grow frustrated that most of the power lies beyond the communities that need to be empowered most. This causes me to scratch my head asking, "Where does an individual have the greatest impact? What is the best life to live?"

The verdict is out for answers to those questions. But each day I wake up with both of them on my mind.

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