Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a difference

This has been a challenging school year. I am at a new school, again, and my district, the Kansas City MO School District, is facing a state takeover. Getting to this point has been a combination of many things, yet it’s fashionable to blame teachers for the ills of society -- even the ills of the school district. Even teachers in my region shudder at the thought of having to possibly take “those Kansas City” students. Not many teachers can do what we Kansas City teachers do- we look poverty, abuse, neglect, and ignorance in the face every day. I wouldn’t trade shoes with any suburban teacher- my students need me, and I change lives every day. My students readily grasp Holocaust lessons- they live with the ignorance and disdain that the Jews living during the Holocaust faced. They know life is tenuous, and they comprehend how important it is to understand and accept others.

The state of Missouri has been exploring options for improving the educational outcomes for my students, and one option is allowing students to attend suburban districts bordering our district. I was astounded when an area teacher who claims an interest in the Holocaust outright told me that she didn’t want “those" students. Her ignorance made me ill. In order to have a healthy society, we must view all children as ours. Didn't the core of being a bystander during the Holocaust involve thinking of society as an “us” and “them” proposition?

I know teachers who would die of shame if they had my job. I am proud of what I do. Kansas City teachers work many more hours than our suburban counterparts, and spend much more of our own money to ensure our students have what many suburban children take for granted. We work in neighborhoods most would not venture into. We comfort children who are homeless, whose parents are incarcerated. And yet our students are compassionate, accepting of others, and learn despite worries most children never face.

I have begun teaching the Holocaust to my new students. It is always astounding to experience the disbelief of what transpired during the Holocaust with a new group of students. I am always humbled by their unique insights, and know that I will learn as much from them as they learn from me.

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