I was going to post this in my personal blog and I decided to expose myself, the real me, to all my teaching buddies, my bloggy friends, and the world in general. This is me. For whatever it's worth.
What is a professional? What does it mean to be a role-model? Apparently I have a mixed-up view of this. My view of this is that I need to show my students not only what is appropriate, with my words and deeds, but what they can accomplish in life. Unfortunately, I have been given the distinct impression from a vast population of "professionals" that it is my job to be this role-model to only white kids from two-parent families with two incomes and no history of domestic violence or poverty what they will learn just from getting up every morning with the role models already in place in their lives. Huh? What is one of the first principles to teaching reading? Build background knowledge. But we sit here in white suburbia and build this out of our own very limited experience. These are the kids who: may not get enough to eat, know the "f" word before they know how to say please and thank-you, come from tattooed parents, wear clothes passed down from cousins, purchased at garage sales and second-hand stores; where reading is not encouraged because parents are just worried about getting through the day; and structure and routine are nifty little ideas that belong to another class of people; and these are the kids who may not get bathed as frequently as we think they should. Parents become parents before they are finished being children and were raised by children who became parents before they were grown themselves. As these kids come through the doors of the public school, we shake our heads and make little clucking noises and say "tisk-tisk." But these are the kids I was called to teach. Don't get me wrong, public school is for everyone and I love to teach every one of my students. But recently I've gotten on the rabbit trail of "what is a professional" and this stemmed from a conversation about tattoos and if we as teachers need to cover our tattoos. I don't really have an answer for that one, but there was a lot of murky, muddy conversation about being professional and "teachers are professionals." My question, one of the many, many questions this stirred in me was this: If I am so busy being a professional, how am I going to build background with the students who need me the most? How do I show them that they are just as important to me as their schoolmates? Because I think the answer lies in being a little less professional and being on an even playing field with not just white suburbia, but with other ethnicities, other economic status's, other sexual orientations, other religious affiliations. This single Mom who lives in poverty is not ashamed of the fact that she fought tooth and nail to be a great student going back to college with children in school and being responsible to feed these children. This tattooed teacher is not going to judge these parents and students because these are my people. My goal is to show them that anyone can succeed, anyone can change, and America is still the land of opportunity for all people.