Spending time reading before I start my Master’s degree program in Early Childhood Ed, I often feel overwhelmed. There are so many pieces of information and gritty lessons that veteran teachers have cobbled together for our benefit. In a time where teaching affords you little prestige, little respect, and little political immunity, I am continually impressed by the teachers on the front lines. The sheer amount of responsibilities that even terrible teachers have makes you wonder how anyone stumbled into this profession. I wonder how many people are like me, who wonder if they are really up for the challenge. God will give me the strength.
I am reading a book called “Multiplication is for white people” by Lisa Delpit, and it’s phenomenal. In reading this book, I seriously wonder if my best efforts, genuine care, and previous life experience are enough to overcome any demographic differences between me and my students. Students of color or students living in poverty have such a hard run in today’s educational systems, and it’s overwhelming to think that it’s up to teachers to make up the difference. As a white woman with too little experience with latino, black, or native cultures, I’d be a fool not to seek out help where I can find it. I’m grateful that I have to be thinking about cultural differences before I start co-teaching, and I really hope God will create opportunities for me to learn from veteran teachers of color. I know that being bold in Kansas is not the same thing as being bold in a bigger city. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure I have the stamina or enough hope in anything greater than myself (even God, sometimes) to fight for students in the ways that they need. A lot of my faith has to do with grit and just getting by in hard circumstances. Do I have enough radical hope to give all I’ve got to try to make a difference? Right in this moment, the answer is no.
It’s still the beginning. I still haven’t learned much of anything, and I know that in my program, there will be many chances to learn. It’s just a lot to realize that as a teacher, you are responsible for so many people’s dreams outside of yourself. I am in a position of enormous responsibility in teaching other people’s children, and more often than not, I am in a role that a lot of parents cant do for themselves. Whether it’s time, money, skill sets, or just different life experience, for whatever reason, I am the one responsible. Outside of the white middle class where most of America’s comfy cultural conscience lives, people have various home traditions and relate to their kids in non-white ways. Unfortunately, the system is set up to undervalue and attack the personhood of non-white students. There are remarkably fewer opportunities for students of color to feel valued within our public education system.
As a white woman, can my teaching compensate for my “otherness”? For real. Is there a way to teach kids who are not from my own background in a way that demonstrates God’s love, and partners with their parents to prioritize their children’s learning and happiness? Every parent wants the best for their children, even if not all parents (regardless of demographic, white included) don’t pursue that “best” intentionally. Teachers don’t just provide help to students, but they provide a lot of support and good to student’s families. Given the generational way childhood trauma is passed on, my work as both a Teacher and a Christian is for my students AND their families. I believe God’s love can heal anything, but even if nobody knows why I teach, I can still show it. Teachers have the ability to influence students’ entire life trajectories, in ways that can often be even more powerful than what their parents can give them. What a good place to be a Christian.
Ultimately, it’s not about what’s easy, or what’s even possible. It’s about what God can do, through his spirit. I believe that the Lord desires that every family would be healed, that all people would come to know him, and that all people are able to trust in his name. If there isn’t help and healing for people’s families, why come to Christ? If he isn’t powerful enough to heal our most pressing wounds, is he even powerful? We need people willing to be pillars of strength in our communities, so that we know what the love of God even looks like. My job is to love in a way that shows God’s goodness. Even if it’s not enough, I trust him to make a way.