Sunday, October 15, 2017

The starting line...

Watch this. Just watch it. I am going to write about this amazing soon as I stop crying.

I just sat down at Starbucks to create some curriculum and write some assessments...and I checked my Facebook. My former teaching partner, who I have not blogged about yet...because I always cry when I consider where we are today, sent me the above link to the most important video I have seen in a long time. Shawn is the most amazing teacher I know. We shared five years and hundreds of kids during our time together. It was the most amazing experience of my life. We called it KASHAM. (He is KA and I am SHAM) More on KASHAM later...but this reminded me why I believe what we did for five years was magical. The video was sent with a simple message: "What an honest lesson about life."

Shawn and I made it work for five years because we could have conversations like this one. We could discuss with each other the different experiences our kids had, and that they were all coming from different backgrounds. We both believe that every kid deserves the very best education we can give them, but understand that some came to us with hurdles in front of them, while others had a clear path to the finish line. If you watched the video you know that it shows you very clearly that kids have NOT all had the same opportunities. As teachers we MUST acknowledge this...even if society will not.

"We would be foolish to not realize we have been given more opportunity. We don't want to recognize that we have been given a head start. But the reality is...we have. Now...there is no excuse. They still gotta run their race. You still gotta run your race."
Yesterday I blogged about Operation Common Good. And this video reminded me of exactly why I started OCG over a decade ago. I realized that the kids in my classes were not starting on the same line to begin the race. Some were hungry. Others were worried about not fitting in with their more wealthy counterparts. Why would you try out for cheerleading when you know you can't afford all the swag that the coach will require you to purchase? In a world full of UGG boots and North Face coats, it is brutal for a kid that cannot afford either. My colleagues and I, along with thousands of kids, we made sure that we did our part to help the kids that are already starting behind everyone else.

"Because the reality is, if this is a fair race and everyone is back on that line...I guarantee some of these Black dudes would smoke all of you. And it's only because you have this head start that you are possibly going to win this race called life."

Look at the faces of the kids left in the back when the race begins. Not one of the things that allowed others to move closer to the finish line before the race started was a decision that they made, or a choice that they had. This is EVERY DAY in school. When we start a new unit in our classes, we have to remember that some of our kids are far behind their peers. When I worked with Shawn, I saw every day how he helped kids to get closer to that line. He gave up his lunch just about every day for five years. And by choice, our kids would come in and sit with him and practice math. I have never seen anything like it, or ever worked with anyone more committed to leveling the playing field.

"Nothing you have done has put you in the lead right now."

I would have been one of the kids in the front of the line. I am clear about that. Having never known hunger in my life, and having supportive parents and an amazing extended family, I know what I don't know. I know so many people that believe that the world provides the same opportunities to all kids. They think it is up to individuals to decide whether or not they will utilize those opportunities. I wonder if they have ever looked behind them to see who is starting the race from far behind.

"If you didn't learn anything from this're a fool."

Every teacher, administrator, parent, child, human should watch this video. And we should all work together to build opportunities for kids that haven't ever been up front when the race begins. For some kids, that is every hour of every day they spend in school. This must change.

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