The weather in San Francisco has been wonderful. Sunny days, 65 degrees and a slight breeze. “I should be outside,” I thought. So, that’s what I did.
Along my drive and with no particular destination in mind, I decided to go through the neighborhood where most of my students live. Much of the neighborhood is tucked along the slopes of a large hill. At the top, you can see the Pacific Ocean. I drove up, paralleled parked and then heard the crackling of glass as my car came to a stop. Crap. Luckily, I found no punctures as I wiped beer bottle glass off my tire.
The view is awesome. I can imagine what it must have looked like long ago, with grass covered hills extending all the way down to the beach. To my right was a spectacular view of San Francisco, a cityscape of humanity. I could see buildings that I knew – driving in my car – would take at least 10 minutes to get to.
“Wow. I never had a view like this,” I thought to myself. Despite the views, however, most of San Francisco would consider this neighborhood to be a ghetto.
I broke my gaze from the horizon and looked at my surroundings. Just across the street, a house showed cracks in the foundation. It was pink, or at least it was before years of sun and rain. I could envision the house in its former glory (although how good a pink house could be, I don’t know.) Behind me, the grass needed some TLC. Overgrown brush with beer bottles and trash mixed in. It screamed, “Help!” I looked down the street and saw houses with barred windows and doors. The metal bars were different colors to compliment the paint schemes. All were rusting though.
“You can make it out,” I thought. “I’ve been there. They’ll tell you that you can’t but don’t listen to them. Block them out.”
Only five blocks away, I could see the parking lot of my school. It was empty. Weird. Everyday it was packed with cars. In the morning and afternoon it was bumper to bumper with children and parents rapidly exiting and entering their cars.
“I hope they’re enjoying the weather today,” as I thought about my former student’s and families. I get back in my car and continue to drive. I end up at Ocean Beach and park, this time without hearing crunching glass. I find a bench overlooking the beach. There are surfers with giant kites, skipping over the ocean waves. People are walking on the white sand. I take a deep breath and exhale. “Never thought I would live so close to the beach. This is nice.”
Moral of the Story: Teachers will see the potential in every child, regardless of what life has given them or how the world says they should fail.
Poverty affects everyone. Nobody is safe. You have a high paying job? Well, now you’re fired. You have great health? Here’s an illness and now you’re physically unable to work. You’re a preschool teacher? Well, now your hours have been cut. We can plan all we want, but it can all go away in a flash. I’m not trying to paint a scary picture, but I know there are people reading this that can relate.
I looked around the children’s neighborhood and I don’t know how these families arrived at their situations. But, you have to look past the broken beer bottles and barred windows. You have to look past the poorly maintained yards and faded paint. The world stereotypes the type of people who live in these homes and neighborhoods… and they’re wrong. There is potential. There is fight.
I believe in these children and know many other teachers that share the same vision. However, there are teacher’s that see a “ghetto child.” They won’t say it, but they’ll show it. They won’t push the child to work harder. They won’t give the child extra attention. They won’t believe in the child because they think “I know where you’re going to end up. Why try?”
If the world is true then, based off my childhood, I shouldn’t be here. Like, I should not have graduated high school. I should not have graduated from a four-year college. I should not be going to London for education world summits. I should not be giving speeches at City Hall in front of politicians. I should not be going to graduate school. Can you imagine? A Mexican with a master’s degree?
The world says similar things about my students. “They shouldn’t make it to college. They shouldn’t have a career.” There are teachers and parents that have heard this message; and they’ll prove to the world wrong. The world can keep talking. We’ll keep teaching.
From broken glass and barred homes, rise ghetto child and shine.