Lauren, Teacher, NM

A lot of people in positions of power—especially in the classroom, are seen as outsiders. I speak the language of privilege, I have the skin color of privilege, and when you’re an outsider that way, people see you negatively. So I work really hard to forge relationships with my students and know what’s going on with their families. I’ve made an effort to know Spanish. And its hard, because I’m so vulnerable with my students—they can laugh at me! But it’s definitely a growth point for me.

Imagine your child (or one you care about deeply) is now in their 30s – out of school and starting into adult life.  What do you hope for them about their life?  What would make it a ‘good’ life?

Safety is very important, and something that’s on my mind because some of my students that do not have safety at home. I think the way you feel moving through the world and at home—like if you don’t feel physically and emotionally safe, that is extremely damaging

Beyond that, the opportunity to have new experiences and knowledge is something that brings a lot of happiness and a sense of purpose to people. And I think financial security is definitely part of that. I also think having the curiosity to pursue what interests you and gives you happiness. Believing that things are worth pursuing—that fire is really important to people’s happiness.

What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that ideal good life?

I think of education as a space for people to explore the experiences that they’re interested in, the knowledge they’re interested in, and to kind of follow their curiosity and gain new skills that will serve them. As a teacher, too often I focus on “this is important for you to know because when you write your college admission essay you need a topic sentence.” And I think often times that can be kind of joyless. But I also think that is a small part of people being able to pursue what they’re interested in. If they’re going to access power and opportunity, they’re going to need to deal with power, and those people speak a particular language, and they use topic sentences.

So number one, education is a means to follow what you’re curious about, and two, it offers support for kids being able to follow those opportunities and speak the language of privilege.

Do you think schools are currently achieving those goals?

It’s so hard to balance, because I feel like a lot of what happens in schools, including my school, isn’t really validating how my kids speak at home, and how they address their families, and what’s valued in their neighborhood. And all those things are important and valuable. Having a kid being able to bring me their culture and values and language at school, and being able to say those are important and you should hang on to them forever, and teaching them the language of power—that’s something that’s really hard to do, and something I worry about. We read and speak in English at school, and a lot of these kids, their families are losing their language. It was the same thing with Dineh in Crownpoint [New Mexico].

I think there’s a way for schools to be successful. It takes a lot of people in the school caring about it, and then being really transparent about code-switching and that no culture is better than another and really bringing a lot of home culture in school, and applying the same skills but looking at things that are really relevant to the community. To give an example, our Spanish teacher often takes pictures of things around the neighborhood to demonstrate different grammatical things she’s teaching. Like she’ll take a picture of a menu at a restaurant to demonstrate accents. So there are a lot of different ways schools can bring in neighborhoods and families, where normally they wouldn’t.

Katie BuetowComment