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A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

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Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

You Talkin' to Me?

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I knew a little girl once who came from poverty and that odds predicted little chance of her ever escaping it, much less becoming a professional, middle-class teacher that would lead professional organizations and travel the world representing her country in the field of education.

The odds were exactly 7%.

That is how many students, then and now, are able to graduate from high school in East L.A., make it to college, graduate from college, and get a professional job that might land them in the middle class.

The little girls from poverty was me.

“Poverty is not destiny!” keep shouting these education reformers, many who tend to come from predominantly affluent and Caucasian backgrounds from the likes of Teach for America. I look around and wonder, “Are they talking to me? Seriously?”

I don’t recall them being around while poverty was kicking my ass, growing up in a community lacking in resources, safety, and investments.  I don’t recall them shouting “stop!” when school bud…