October 2015

[I do not blame the psychologist for what happened here. In many ways, she is just a cog in the machine and just as much a victim of the system as my student. The fact is that the following story is all too common. The future of children across the country gets trapped into a never-ending system of useless paperwork and ridiculous requirements that make it nearly impossible to get them help. The sad reality is that the school psychologist in this story really was, more than likely, too busy to do her job. This is a terrible injustice.] buried-alive-1241454 “I’m sorry. Perhaps if it were not so late in the year, we could do something for him,” the psychologist said. “I came to you in October with this data.” I breathed in slowly, attempting to control the tempest of rage inside of me, then breathed out. Dante had been my student since the beginning of the year. It was now May, and he couldn’t even write his name. Information slid from his brain like butter, and he was the only student in my classroom whose test scores actually declined mid-year. Something was wrong. Perhaps a learning disability? I couldn’t know.

broken-society-1243046 Teach for America gives countless surveys to their corps members. One question, in particular, always resurfaced during my two-year commitment: “I believe that one day all children will have the opportunity to achieve an excellent education. Agree or disagree?” Slowly, during the course of my time with Teach for America, I found my response gradually shifting from “agree” to “neutral” to finally “disagree.”

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“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

- James 2: 5-9

Here’s a sample of things people say to me about poor people, especially poor people of color:

“It’s the parent’s fault.” "My family was low-income, and they worked their way up." “They know how to work the system.” “What can you do when the only people at home they can look up to are drug addicts and dealers?” “Not much you can do when they just refuse to accept your help.” “Aren’t Black people just as racist against White people?” “We have a Black President now.” When I graduated from college and moved to Tulsa to become a teacher, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There I was, a person of color who had nevertheless grown up in tremendous privilege her entire life, now teaching in one of the most historically underprivileged communities in the entire country.