Three Words Low-Income Children Need To Hear More

The door swung open, and the school counselor pushed a seven-year-old child into the room. As the child’s eyes met my own, his face turned pale white. I groaned inwardly but maintained a stoic expression.

“This one of yours?” the counselor said.

I nodded, and the counselor ushered Dustin to an empty table. He settled down in the back of the room, and I returned to the group of staff members at my own table. These meetings always ruined my day.

Dustin had entered the school a few weeks ago. Quite frankly, I was less than thrilled by his arrival. Thanks to him, my classroom expanded — yet again —to an impossible 28 children, an unacceptably large number for kindergarten. And he wasn’t just the normal addition. He was the kind that liked to curse, punch, scream, run out of the room, hide in various locations, and refuse to listen to any sort of command or request whatsoever.

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What Every Christian Should Believe

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“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:5

I’ve only been a teacher in a low-income school for four years, but sometimes it can feel like too long, I’ve started the school year with no supplies, no curriculum, and no principal. I’ve walked into my classroom to discover it had been trashed by “construction crews” the night before. I’ve sent thirsty children to get water, only to discover that the fountains don’t work and the water from the classroom sink runs yellow. I’ve taught over 30 students by myself at one time, watched children with learning disabilities sit in classrooms for years without receiving help, given paperwork for parents to sign that makes them believe their child is getting extra support when no such thing is happening, and seen countless children pushed onto the next grade when they don’t even know how to write their name.

I’ve spent nights weeping after laboring to the point of insanity to do everything in my capacity that I could possibly do, and it still wasn’t enough. It never is enough.

And then I read the words of Jesus in Revelation, “Behold I am making all things new,” and it hurts. It hurts because it is easier for me to believe in the brokenness of our systems than it is for me to believe in the power of God to protect our children from the evil at work in this world. It is easier for me to believe that the world is corrupt than to believe it is being renewed. It is easier for me to see the tears of a six-year-old child because they cannot pass a standardized test, than it is for me to see the fullness of who they are, a fullness that even the worst systems in the world could never take away.

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The Racist-Classist Things People Like to Hear

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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. more “The Racist-Classist Things People Like to Hear”