“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” ~ Deuteronomy 32:4
“For I the LORD love justice.” ~ Isaiah 61:8a
A picture hangs in the hallway of my school, put there by students completing a project. A three-year-old child named Alan lies face-down in the sand of a beach. His lifeless body looks cold and wet. Arms limp at his sides. I pass it every day on my way to the office, and the picture cries out, “Save me!” in haunting lamentations as I walk.
It’s too late, I think in grief. You’re already dead.
I’m proud to say that Korea is my new home! The photo above was taken a few weeks ago in Jeonju, a traditional/historical district in Korea. While I did participate in the lion dance, the picture is not of me but of two friends instead. I guess I wasn’t good enough to have my picture taken!
My move to Korea has been the culmination of a two-year long process involving much prayer, research, preparation, and counsel from others. If you’ve been in my life over the past two years, you may have been a part of this process! While it is difficult to summarize all of my reasons for moving overseas, I can at the very least try to give you an idea.
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.
We held a “testing rally” on Friday that was quite possibly the most depressing experience of my year. The purpose of the rally was to get kids “pumped up” and “excited” for testing. In preparation, my students and I created a giant poster saying, “Don’t forget the power of yet!” The poster was a reference to Janelle Monae’s Sesame Street song.
We crammed all 320+ students into our gymnasium while they listened to a small speech informing them that, “This test will decide what opportunities you have in life, and even what colleges you will go to.” A speaker came up and told the children to chant, “I am smart. I will pass!” And younger students stood to perform cheers for the older grades.
As the spectacle unfolded, a queasiness settled into the pit of my stomach. The chanting and cheering was supposed to generate excitement, but it created something of an ominous contradiction to the actual spirit of the school. A spirit of defeat. more “Do Your Best: The Lies We Tell Our Children”…
The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, when it comes to criminal justice in America. While police still rank among the most trusted institutions in American society, public confidence in the police has nevertheless hit a 20-year low. Outcries surrounding the deaths of people like Michael Brown and Eric Garner only scratch the surface of a much larger barrage of viral videos, personal accounts, and troubling statistics that have gripped the public imagination in recent years. The effects of such sweeping indictments against the criminal justice system are impossible to fully predict. But it’s safe to say they aren’t going away.
In the midst of this public controversy, I find myself torn between two opposing factions — factions that don’t really exist but can seem quite real in the midst of heated rhetoric. On one side are the marginalized and oppressed. On the other side are police. In reality, neither of these factions exist. If you were to ask the average American whether they belong to one of these sides, they would say something like, “I don’t, but those people do.” They are factions that allow us to demonize the other side while pretending to be neutral ourselves. And they are tearing us apart. more “What Cops, Teachers, and Soldiers Have in Common”…
Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is fast becoming a favorite on my Kindle shelf. I’ve been slowly making my way through each chapter, researching her citations, and sharing my notes as I go.
In Chapter 1, Alexander argues that America’s “War on Drugs” and “tough on crime” legislation emerged as a new form of racial control, directly opposing the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. She presents compelling evidence to back up her claims, starting with the history of reconstruction, working through the Civil Rights Movement, and then examining the major political movements that followed. Here are a few major talking points that stood out from Chapter 1: more “Blogging Through the New Jim Crow: Thoughts on Chapter 1”…
One of the biggest mistakes of No Child Left Behind was that it required low-achieving schools to perform without addressing the root causes of their low-achievement. You can tell an athlete to run, but she won’t get far if her leg is broken. You can tell a student to learn, but she won’t learn much if she’s battling the conditions of poverty.
When we address the hunger, fear, sickness, exhaustion, stress, trauma, malnutrition and more that our students face every single day, we discover that they can achieve far more than we ever give them credit. The following story is a shining example of what happens when we actually address the needs of our children. Read and/or listen to the full story on NPR.
“Through her unconventional focus on addressing poverty, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson has been credited with rapidly improving the school district of Jennings, Mo.”
“Oh, I deal with drug addicts all the time with my job.”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I wanted to take them back. But the damage was done. I had been talking about issues surrounding drug addiction with my mom, and it seemed only appropriate to mention my job. But I knew it was wrong.
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?”
I took a long hiatus from the blogosphere, and I’m glad I did. When I started this blog, my intention was to create a space where people could stay updated on the things I’m thinking about and learning, but when I embarked on a masters program two years ago, I knew life was about to get very full, very fast. Taking a break from blogging was necessary. It allowed me to focus on my degree (in Education Administration) and spend time reflecting on my experiences, instead of just writing about them.
Now that my degree is complete (yay salary raise!) my hope for this blog remains the same. I want this to be a space where people can connect with my thoughts and experiences in life and benefit by reading what I have to share. Ultimately, my hope is that the kingdom of God be strengthened as a result. more “Returning, reflecting, and moving forward”…