Sunday, March 5, 2017

sol17-5 Am I ranting or reflecting?

I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Just recently, I opened up the Washington Post and read a beautifully written piece by a woman I knew a long time ago...her name is irrelevant to this slice, the topic she wrote about is irrelevant to this slice, but seeing her name in print took me back in time.... 

The local elementary program was a paired program with two schools. My boys were bussed to an "early childhood campus" in a poor, immigrant community two miles away for pre-K through second grade; for third grade through sixth grade, the immigrant children were bussed to attend the older elementary campus in my middle-class ('white') neighborhood, a school only a few blocks away from my house. I loved this pairing. I loved the early childhood campus and its dynamic principal, I loved our diverse schools, I loved the education my boys were receiving. All was well.

But not for long.

We entered into a painful period the year I agreed to be on the PTA Board. Due to population growth, the boundaries for our local schools were being redrawn. Some local folks (including the writer I mentioned earlier) were adamant that this was an opportunity to unpair the two schools - to give our middle-class neighborhood its own school again, pre-K through 6th. I don't remember anyone in the immigrant community wanting the schools to be unpaired. But the middle-class neighborhood was in an uproar. This woman and I felt differently. Although I loved the school pairing, I remember this woman speaking in opposition to it (PTA meetings, town halls, school board meetings), speaking passionately, fervently, relentlessly, "I want my child to be able to walk to school." 

The boundary issue pitted neighbor against neighbor. 

She lives in my neighborhood but I don't call her friend. 

It still seems to me that she only wanted her views heard. It still seems to me that she feared the campus, the neighborhood that she did not know. It still seems to me that we humans have a lot to learn about listening, about sitting with the tension of opposing views, about considering the possibility that a different opinion may also be right.

How did it all shake out? The boundary decision left the two schools paired and intact; I don't know if my neighbor/the writer took her child out of the public school system or if she made peace with the decision. Why don't I know? Because, unfortunately, my own house/address was placed in a new school boys had to leave the school we loved and attend a new public school. They still received a great education.

“If I were asked for two words to summarize the habits of the heart American citizens need in response to twenty-first-century conditions, chutzpah and humility are the words I would choose. By chutzpah I mean knowing that I have a voice that needs to be heard and the right to speak it. By humility I mean accepting the fact that my truth is always partial and may not be true at all—so I need to listen with openness and respect, especially to “the other,” as much as I need to speak my own voice with clarity and conviction. Humility plus chutzpah equals the kind of citizens a democracy needs. There is no reason, at least no good reason, why our number cannot be legion.” ― Parker J. PalmerHealing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit


  1. This memory highlights the US--THEM--OTHER problem our country faces. I have taught children from all economic backgrounds and races, and while my teaching experience in Arizona (close to the border) was more challenging, it was also more rewarding. I can't help but think that if we funded schools in more equitable ways, we'd have less tendency to embrace separations. It all makes me very sad.

    1. Yes, yes, yes! I was thinking similarly - how this experience of many years back is what is happening all around me now in our politics. Amusingly, for me, this woman is a liberal progressive - her writing often echoes my thinking. But her local actions I saw quite differently, I saw as vehemence, as not open or listening. We have to move away from US-THEM-OTHER.

  2. I went bak to your title after reading your post and had to chuckle. Because I was right there with you as I read. "I want my child to be able to walk to school" sounds like code for all sorts of unpleasant things. I teach in a district that went from having two middle schools (basically the white one and the brown one) to having one 5-6 school and one 7-8 school for very much the same reasons you talk about. You're reflecting on the past, but it's still very much a current issue, so rant away!

  3. My daughter and I were just discussing the changes happening in our own city's public schools, neighborhood schools that are offering the "walk to school" option are being phased out, leaving those with fewer transportation options in a huge dilemma. "they say there is no money for busing, so conflicts are happening everywhere. It's a huge problem that isn't easy to fix. I wish that they could read about teachers everywhere who know that putting all kinds of children together will help us make a better world. Thanks Maureen.