The grad program is off to a galloping start. It’s a fascinating and frantic whirlwind of ideas, history, hope and tragedy. It’s also an emotional roller-coaster. For example, yesterday we discussed communication disorders and I learned that the vast majority of kids with speech disorders do not have them as adults because they are helped by therapists while in school. However, I will struggle with stuttering to the day I die because I didn’t get that help. In fact, that help was intentionally withheld from me by deliberately cruel parenting. It’s small jabs like this, several times a day, that leave me exhausted and tearful. As does the constant demand that we disclose our own scholastic histories, examine our own biases and backgrounds, and delve into the depths of our own assumptions about education. Of course, this should all be a part of teacher training, but it’s painful when large swathes of my academic story are dark and unforgiving.
Next week I’m expected to write my story as a K-12 student and then critique it, all in 3 double-spaced pages. This must be designed for students with cohesive histories. How do I explain, in just a couple of pages, how I’ve attended a multitude of schools? Some I attended for as little as two weeks, others I attended for several years. I’ve been in the wealthiest suburban schools with wall-mounted TVs and multiple pools. I’ve been rural schools where the grounds are being swallowed by forest. I’ve been in urban schools with drug-sniffing dogs and new principals every year. I’ve been “home-schooled” in ways that deserve their own paper explaining the cruelties and injustices. I’ve been in schools where I look like the majority of students and I’ve been in schools where I’ve clearly been in the minority. I’ve been at home in poverty-stricken schools and dwarfed by the the obvious wealth of schools where students drive Porches. I’ve been welcomed and ridiculed, bullied and ignored. I attended 9th grade geometry classes as an 11 year old with a second grade education. I ended up in AP US history without knowing the story of the American Revolution. And then, somehow, I went on to actually graduate with a 4.0 and a fistful of scholarships and awards. I’m a freak, an anomaly and I resent that it’s being rubbed in my face as a way to get the rich, white kids from the suburbs to see their own “isms.” And I resent the implication that my story will somehow fit, with critique, on three measly pages.
It’s good for me to process all this. I know it is and I know I need to do it before stepping into a classroom. But that doesn’t mean I like it. It also makes me mad that the curriculum is designed to support rich, white teacher-candidates see and wrestle with their biases and there isn’t much room to support people like me who have different stories to process. I have to pay for therapy to wrestle with mine. Their support is included in the tuition and classroom.
Intuitively I know I’m not the only one struggling with these issues. But my realizations and stories are not as socially acceptable to talk about, so it’s harder to find support. The girl that can just say, “I had NO IDEA that kids in inner cities schools had teachers that were being paid $3000 less, no pool, few college-prep classes, etc… No wonder some of those poor kids are stuck in poverty!” can find support and sympathy for her realizations.
I know this designed to tug on our heart strings and make us examine our motives and assumptions. But it’s just hard. And it sends me back into the mourning place. At least The Sadness is friendly and familiar now. But I still don’t like it.