I grew up in an area of my hometown that was not very ornate. The houses were in varying degrees of disarray. It was an area where you can see many families that were struggling, fragmented, and lost. Many families were new to Canada. Most of my friends spoke English to me as their second or third language. Their families were large. When I was in the 5th grade, I recall only having one friend who had a small family like mine (one sibling). Everyone was struggling, or so it seems in retrospect. I lived in affordable housing. Many families ate from the food bank, including our own. Very few of our parents drove. I found out later in life that some of my friends’ parents drank frequently and stole merchandise from stores on a regular basis. The corner store by my house had bars on the windows, and my mother would call the store manager and inform him that I am coming to buy her cigarettes, and I would run such errands for her almost daily.
My family moved to Regina, one by one, when I was in the 7th grade, spending part of my school year between two provinces. Our financial situation improved greatly, and I had learned that much of what I had experienced was not a necessity of life. I was the kind of kid who had an attitude. At one of the schools I went to back home, I spent many days in the office. It took me almost the remainder of my grade-school days, until later in my high school years, to turn my attitude around. In my earlier grades, I responded poorly to authority, as did all of my friends. I thought we were lost, and our neighbourhood was perceived as being dangerous. After growing up some, I realized that the neighbourhood was quite alright, albeit mainly working class. Some people still tried to avoid it, but it really wasn’t that dangerous. I changed my attitude towards authority, and many of my old friends are now quite successful and otherwise happy. I once assumed that the community was doomed because of the class-structure that it had, but that was a flawed perception. We were not without our own set of privileges, and we overcame the challenges that we met. I was lucky to have seen so many communities, and I was lucky to have parents who did not give up on their kids or themselves.
As a future teacher, I value transparency. Part of being transparent requires us to be vulnerable. What we think we know about our students can blind us to the opportunities we get each day to learn from them. I had not realized my privilege growing up in poverty, but it was there ,and as a white teacher, “the work of interrupting [my] privilege is never done” (Kumashiro, p. 77). It is my responsibility to acknowledge the things that I do not know, and why I do not know them. It can be difficult to be vulnerable, but it is the first step. And it is important to know that sometimes, when we seek, we do not find. We must keep our head up when we see and feel life’s injustices. When we work hard for something and it goes to the less-deserving; we must remember that this is our perception. We don’t know everything. And life isn’t fair.
A friend of a friend made a Facebook post about their bike getting stolen from inside of their apartment. The bike was eventually retrieved, but there was a weapon fastened to it. The comments on this post were left mainly by individuals who were aghast and they condemned this individual for stealing a bike and carrying around a weapon. One comment, however, stuck out to me. This commenter questioned why this person required a weapon, and why were they out stealing bikes? It was a refreshing perspective that assumed an inherent good in all of us. It reminded the other commenters that this person who was out stealing bikes, carrying a weapon was likely doing so not purely for nefarious reasons, but likely for reasons to do with survival. I have had bikes stolen several times, and I hated it, but nobody dreams of growing up and stealing bikes. It is an unenviable reality. This space, this Facebook status, was in danger of becoming a single story. The refreshing perspective supplied by the aforementioned commenter was a reminder for me to always keep my mind-set on this positive, open-minded side of things, something I think is important for all educators to maintain.