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As we planned for Mix It Up at Lunch Day last year, I felt a deep sense of nervousness. I wasn’t worried about getting the kids to talk and chat. I teach at a small school, and the students are usually friendly with one another.
I just started my sixth year teaching high school English. This year began with the same question as always: “How will I empower the young women in my classroom this year?”
Man, am I just a total killjoy?
I struggled today with a decision whether or not to dress up for Spirit Week. Monday was Crazy Sock Day; Tuesday, crazy shoes. Yesterday was Crazy Tie Day. All of those I could absolutely get behind. But I wasn’t so excited by the plan for Thursday—“Nerd Day.”
My curls tickle my face. My fingers feverishly sort though papers. I make last-minute decisions for the day. A former student, who stops by every day, chats by my side. It’s 7:30 a.m., and I’m depending on Folgers to usher me into a coherent state when I hear this student say, “Mrs. Yahn, ever since your class last year, I just can’t stop talking. I used to say nothing in class, but now I talk all the time. You taught me that.”
This semester at Roger Williams University I asked my freshmen interdisciplinary students to reflect upon three important questions: Who am I? What can I know? What should I do?
I’ve been reading lately about the school-to-prison pipeline and reflecting on my work as an administrator. I think frequently about the toughest day of my career in education: the day I had one of our students arrested.
The students in my Adult Basic Education class are from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some are immigrants in their 20s, brushing up on their English before applying to college in the United States. Others are parents in their 30s and 40s, learning English so they can get better jobs and help with homework that their English-speaking children bring home. Still others are retired adults, having left the workforce and now having time to study English formally. Our doors are open to all of them.
I felt myself straighten in my chair. I quickly shook off the tiredness of a long day of teaching when our professor explained most of us found it difficult to understand multicultural education “because our viewpoint was that of the white, upper middle class.”