I have always been a teacher who, even at my most inexperienced, has valued student creativity, joy and self-expression over compliance - the traditional measure of a class' success - within my classroom. I believe that the children I teach are future leaders, changemakers and innovators and that the life experiences they bring to the educational setting is an asset. The children I teach and the community I serve are the reason why I love being an educator, and I teach at a Title I school in Philadelphia on purpose, because I want to be here.
Too often, I hear other educators expressing deficit mindsets about the children they see every day, creating a culture of apathy and exacerbating the school-to-prison pipeline that plagues underfunded schools in underserved communities. As an English Language Arts teacher, I am fascinated with linguistic patterns and cultural expression and am passionate about showing my students the joys of reading and writing - in particular as a tool of self-expression, as a vehicle for creating the change they want to see in the world, as a showcase of their unique creative gifts and a tool for emotional self-regulation. The so-called 'achievement gap,' which suggests that disenfranchised children are failing to measure up to educational state standards, is truly a racist and classist euphemism for what is really taking place: an opportunity gap. The students I teach bring incredible skills into my classroom, but they are often failed by the education system that is supposed to support them and give them the foundational skills they need.
We owe it to children to change the structure of education in America, and it begins with efforts like the Restorative Practices in Education nonprofit. Prioritizing student voice, ownership and empowerment within the classroom leverages students' strengths, their unique talents and abilities, and most importantly respects and cherishes their humanity. As a member of the RPIA cohort, I am excited to fight for the changes in education that I believe are paramount to creating a more equitable future in our country. The kids are always worth it.