I read in a poetry show last Thursday. I wrote about the world I teach in and the one I used to. You may or may not know, I’ve written a whole book about it. I’ve worked through a proposal on it, in the hopes of getting this book published. I’ve guest posted about it, and run a series about it, and had countless dinner party conversations where I get angry and completely dominate the talking because I cannot stop talking about the injustice inherent in our education system.
I talk, and write, and THINK about the whole thing so often that I grow tired of the same words coming out of my mouth. I think because I have told the story about being awakened by a spotlight, or the story about not telling, that I have said it all. And maybe I have. But not everyone has heard it, and certainly not the people who can do something about it.
I have been holding back out of fear. Out of fear that there are only so many times I can tell this story, fear that there are only so many times people will listen. I am afraid that people will shake their heads and roll their eyes and say, “there goes Abby, talking about educational injustice again. I really wish she would stop.”
When I opened my mouth at that show last week, that didn’t happen. The words rang loud and angry and the crows grew silent. It turns out that I am not the only one in this world who would actually like to have No Child Left Behind, rather than a law that ensures it.
I ran into an old colleague yesterday, one I hadn’t seen in three years. I asked her if she was still at the school I had left. She nodded. I asked her if the things I had been hearing from the county emergency response team were true. She nodded. I asked her if she were thinking about going somewhere else. She nodded. Ten years was enough. She couldn’t do it anymore.
I need you to know some things about this ninth grade teacher looking to get out. I need you to know I observed her class for one day and learned more about teaching than my entire under graduated education. I need you to know she produces some of the highest scores in the state, out of a school that has mediocre test scores at best. I need you to know that she is totally even keeled and not easily shaken. I need you to know that she had every intention of being a career teacher at an inner-city school.
She is tired y’all. She is tired of the news showing up and the guns in the parking lot. She is tired of the way the school isn’t safe and the energy it takes to just make sure no one is seriously injured on your watch. I don’t mean to say that I am not tired too. I am. It is 4 hours to spring break, of course I am tired. And my job is hard. Of course it is. I spend all day getting 15 and 16 year old’s to read and actually think about real life. But when she asked me, when she asked me what it was like, on the other side of the city where the kids are well fed and not in gangs, I remembered the truth: We may have the same title and make the same salary. We may sign the same contract. But the job is not the same.
I know, and I forget. I’ve written poetry, and blog posts, and a whole freaking manuscript. I forget the way the air is toxic. I forget the way you wake up and put on your make up and drive to school wondering if you can do this today. I forget what it feels like to find ways to numb yourself because your job is that hard. I landed in a job that is hard but doable and I forgot that the impossible no longer exists, because it no longer exists for me.
I want to remember. I want to remember that there are kids who are not given a real chance in this country because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to remember that there are neighborhoods that are the wrong place, and that 2014 is still the wrong time. I want to remember that we use the same words, school, teacher, chances, but that they are not at all the same thing.
I don’t think I care anymore, whether people are rolling their eyes and wishing I would talk about something else. I don’t even care that I tell the same stories. I am telling the stories that need heard. I am telling the stories because people don’t know, and I am telling them often because it is easy to forget. I am telling these stories because I believe that there are solutions and people who care. I am writing these stories because they are true, and because I need to remember that. I will no longer shame myself for my story. I will tell it until it isn’t true anymore. May that day come soon.