Skip to main content

Place, Not Race -- Part 1

If you work in public education--specifically secondary education--you know now that it's the time when students' plans are solidified for the fall. College acceptance, deferment, and rejection letters are arriving, and students are starting to get their financial aid packages from universities.

I remember being in high school and how the process was so new to me. I was a first-generation college graduate, and my dad didn't know much about the process other than applying. (Applying to college was actually how I convinced him to get high speed internet; until then, we had dial-up, and I couldn't get the applications to load.)

I knew I had to fill out the FAFSA because my counselors told me to. I knew I had to check for deadlines because my counselors told me to. The list goes on and on of topics and deadlines that I heard from others about. I knew little about the expected family contribution (EFC); I just knew that my dad couldn't help much when it came to paying for my education. He was a single parent with three kids.

For the first time in my adult life, I heard other students discussing their EFCs during lunch in my classroom.
Why is my number higher than yours? 
Why is yours so low? Your family is rich. 
So this means...? 

I heard questions and statements like this coming from students as they tried to make sense of where they fell in terms of financial assistance. And some of them began trying to make sense of the differences in life circumstances.

And then I started to hear from other students, students who I label as "in the bubble" when it comes to financial aid. Their families make just enough to disqualify them from Pell Grants and subsidized loans.

When I was having these conversations with students, several of them shifted to say something along the lines of

If only I were... 

And I stopped them. I knew where this was going. I remember being there, too, in high school when I was waitlisted at my now alma mater, the University of Michigan. But it's this type of in-fighting that prevents any real conversations of understanding from actually taking place. Students began to view each other as weaker competition.

Had I been faster on my feet, I would've shown the age-old cartoon about equity that I used to share with my English 10 students



This is part of the reason why I'm so excited to write the second part of this post, where I consider some of the things I learned from Place, Not Race by Sheryll Cashin.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Handwritten Cue Cards in the 21st Century

I just stumbled upon this behind-the-scenes clip of Saturday Night Live's cue card process. This is intense writing. This is writing that is dependent upon trust and checks and balances. Over a short period of time, skits are written, drafted on cards, revised, and the cards revised over and over again. I also really love that SNL continues to use cue cards and not a teleprompter. Like Wally points out, technology can fail. Handwritten cue cards ensure the show goes on. Comedy is hard work. Writing is hard work. Changes are made up until the last minute to get things just right. This is a form of real-world writing.

Don't Be Misled by $778 At-Risk Payments

Governor Snyder recently proposed a $778 increase per economically disadvantaged pupil in Michigan. At first glance, this looks good. Who can argue with an announcement like this: An increase of $150 million, to a total of $529 million, to ensure that children in difficult financial situations are getting the help they need. All districts and public school academies will now be eligible to receive an additional $778 per pupil to assist at-risk students. After all, it's money for at-risk students . We instantly assume that the governor is proposing helping our neediest students, which should make us all jump for joy. And we know from the adequacy study done last year that our poorest students require greater funding (30% more!) to educate if we ever hope to close the achievement gap, not to mention their general recommendation of $8,667 per pupil as a foundation allowance (note that many districts in Michigan still receive far less than this). But the real problem of inequ

Reading Glasses

"Let me guess... You teach English?" I've been asked the same question by nearly everyone when I reveal that I'm a teacher. I can thank my distant relatives for the name change to "English" from a Polish surname that we can only remember how to pronounce and never to spell. I've noticed that revealing you're an English teacher elicits one of two reactions: 1) People either stop talking and are afraid that you will correct, critique, nitpick (<insert the pedantic verb of your choice>); or 2) People feel as if you are on their side and agree that something is taking place to the detriment of the wonderful, precious English language. And it was during my routine eye exam that my optometrist goaded me into the second camp. He expected sympathy when he said, "I once had a secretary who would use 'seen' without the helping verb." And I responded with a quick, "Oh?', hoping to move the conversation away from the stereoty