How about gushing over all of them?

I just found myself on a new blog today and read this post. While it begs some important questions about the status quo in schools, I’d take it from a different angle.

Yes, I know that it is easy for all people, teachers included, to get caught up in who’s “cool”. That is part of human nature that I am afraid will never go away. I’m sure we’ve all caught ourselves getting in the middle of it, absentmindedly, and even in the classroom. The kids that almost always have their homework on time and who’s Moms want to help with anything and everything, often have new shoes and the hottest new backpacks, although not always. I suppose there is truth and even conviction in that part of this blog. As teachers, we know who makes up the “in” crowd, and conversely, which kids probably face a shadow of outcast everyday. Hopefully, as teachers, we do our best to embrace who our children are.

My perspective may be deeply rooted in the district in which I myself grew up in (which also happens to be where I teach now). Maybe it’s just me, but I really feel like there is a hint of pique against the student which is so clearly being labeled in this post. Yes, I absolutely, 100% agree that we must be careful of the importance that we put on material possessions and statuses, especially in the face of children that may not be able to “keep up”. It is important not to advertise those that cannot pay for the fundraisers and field trips and not to single out those that don’t go to Europe and the Caribbean over the summer. (Do the adults that don’t go get singled out, too? :))

However, isn’t it important to make every child feel appreciated, accepted, and valued? Those kids that do get the wonderful experience of traveling abroad with their families and going to the zoo and the park, they value those experiences just as much as the other kids value theirs. It is part of who they are. Who are we to overlook that? Some of those “nicely dressed kids” could care less what they wore; they just put on what their mothers buy them. Are these kids more privaledged than some of their peers? Absolutely. Are some of them spoiled? Probably — I mean, it is 2009 after all, I think lots of children are relatively spoiled. But, should we not smile at what excites them and celebrate their stories, just like the other students? No.

What I am saying is that instead of prefacing every point with “don’t”, perhaps we focus more on the “do”. Do help the children see that there is value in everyone’s experiences. Do make it so that all children feel safe being part of a classroom community, no matter where they come from. Do take huge strides to close those social gaps between the “rich” and the “poor”, the “cool” and the “uncool”, the “slow” and the “smart”. Do find ways to protect the dignity of all students.

From the post I’m referring to: “Find educational reasons to value everyone’s home experiences – make school not suck.”

That quote doesn’t say value only the experiences of those that everyone is capable of sharing. Rather, value every student’s experiences in a way that all students can benefit from it.

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