Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm a Minority

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I'm A Minority

To read that title than look at me one might laugh. One might get upset. 6’5” Caucasian white man calling himself a minority.  Some would stereotype me and call me the man….the reason they can't get ahead. But stay with me….As I sat this past weekend at the EdRising National Conference in Phoenix…...Yes it was Hot…..really Hot….I surveyed the large room of over a thousand students proclaiming they want to be the future of education. It was a very diverse room. One that reflected well our current student population in the U.S. According to EdRising statistics 51% of their 30,000 student members are of diverse ethnic backgrounds. These students competed in numerous activities to showcase their amazing talents and dedication to the profession. What was more amazing is that they basically ran the conference. The future of education is looking good. Hedieh, our student from the ILC, took 5th in the nation in her category.
Super proud of her hardwork and dedication. Not many seniors give up a week in the summer after they graduate. 

Then my attention shifted to the teacher leaders. What were their backgrounds? You guessed it….a majority in the room were white females. The minority of lead teachers  in the room were male. So there….. I’m a minority! Are you?  

I had aspirations of going into the medical field. I then decided to become an environmental scientist. I even worked with the EPA in Florida for an internship. Lined up a job out of college but soon realized I made more money working in distribution. When the EPA offered me half of what I was making working at a warehouse through college. I stayed the course with distribution, was making great money and landed in management in my mid 20s. But something was missing. I discovered teaching. Made the sacrifice to go back to school and teach at a private school which offered me a third of what I was used to making in a warehouse. But now I can honestly say that if I did anything else I would be settling. Teaching…..Education…. that's my calling.

We need to toughen up. Teaching is not a one gender profession. Men are needed on this field. Students are coming to us fatherless and empty.  Young men are looking for their role models.  I'm not saying female teachers can not fit this bill. Many of them do and that is amazing.  But men need to realize that students need us. Not just to teach but to be there. And not just to be a coach. Far too many believe that males only teach so they can coach. Then these teachers only care about their sports and players. I'm not saying you need to be a big teddy bear and hug every student.  But you better believe that offering a simple affectionate gesture to a student in need could go a long way when they've never had a positive male role model in their life. 

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Tough love is in fact the opposite of what you think. It's when we love because it's hard for us. Its showing love to the hard students.  To the ones that society says don't deserve it.  That's tough love!

The pay is terrible…...I don't have the patience for kids….teachers are not respected….I hate bureaucracy….this generation is soft....I can't stand the technology….I’m too smart to teach...teaching is beneath me….please stop with the excuses! I'm tired of it!  The greatest sacrifice anyone can make is to neglect their own comforts for the sake of others.  That means you find a way to squash every reason not to do it and realize that you teach for the kids. You teach to help others discover how to build their legacy. Yes….teaching is at the beginning of all other professions. It's the spark igniter! There is something special about being the one to fan the flames.

Keynote speaker Nate Bowling opened the EdRising conference with a unique perspective.  His passion is advocating for the underdog. His research... studies.... life have lead him to the conclusion that a student's housing situation can set the tone for their future. Again, I'm in the minority. Growing up in a divorced family and living with my mother...who at times worked three jobs before remarrying just so we could live in a small rental trailer or with my grandmother. On free and reduced lunch. I grew up in the foothills of eastern Ky along the Ohio River. Not a very affluent area. If anything it was a quite depressing area in which many of the local steel mills along the river were shutting down. We didn't have much but we made the best of it. I was one of the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, the first to graduate with a Master's, and the first to pursue my Doctorate. the minority. While Mr. Bowling’s research is interesting and I'm sure we could all learn from it.  I want make sure we don't allow ideas like this to become a crutch. Yes….we should empathize with those less fortunate and for those that struggle.  As a foster parent I've seen kids born into circumstances beyond their control. Addicted to drugs and exposed to pain far greater than I've ever imagined. But yet when you ask the pediatrician what is the one thing that will change their life the answer is simple. A loving environment! 

So….let's do that. Let's recognize that the playing field for our students is not the same. Their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will affect them but it should not define them. Let’s love our students for being uniquely different and bringing with them whatever baggage they carry. Let's be encouragers. Let's be mentors for the next generation of influencers. Let's make what the public envisions as a minority….caring teachers…. the true majority. Because if that is what being a minority in education is all about then yes…..I'm a minority!

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