I grew up watching way too much “West Wing,” and as a result, my theory of change was simple: find a candidate you can believe in – hopefully in a town meeting in New England – work your butt off to get that candidate elected, work for him or her, and change the world. So that’s what I did in college. I worked on campaigns, advocated, donated, and, of course, voted every chance I got. My political idealism came under fire in my third year of college when, even after getting some great people elected, I saw little in the way of change. This lack of movement is what inspired me to go out and teach, to confront one of the issues undermining the promise of our nation directly rather than talking around it. However – as you may have guessed – I still vote every chance I get.
So on a recent blustering, rainy, and altogether miserable Thursday evening, I trudged out to the polls to cast my ballot in favor of ensuring that nearly 6,000 Memphis kids had access to pre-kindgergarten (and, obviously, to get my “I Voted” sticker for my collection on my corkboard). The benefits of pre-K are absolutely clear: it improves educational outcomes for all students, especially those coming from low-income backgrounds, and that Thursday’s effort was the second attempt in two years to ensure educational access to all of Memphis’ four-year-olds. Continue reading
Reia smiles and reaches up, hands cupped to whisper something in my ear.
I lean down to meet her, expecting to hear another secret about her period, her class, her life, and then:
“My grandmother had a stroke. She’s in the hospital.”
Reia is still smiling, unfazed when I look back at her.
“Are you upset?” I ask her. The smile drops. Reia spends class making a “get well” card. I let her, although I know her grandmother would disapprove. The beautiful woman, color of chestnuts, flitting around the room.
“See, Reia!” she says, staring at the Native American bulletin board in my room for the first parent-teacher conference. “They were here first. Imagine all that space! All that space.” She reads the quote from Sitting Bull. “’I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free….’ Imagine it, Reia. Imagine it!”
Reia writes her grandmother’s room number on the board for me. “Mrs. Arthur,” it says, “Room 328.” Continue reading