Family is so much more than mothers and fathers, siblings, and children, and there are many people in my life whom I consider family. My familial influences extend beyond the traditional descriptions and bloodlines, and include some of my most prized relationships—including those that I fostered with my sixth graders in Sanders, Arizona, a small community on the Navajo Nation.
I taught three daily math classes and one social studies class. My 97 kids and I started the year off as acquaintances, at best. But together, we learned the ropes of middle school—we opened combination locks on lockers, organized notebooks for five different classes, collaborated, figured out problems, and solved two-step equations. We quickly became a family.
A family can be defined as a group of people united by certain convictions, and my students and I were united by our conviction that we would not allow our ZIP codes, socioeconomic background, or ethnicity determine our trajectory in life. I didn’t think fighting for my students was right—we had to fight it together.