Something About Education

Almost 10 years ago I was a teacher at Golden High School, and I created this class called Contemporary Literature and Identity. I was trying to put color and cultures into the literature students read. The voting board of department teachers was super supportive and unanimously voted on its inclusion into the English curricula.

I never got to teach that class. I did get a nice letter from Jeffco Public Schools telling me to shape up because I struggled to teach the way I was supposed to in their eyes, the assessment of the district evaluator continually telling me what I was doing wrong. Never what I was doing right.

When I eventually moved to Westminster High School (a school like my own Valley High in Albuquerque) I was welcomed and needed for a Title I student body and despite walking away as a distinguished educator, my position on the totem pole still left me without a voice or choice in what I could teach despite my advanced degrees. I would get what no one else wanted because once you ally yourself with students, administrators learn how they can use you to their benefit, and everyone else says, “Better her than me.”

After I graduated from high school, my paradigm shifted despite being a very accomplished kid (straight As, Student Body President, Captain of the state’s best dance team). My place was redefined with shifting sands, and I got pulled into the quick. I dropped out of 5 or 6 colleges before finally earning a BA in English Literature 8 years after high school. At the time, that extended plan was unheard of—the most being an extra year or two to finish. But in those 8 years, I began to understand where my lack of ethnic identity clashed with my academic one. And I was angry. And rebellious. And I fought everyone who shared my space if not physically than emotionally. And then, somewhere along the continuum, I resigned myself to my fate. I let go of the kite I was battling with and let my competitors win. I no longer ran with my kite (allusion alert).

Since then, being an educator has been an exercise in toeing the line. Compliance to implicit, overt, and hidden bias in curriculum development and teaching methodologies left me with a choice to jump when asked or walk away. And never one to compromise my values, I took a walk back to my family and to those who knew my heart ached for the loss of being able to impact change.

Academia and education is oppression at its finest. There is no other way to say that. We have been weaponizing education forever, removing Native children from their homes to re-educate them into Eurocentric beliefs, culture and religion, killing off an entire population of educators and professionals to befit a brutal regime so its population could not read its propaganda, establishing hiring and tenure mechanisms that disallow young teachers and much-needed faces of representation to give their ideas a chance. Worldwide, we are the masters of cultural erasure. The hoops are only worth jumping through if they are meaningful—if they do not continuously sustain the systemic issues that give them power in the first place.

I do not often talk about my education (you can see it in my hyped-up LinkedIn profile). In New Mexico, where I grew up, it’s worth nothing. It is only a sign of my elitism and privilege, and that is correct. Everyone is clamoring to be educated right now. They want the right books, the right articles, the right voice to champion their being woken up to a reality that was there for over 400 years. And it’s good. Really. Because I’d much rather have that than live and witness another 400 years of oppression. But I won’t live that long. I am not sure I will live long enough to see monumental change, especially in education. My specialty is in the trending field that everyone wants to be an expert in right now. Its title, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, is just another academically oppressive group of words that tell (not show) you that I am worth listening to. But I’m not. Education taught me that.

I used to say that education was the great equalizer—that it opened doors to opportunity. This is still true. But it’s not. Because opportunity only comes when someone answers the door, and I’ve been knocking for years. Creating a class I never taught. Bending my will for the benefit of students who needed me more than I needed my pride. Trying my damndest to represent in a world that sorely needs representation.

I am sorry to my friends and family that are forced into my over-sharing of pain in prose on social media. I know they’d rather see posts on my daughter’s thoughtful texts about spiders (so awesome) and videos or photos of the stuff I build (also awesome). I know that long-winded narrative is not what my audience wants, and I’m trying really hard to put that out into the world instead of this.

My anger.

Where did I put that fucking kite?

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