This Is Home
Last week I got the news I have been waiting for…
I am pleased to officially announce that I am placed for student teaching next semester!
In four short months, I will be joining a small, rural public school in Nebraska. By small, I mean a town with a population of 88. I don’t have much experience with small rural schools so I’m excited for the opportunity to work in a different atmosphere.
While checking the statistics of the school, I was surprised to learn that out of 140 students (K-12), nearly 60% of students were on the free/reduced meal plan last year. The state percentage for students on free/reduced meal plans is around 45%.
Completely taken aback by the startling percentage, I started to research rural poverty. Although there are many different reasons for rural poverty, it looks different than urban poverty. Regardless, rural poverty can be a major educational barrier for students. I realize that all students on the free/reduced meal plan are not considered at the poverty level, but it is an issue that I need to be aware of.
As I began to reflect on what poverty may look like, I was reminded of Linsey Rose’s fifth grade classroom. The school where she teaches is South Shore Chicago, also known as Chiraq. The news frequently covers gang activity, murder, and urban poverty. Inspired by a Chicago poet, the fifth graders created a poem to address the unfair stereotypes of their home:
“Because this neighborhood is filled with love. This isn’t Chi-raq. This is home. This is us.”
The story appeared on NPR and blazed through cyber-space. Yes, the fifth graders were from a place where urban poverty is prevalent, but their teacher wanted them to know that that doesn’t define them. I, too, want to help students realize that their home place does not necessarily define who they are.
Thinking about my teacher intern experience next semester, I want my students to realize that rural stereotypes do not define them. They deserve to be treated fairly and I want to provide them with tools to help them express their opinions, beliefs, and perspectives.
Like Linsey Roses’s class expressed, my students may live in a rural place but their home is not a negative stereotype. Their home is where they grow, mature, and learn. My students have the power to refute the negative stereotypes.
I know my students do not live in cornfields or Mayberry. I know my students are not hicks or rednecks or poor kids. My students live in a place with plenty of space and I am absolutely certain that they are brilliant, innovative, unique, extraordinary, and gifted.
And I haven’t even met them yet.