When I was a teenager, I had summer jobs as a custodian. It paid pretty well. So when I got to college, even though I was working as an office assistant in the pharmacy department, I decided to look for more hours cleaning schools. I figured I could do that until I got my degree in communications.
It's hard to view my career in stories. Maybe it's not even my story. Maybe it’s the story of my dad. I grew up in South Chicago. My dad was a preschool teacher. And everywhere we went, it was like, ‘El maestro, el maestro!’ And so that made me a celebrity by extension: la hija del maestro.
In that moment, just sitting there enjoying that with them, I noticed that I was not doing those things as much in my last couple years of teaching. Because I was so exhausted. And those special moments that made me have this great connection with my students, those special moments that made me love my job, were not as frequent.
We had a discussion in class one day where we talked about code switching — where we talked about the power of language and the language of power. We talked about how the purpose for communication is to be understood, and if you're doing that, you're doing just fine.
I know as a parent that I know my kids really well. I know what their strengths are, I know what their weaknesses are, and I have the idea of what I want my kids to have as a part of my family. As a teacher, I know that teachers bring a very different perspective.
When you remove your children from this arena, you are not only stopping them from hearing other points of view, but you are stopping others from hearing your child's point of view.
I remember that Monday morning getting an email from our principal. We had lost a student. And I froze. I remember calling to the security guards, “Hey, watch my class.”
I went to school to be a journalist. My financial aid package required that I take on a work-study job. So during my first year of school, I worked with Jumpstart, an AmeriCorps program where they put college kids in Title I preschools.
I grew up in Oak Park in the 1980s. People were all about the melting pot. The idea was that everyone is the same and nobody looks different — we're all part of this collective homogenous blob. One of the drawbacks to that was that I was never really seen.
I was the kid who was under the table with a fireman's helmet on, covering his ears because he didn't understand what people were saying. I would get frustrated all the time because I didn't understand multiple syllable words. So in elementary school, I was diagnosed with dyslexia.