Monday, February 6, 2017
The teacher sees the students as "other", the students see the teacher as "other." My very first teaching job after I got my secondary teaching credential and Master's in secondary education was 60 miles north of where I lived in Grand Rapids, MI, in a very rural area, in a county that was the poorest in Michigan at the time and had the highest incidence of incest and child abuse. I taught in two different schools, parts of an alternative high school system. The first school was in Sand Lake, MI, for kids, mostly boys, who were kicked out of the regular high school for assaulting teachers and students, spray painting a teacher's car, shooting out the town's street lights, etc. There were a few girls who had gone missing from high school, one for a 100 days in a row, because they were being assaulted by boys at the school or by male stepfathers or boyfriends of their mothers. At night, I taught their mothers who were on welfare in a one stop town down the road called Howard City. In Michigan in the 80's, women who were on welfare were required to get their high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive their welfare checks. These women struggled even to get there..once they enrolled in school their boyfriends or husbands either refused to bring them or consistently came home late with the car so they couldn't go. Several of us teachers would drive out in the country and get them, along with their 3, or 4 or 5 little children, who sat at the back of our classrooms and played, or caused a ruckus or colored. Many of these women didn't have running water and came dirty to class. These were poor white women, whose mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers had been on welfare. I wasn't shocked, because I spent 3 years living in a barrio in southwestern Colorado, but at the same time, I knew they considered me "other", a woman who wore dress suits and nylons to school. And I would be a liar if i didn't say I saw their lives as "Other". They were trapped in their situations with abusive boyfriends, had often been molested by fathers and uncles growing up, lived in an area where there only jobs in the carrot fields in the fall and Christmas trees in late November. I taught there for three years, and i think about them every day.