That is what was spent on my two kids' school supplies this year. Throw in their backpacks, and it is closer to $250. We have not yet bought school clothes, and having just had a decently costly knee surgery, bought a house and had a car brake light (the one that you have to get a part from the dealer and not Auto Zone) go out as I was getting the car inspected- it may be a bit.
All this was in my head as I checked out at Target, the first of two baskets we had of paper and pens and stuff. But there was something else.
I am thankful.
Thankful that I can buy my kids supplies- even with the other stuff. Sure, it stretches our two teacher household paycheck more than I like or am comfortable with. But I can do it.
In a couple weeks, I will have students who cannot. I will have students who also cannot afford decent meals. I will have students who will not have parents willing or able to help them when they struggle on home work. I will have students who are sick, or have been abused, or been bullied, or have made mistakes that are coming back to haunt them. I will have students that are being abused by they peers- or used by them. I will have students that fear going home- or have none to go to.
There is a growing buzzword in education called "equity." Used correctly, it is an effort to address the issues in the paragraph above. Unfortunately, it is being used to tell teachers to "follow the plan" so one class does not feel they get a cool assignment while the others do not.
But I want to talk about the real equity. The one that matters.
How do we create equity when the field is so uneven? When abuse meets poverty meets stability meets illness meets guilt meets successful meets popular meets depressed?
I just returned from the grocery store where I bought the last vanilla ice cream so my kids could have root beer floats. The package was damaged, so the cashier asked if I wanted a different one. I explained it was the last one, he bagged it, and I went home. That mentality is necessary for retail- get rid of the damaged product. It's the mentality in almost everything in the world except good families and education.
To me, the ice cream carton was damaged, not the contents. If I was looking at the cartons and there had been more than one, I would have ignored the damaged one and taken another.
As educators, we cannot ignore the damaged carton because it is lesser.
And we cannot neglect the pristine carton either to devote all our time to the damaged.
If we want to create equity in the classroom, there is only one way.
Student voice that leads to empowerment.
We cannot create this as educators, we can merely encourage and equip it.
The depressed student has a voice.
The abused student has a voice.
The successful student has a voice.
The homeless kid has a voice.
The rich kid has a voice.
They need to be ALLOWED to use it. They need to be EQUIPPED on how. And they need to be EMPOWERED to enact it.
For the last year, I have lead an initiative in my district. I have recruited a team of educators and together we have developed a program called LEADS that will launch this year. It is a tool- we hope- that will help create equity. We will be leading a session at College Station ISD's You Matter this Friday, but in the meantime, here is our promo video:
As I checked out with my kids' school supplies and thought of all the kids that will struggle to pay for theirs, I hoped not that I could create equity for those students, but that I could help equip my students to fight for true equity- that through LEADS, or-better yet- through their own initiative they will serve those around them that have a need.
That they would consider others as greater than themselves.
Then I remembered that for them to learn that lesson- I need to first model it by serving others.