I Know What I Know: Covid-19 Remote Teaching Diary Day 61

Tomorrow is the last day of a very strange and exhausting school year. I didn't know if I would make it through this year, and that was even before the pandemic hit. The truth is the past few years of teaching have gotten progressively more difficult. In particular, I've struggled to maintain my faith in myself as a teacher and my ability to carve out a resistance role in an oppressive education system. But today was a day that affirmed some things that I know about myself and teaching. I'm grateful for days like today that allow me to feel proud.

Most of my day I spent continuing my 1 on 1 goodbyes with students. Many were awkward and/or brief. But on every call I made sure to express how proud I feel of each student. No matter how many calls they joined or assignments they turned in, they deserve so much credit for surviving this school year. On several calls I was also lucky to get heartfelt thanks from kids and families. It is clear that my effort was seen and felt. It's not often that teachers get to have our efforts validated in such a meaningful way.

Today was also our last math "lesson" of the year. My students shared their NYC budget projects with each other and a special guest. Each student was given $1,000 to spend on housing, jobs, hospitals, schools, police, and parks. Every students' budget was different, but every student allocated the most to hospitals, schools, housing, or jobs, and the least to the police. We were joined on the call by a member of Sistas & Brothas United, a youth-led organization in the Bronx. This young man listened to my students' budgets, and then told him about his efforts as part of SBU to defund the police and get adequate funding for schools.
NYC Budget Justice | Communities United for Police Reform
Overall I know with more time and in-person instruction the project would look very different. But within the constraints I was working, I'm proud of this project. The students learned about budgeting. They learned about budgets as an expression of a community's values. And they learned that there are young people, not much older than them, fighting to make an impact on the city's budget.

We ended the day with closing circle. I played a little slideshow from pictures collected throughout the year. I cried.

I don't know if it's possible to teach humanely in an inhumane system. I don't know whether I want to continue teaching students of color while still grappling with my own internalized racism. These are just a couple of many heavy questions that have arisen for me about teaching.

And yet, I do know a few things for sure after today. I am capable of teaching that makes me feel proud. I feel proud when I teach kids ways to make a difference in their community, when I connect students to experts doing real world work, and most of all when I show them that I care about them and will have their back no matter what.


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