Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Things That Make Us

Today was new teacher orientation in my district. As part of this morning, I had to attend a diversity training seminar. This two hour block was a condensed version of a longer course these teachers offer as professional development, and I think I'd really like to take the course.

As part of exploring our differences, and the diversity that the students and family bring to the community I'm working in, we were asked to think about who WE were. We were given a graphic organizer, with several bubbles. In the center, we had to write our name, and what we considered our race and ethnicity. Then, in the surrounding bubbles, we had to write other attributes that we felt defined us. And it was a short time period to complete it, two minutes at the most. So, the idea was to hit the primary identifiers, the most important attributes to who we were as people. My attributes, in order, were as follows:
  1. Blogger
  2. Music lover
  3. Advocate
  4. Sister.
BLOGGER. The very first thing I thought of to describe myself, before educator, before WOMAN, before anything. Blogger. Music lover wasn't all that unusual. My choice of "advocate" rather than "teacher" or "educator", I find interesting. I think it comes from a combination of my actual job in special education, and what I see that role as being, and my role on the school committee. Sister is obvious. But blogger as the number one pick; I'm still chuckling over that one inside.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short letter to Jon Armstrong, responding to a post he wrote on his site about his wife, and the BlogHer conference, and subsequent blog drama that came out of it. And one of the things I said to him was this: Thank you for helping me find this outlet that has become as much an extension of my self as anything I have ever done in my life. I remember as I wrote that sentence realizing that truth for the first time. But now, after writing this response at this training today, I'm discovering how very true it is. As annoyed as I may get on a day to day basis about this daily blogging challenge, I find this website, and my other one, to be some of the best things in my life. Creatively, emotionally, socially, it's such an outlet for me. Some of the people it has brought into my life, I simply cannot imagine not being in my life anymore. And, I laughed at myself as I volunteered to explain why I chose this descriptor, and told the group that I'd be processing the choice on my blog later on.

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything. Blogger. Music lover. Advocate. Sister. I like it. It works.

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Anonymous Dale Cruse said...

I remember a time when you said, "But I have nothing interesting to write about!" and I refused to accept that.

I think you got a taste of what you were really capable of on July 2, 2005, when you liveblogged Live8. That is still my favorite post you ever wrote because it captures so much of what I knew was screaming to come out of you.

Folks, if you're a fan of this blog and its author, do yourself a favor and read this. I LOL'ed constantly. The only thing better than reading that post was being in the room with you as you wrote it!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Sully said...

Please tell me how race and ethnicity applies to being an educator. I just don't think I'm enlightened enough to understand how that makes the slightest difference at all. What jackass writes this tripe...?

7:24 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

As the drill Sergeant says in "Full Metal Jacket":
"I am hard but I am fair. There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless."

7:35 PM  
Blogger courtney said...

Race, ethnicity, religion all have a tremendous effect on education, and how educators reach the students in their classrooms and the families they service. If I let my inherent prejudices govern my actions in the classroom, I will be treating my students unfairly. Not unequally, unfairly.

I could go on and on and on about how our perceptions of religion, socio-economic status, or color affect our perceptions of people's abilities and motivations, and cause us to alter our expectations in unfair and stereotypical ways. As an educator, it is entirely my attitudes and beliefs that create the climate in my classroom, or specifically, in my case, the climate around the services I monitor for my students with disabilities. Teachers have the power to harm or help, to encourage or oppress all the students in their classroom with a single word or action. And it is my job as an educator to make sure I reach all of my students. And if I don't believe that all of my students are capable of achieving, then what the hell am I doing with my life?

But what your comment really makes me think, Sully, is that I'm glad you're not teaching the Chinese, Russian, Muslim, Korean, Jewish, Brazilian, and 55 other ethnicities that make up the students in my public school system.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

i cannot express what a special kind of hell it is to be an equal opportunity representative. 9 of every ten "discussions" i have, i want to smack someone over the head and tell them to quit being such a whiny crybaby and get back to work. i generally feel like i'm doing a dis-service to the military as a whole. if you're not tough enough to stand up to some harsh words what are you going to do when someone starts shooting at you? what happened to "sticks and stones"? so i do kind of understand sully's comments.

however there are some real problems, and as a leader/manager/whatever, i understand the value of understanding where i come from, and what my personal prejudices are and how they affect my interactions with others. as an educator, i'm sure this self-awareness is even more essential.

now, "blogger" might be too much self awareness....

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogger as first? I would think that you would want Woman, advocate, sister, blogger. After all, don't actions speak louder than words? Not to undermine how powerful words can be; however, I agree with Sean, too much self-awareness is not always how we might want to be perceived. Words enable us to convey meaning, justify, explain, excuse, and describe our actions, but the actions do come first. So, I would love to see you value yourself in this order: Woman, advocate, sister, and then blogger. Using the blog to enhance and share the three above.

As for race, ethnicity, religion, and social standings.. how sad that these things still do make a difference in our dealings with our companions in life. Having come through a few generations where these things set the tone and did matter, it is encouraging to see them matter less, but discouraging that after all these years they still do matter.

9:09 AM  
Blogger courtney said...

Anon, it isn't so much that I don't value those roles in my life; those roles listed are the most important things about me. I just found the order that they came out of me very interesting. In many ways, those 4 roles are very related and intertwined, and each informs the other.

Race, ethnicity, etc. still affect much of the world's daily life, particularly that part of the world that doesn't fall under the umbrella of white privilege. My work yesterday, to clarify, isn't causing me to reject my whiteness, just creating awareness that many of the things I take for granted, or may not notice that operate in my life, are not present in the lives of my students, and it is my job as a teacher to incorporate their perspectives and provide them with access to education.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Sully said...

Wow, did I hit a nerve..? Insulting what I consider to be a stupid question sure got your attention, and, it's still a stupid question in my opinion.

Look, I'm a humanist at heart. I can't stand the never-ending subdivisions that people willfully put themselves into. I'm more impressed with the people who transcend their surroundings, rather than allowing their environment to dictate who and what they are. The best example of this, in my opinion is Frederick Douglass. He single handedly shattered the expectations placed upon Afro-Americans in his lifetime.

Another thing that struck me about the question was that it could be considered profiling. While profiling statistically works, that does not make it a good thing to do to anyone.

If you think that this opinion should exclude me from being a teacher, that frightens me, really!!

"If I let my inherent prejudices govern my actions in the classroom" Please elaborate on this for me.

What are your inherent prejudices? aside from conservatives of course... ;)

2:07 PM  

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