One Day,

I hope students will grow according to their own expectations and not the expectations of others…

Monica has Neurofibromatosis 1, impairing her vision since birth. She is raising money for STAAR ICL Surgery.

As a student and soon to be teacher, it would be personally monumental for me to have the vision I always wanted while pursuing my own goal of a classroom full of visionary little learners as they embark on their education journey.

What is your educational background?

M.Ed Early Education

What or who inspired you to become an educator?

Diversity and Cultural Awareness. I admit to being the black sheep here- I never had a teacher inspire me to teach, partially because I never met one that made me feel like I belonged. Over the course of my academic career, there was a lack of racial awareness, cultural tolerance, and too much implicit bias. Let’s focus on elementary school: when I entered 1st grade I did not speak any English but the public school did not offer ESL or any other support, so I was thrown in to drown.

Of course, there were other reasons why I became a teacher, but that is the first one on my list. This was also one of my earliest memories of the disdain for ELL in a public school. The general reason is that there is little diversity in the teaching field even though there is a rising ethnically diverse student population which in turn leads to a broken phone line. It may sound odd, but if you marinate on it, the two parties have trouble communicating and understanding each other when the signal between the two are not clear; the same concept is applied when there is a large population of disadvantaged non-white students in a system that is not created for their needs.

What is your current role? What other roles have you had in the sphere of education?

For now, I am a student teacher filling in my last semester until I graduate this spring. As for other roles, I am a student, a teacher, and an observer.

Why are you still in the field of education?

I plan on staying in education because change is needed. There is a large misunderstanding of students of color and there is an even larger disparity for academic and personal achievement. Just as we make modifications in our lessons and try to “cater” to each student- we don’t really. We often forget about the cultural implications that are present, the current home environment, peer relationships, and the students’ reflections on the classroom and teacher, the feelings of exclusion, etc.

I personally felt excluded and misunderstood during my academic career ( going on 17 years!) Nothing hurts more than being faced with low confidence as a teacher. When I walk through the hallways in all my placements, there are long stares from adults and kids alike. It may have something to do with the fact that “I am not a mother but someone who will lead your classroom.” It is surprising and also a little sad because of the lack of diversity in the teaching field and there is a lack of teachers who “match” the race of some of the students. As visual learners, we are so prone to notice physical attributes of a person, but when it comes down to little kids, they look up to the adult and ask the following questions: Does she look like me? Do I look like her? For so long there have been so few instances where a student of color has a teacher who matches his/her ethnicity. This includes ebonics, speech, language, cultural understandings, shared traditions, etc.

What injustices or inequalities do you see within the walls of your own school? What changes can you make to shift the field towards equity and justice?

As teachers and administrators, we need to stop making goals and expectations for the general population and start to take in consideration what expectations are appropriate for the culturally diverse student population. The education system is built for middle-class white students so its teaching methods, pedagogies, expectations are going to fit that party. Those who fall out of that group like disadvantaged students, non-white students, those who are in disciplinary action, and ELLs do not get the support they need.

I would start off with a system that supports those student populations because the only way to be strong is to have a strong foundation. One of the things I would change is the “tracking system. In other words, that horrid system that basically categorizes the students’ reading level to the point where they stay in that category. Though there are good things about this system, it indirectly sets the student up for failure because it is a reading expectation from the teacher and from the classmates such that if you start with the C group, you will stay in the C group. I know that it is “designed” for their reading level, but it doesn’t provide the support necessary for them to move up. Also, it truly influences the students’ self-esteem in reading. In other words, they don’t want to be singled out as the “C group” when they know the “smart” kids are in the “A group.”

One day what do you hope for?

One day I hope students will grow according to their own expectations and not the expectations of others. I hope the system changes for the better when it radiates racial awareness, equality, and cultural tolerance based on the reflection of the little learners.