Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Moving Mountains

There are some days when I sit back and look at my surroundings and look at the people I know and love and think:

I just want to teach high school English in OKC public schools.
I want to have my weekends and summers off. I want to be able to randomly drive to Dallas or Houston to spend quality time with my family. I want to be free to go places and experience things.
And I want to be a cog in the system working for change in a small way, in a way teenagers need. I want to move one mountain, one stone at a time, not join with a large group of people to shift the entire course of the Rockies. Just one mountain. And I've got a lifetime to move it by myself.

And then I talk to a lady in Build-A-Bear. Sweet lady who looks Hispanic and whose daughter looks either Hispanic or Middle Eastern. She comes in an average of twice a month and never drops less than $100 on her four-year-old. I thought she was insane at first, because that's way too much money on children's toys. But this week she came in twice - Monday and Tuesday - and said some things that made me look deeper.

Monday she told about how they had "cut back" because her daughter wasn't treating her toys like she was grateful, like they were special. Very observant. Much less materialistic than I had originally thought she was. Tuesday they come in and she is wearing the same clothes - and a woman who drops dollars like she does has plenty of clothes to change into. She looks tired, sad, sick, or all of the above and she's doing a ton of sniffling. She looks at me almost apologetically and says, "We just came back for the jaguar. Just the jaguar." Her daughter starts running around looking at the things she likes and trying to decide if she has them at home already (because she's got half our store). I ask her if she is okay. She says she's been sick.

The lady sits down in a chair looking ready to wither and starts talking to me. She was surprised that I understood everything her daughter said. She said I must have kids. I told her no, I just love them and love to listen to them. I said I taught two- and three-year old Sunday school for a couple of years and that I want to teach high school English. She says I'll be great. After some time passes she says, "You should teach at Cassidy."

If you know me or have read my other posts about teaching, you know that I have NO desire to teach preppy, rich, white kids. And Cassidy is more preppy, rich, and white than almost any private school in the metro. I had to reign in my thoughts before I said, "Oh hell no!"

Instead I said, "Well, I've always wanted to teach in public schools. Private schools, especially Cassidy, are kind of..."
"Snotty?" She put in. I nodded appreciatively. She continued: "I don't ever want to be hateful, but some of the parents there are very elitist even toward my family." And we proceed to have a whole conversation about rich, snotty people and how she doesn't want to be one, how she doesn't want her daughter to be one, and how she's not sure if she wants her daughter attending that school past elementary. She is afraid the other kids will hurt her. And I can completely relate because that's how it always was for me in private elementary and junior high school.

She isn't from Oklahoma. Wherever she lived before, she attended public school in what she referred to as a "Mexican ghetto," likely the same kind I want to teach in. She said it was scary and she doesn't want her daughter to go through that either.
I worried over her and the reason behind her sniffles and weakness and day-old outfit until they left.

I stood there wondering what I could have done more to help. I had wanted to hug her but didn't know if that was okay.

And then I thought: I'll have to do something more than just teach high school English. But I don't know what it is yet. Right now, the Build-A-Bear Workshop will do.

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