by David Safier
Jeanne Simons, an 8th grade teacher at Gateway Elementary wrote a terrific comment on what teaching is all about. It is a perfect rebuttal to anger-management-challenged Tony Hill (this man should never be allowed in the classroom given his abusive history with his wife and children) whose racist letter was read on the floor of the Senate at Russell Pearce's insistence. Simon's guest column is about a teacher striving to help students be the best versions of themselves.
Simons teaches 8th grade. Her classrooms have mainly Hispanic students, some of whom are undocumented.
In my classroom, students stand for and respectfully recite the Pledge of Allegiance, they do not throw things, and on my watch, my students would never consider destroying a book. It seems to me that Mr. Hill's problems with his students have less to do with their immigration status and more to do with his classroom management abilities.
When I greet my students every day, it is not the color of their skin that I focus on, but their individual human qualities. And while I know that the appeal of gang life for children so deeply immersed in poverty and racial inequality can be unbearably strong, I also understand that part of my job is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for my students so that they may resist that temptation.
If Mr. Hill had cared to logically consider the contributing forces that lure poor immigrant children into gangs, he would understand how poverty, parental education level, and our government's unwillingness to grant citizenship to the undocumented children of immigrants through the DREAM Act cause many children to believe that their only escape from poverty is through criminal activity. Our reluctance to give immigrant children an opportunity to become citizens guarantees that many promising educational careers end at or before grade 12. This practice is not only bad for these students, but for our future as a state and as a nation.
I would say Simons shamed Hill, but people like Hill have no shame.
(h/t to Joe on Facebook for the link.)