Blog Your Blessings: My Gratitude to the Liberal White Bigot

She was so white she was blue. A teacher. A colleague of sorts from across town except that she worked up on the hill in a private school, and I worked in, as the children say, a ghetto school across that vast brown field called Waterbury. We sat within shouting distance of each other at a child's politically correct birthday party. I had said hello, and we exchanged pleasantries about where we worked and how many children we had at home and in our classrooms.

Upon hearing I worked at a public middle school across town from where she worked, she remarked, "I always wanted to work in the inner city--I studied social work and psychology--but I found a job at this [elite, upscale, very white, expensive, and did I say, private] school....."

Alas.

Social work. Psychology. Why, I wondered? To take notes on the way young, possibly neglected, urban life forms peel bananas?

"But we partner with [an alternative elementary school full of poor minority children], and it really is rewarding."

Oh, wow. Interaction with ghetto people, I thought. Here it comes: she can relate to me. Except that I know that partner is not a verb. We are not bonding. My blood pressure is rising and I feel the "do not embarrass me nudge" from my daughter.

She kept talking: "We go down there...." [Yes, Gentle Reader. Down There. The Ghetto.] "...and they [the ghetto children] really can learn....

"The benefits run both ways. Our kids get to see how fortunate they are." [What, pray, are the benefits bestowed upon the poor kids? She never said. I presume it is understood--by rich people--we are all improved by the company of rich people.

Throw into this soliloquy a random thought on "getting outside our own world" and stepping amid the great unwashed and you get the portrait of a woman who thanks her lucky stars she never did get that ghetto job and really is white and working with her own breed.

But here's what stole my breath: She identified the chief benefit of her students' dealing with poor, urban minorities as her students' realizing just how well off they are.

The poor kids scare the rich kids into an appreciation of their good fortune.

That's it.

I listened to this bigoted drivel in polite silence. For only so long. When I could get a word in, I said, "You know, I work with the lowest performing kids in my school. They do lousy on tests, but they are naturally smart, intuitive people. Show them how to read and they will. And they could run circles around you." [Heavy emphasis on the you.]

I am grateful to this woman for helping me realize I am in the right place. And that good things are possible. We are not types. We are people. Even the liberal white gal who doesn't get it. She is a person.

I love what I do. I love and respect my students for being themselves and taking people for who they are rather than trying to change, improve, or reform them. And I am grateful she helped me realize it.

Comments

  1. I hope she was young. Really young and inexperienced. I hope that is why she thinks as she does and in a few years, if she shuts her mouth long enough, she might learn something and feel blessed.

    I bet she doesn't know the lesson she taught today. Great post again Sandy.

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  2. "I love what I do. I love and respect my students for being themselves and taking people for who they are rather than trying to change, improve, or reform them."

    This is why your students love you too! Who doesn't want to be loved for their own uniqueness rather than changed or reformed?! Good for you, Sandy.

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  3. I'm glad she didn't get a job in the inner city. She probably would not have lasted the first semester. After all, what could she have taught them?

    ...would she have taken them "up there" to the private school for a field trip?

    I am grateful for the teachers such as yourself who actually can see the potential in all kids.

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  4. you are a gift to your students and a true practitioner of unconditional love for all even the bigots...

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  5. Oh dear. My mother sent me to one of those exclusive schools (me, the poor-but-smart scholarship kid in my homemade clothes oh ouch) and it wasn't a good thing; I suffered there. I can just picture this fellow teacher of yours. But I love how you can always find the silver lining in any cloud, and come away with love and gratitude. You inspire me every time.

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  6. you a\re so much nicer and polite then i am... pats you on the back!!! Go GIRL~

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  7. you a\re so much nicer and polite then i am... pats you on the back!!! Go GIRL~

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  8. Nothing like a cold wet white towel slapping you up side of the head to make you see one of your blessings.

    Those children are truly blessed to have you.

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  9. To have a teacher like You, Sandy makes a world of difference to these kids. You inspire and reach them. Ms Blueblood will never be remembered by her students, But I know that you will be remembered fondly by yours for many years to come, like Charlie Phelps is remembered by us.

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  10. I love and respect your words
    and YOU!
    Aloha-Cloudia's Comfort Spiral

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  11. I've taught 43 plus years- the rewards are greater where they have less opportunity I believe . At least when I teach a child to read who has no books I see a special light sandy kessler

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  12. Ah so your kids help her kids learn to be grateful for their affluence and she helps to point out just how much more you and your kids really have. Sounds like you have the much better deal.

    You and your kidlets are lucky to have one another.

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  13. It always made me angry when kids from my town talked about "the ghetto", something they really have no appreciation for or understanding of (geez boys, buy pants that fit). And it always confused me when people acted like I was going to meet the Big Bad Wolf just by going to school in Washington......

    Yet I volunteer near the inner city and I see women from all sorts of circumstances and walks of life, women who are just as human as I am, who love to chat, who have dreams, who want to be loved, who are more real, kind, and genuine than a good amount of people I go to school with. They just may need a pack of diapers or can of formula they wouldn't have otherwise gotten, that doesn't and shouldn't make them objects to either be pitied or scorned.....

    Sometimes, "the ghetto" has much more to teach you and much more honesty than any amount of either money or connections can buy. Because money can't buy humanity.

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  14. "We go down there...and they really can learn."
    Gulp.
    It sounds like she's describing grimy caterpillars on the street. But gosh, really, I'd hate for her to get her shoes dirty.

    Well done.
    You are inspiring.

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  15. I fully agree with you. Besides all this, I think children cannot be divided into "good" and "bad". I'm not a teacher or a psychologist, but I think that kids are kids, each of them has a good potentiality which must find the right way to be expressed.

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  16. I don't know whether to laugh at that creep called a teacher or to thank God that she isn't trying to teach YOUR students. Thanks for showing ME the blessing and you know what? The lesson was a blessing for your daughter too! Doubly blessed or maybe even triple blessing because of your own students. Thank you for being the person you are as a teacher!!!!!!!

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  17. I congratulate you on your patience. I don't think i'd have been quite so nice.

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  18. Glad you are in the place where you are meant to be and where you can really help the children.
    It is not helpful for that teacher to say such bigoted things to her *privileged * children.
    Like Thumbelina, I hope it is down to her being young & inexperienced, but I would have thought that they would be trained up better than that, straight from teacher training!
    Takes all types.

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  19. And it is your students who are blessed to have you as a teacher as opposed to this private school teacher.

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  20. When you step out of your own secure world that is when you learn and develop as a human being.

    White Missy hopefully will with time learn and develop and someday think to herself: "I was so naive."
    No need to really respond to her thoughts. No need to raise your blood pressure.

    Let time solve Missy's problem.

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  21. Where would we be without "do-gooders."

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  22. Having been a teacher all my life in schools of 'Special Educational Need', as they are termed hereabouts, I can relate to your experience.

    But, we are meant to 'bump into' people like that from time to time, for they affirm why we are where we are.

    You are specially chosen to work in that area because of your stamina as much as any other skill.

    She would crumple and be off with a nervous breakdown, and therefore, be a useless absentee, while you would carry on.

    Hold your head high...You are a born teacher, and they are few and far between, for you see each pupil, and not the surroundings; each new life to nurture and hopefully shape; and you have no blinkers.

    I loved your testimony... :)

    Here's the latest video of Barleycorn in June...

    http://ourlittlecornerofparadise.blogspot.com/2009/06/barleycorn-meditation-in-june.html

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  23. You were way more polite than I could have been.

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  24. I think you were very restrained.

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  25. Sandy,
    I came back to this post because it means a lot to me. I'm a teacher and the mother of a young women who has just signed on as a America Corps volunteer in an elementary school in Santa Barbara. The terms "under-achieving school" and "poverty" were thrown out to her in the interview with the principal. But. From what my daughter told me, this principal rejects the labels foisted upon her school from the politicians and forges on in the front lines to try to teach children. My daughter was very much at home with her style. :-)

    Social work and psychology? You can't study it. You have to listen to people in order to get it.

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  26. You GO!! Love love your attitude-and thoughts on the pious lady.

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  27. What, may I ask, is a politically correct birthday party?

    It is good to hear you love your job. It is good to hear that you love and respect your students. I commend you for your patience and restraint. I respect your position and appreciate your stand, but it seams to me that you don't appreciate her situation.
    First of all....she is the product of our universities and colleges...an institution of liberal thinking. Obviously, someone failed her.
    Should we not look at and criticize a school system (both public and private) that would set up such a "partnership" in which a private school visits with an inner city low income public school? What were their intentions?
    What will a child that attends a "ghetto" school learn from a child that attends a private school....and vise versa?
    I'm not attacking you and I understand your anger; but why such negativity? "She was so white she was blue." What is that? I myself take great offence to that statement. What an ugly thing to say.
    For someone who is feeling discriminated upon and who tossed the "bigot" label, you sound like you are intimidated by her position and intolerant and prejudice of all who attend private schools. Not all children who attend a private school are rich. Some of these children are of lower income and reside in middle income and even low income housing. It is also most likely that you and this (private school) teacher make about the same income. Otherwise, I would say.....I would bet good money....that you make more than she.
    "I always wanted to work in the inner city--I studied social work and psychology--but I found a job at this school." Could it be she truly wanted to work, teaching, in your school but was not hired? Maybe, because of government bureaucracy, she was over qualified?
    She didn't say that she was teaching at an "elite, upscale, very white, expensive, private" school; you did. The way your post reads you sound bitter and resentful of her position. If you love you job, if you truly love and respect the children you teach, you shouldn't be so angry. You should be happy and proud. Your post doesn’t sound happy and proud.
    It is also apparent that you have little regard for social workers and those of the psychology field. And I only hope none of your students read that statement..... “. . .take notes on the way young, possibly neglected, urban life forms peel bananas?" That is a an ugly thought. I am guessing, I am hoping, you really didn't mean that. Right?
    Try to be happy you are where you are, and not stuck in some rigid private school. And instead of attacking her, you might want to spend you energy enlightening your readers on all the wonderful aspects of your job and the beautiful students that make up your classes. To write such angry negative words only reinforces the negative thoughts.

    I am truly sorry if I have stepped on your toes, I only felt the need to speak to your post....and I do wish you a beautiful weekend

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  28. Food for thought, all round. Thank you Sandy, and Robin. Both well written an offering food for thought. (I am eating...)

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  29. When I was growing up I met some very rich kids who were some of the dummest I had ever met hahahaha.
    I also met people who never went to school, didn;'t know how to read or write but had street smarts. They were some of the smartest people I ever met and they applied themselves and became very rich without any academic huha.
    It all just depends.
    The same with people in general, you have the good and the bad in all races, classes,ethnics.
    You will meet a person and either like him or hate him and then maybe like him again. Soo...no point to worry over it or get upset.We are all just passing through.:)

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  30. Bless you for giving so much!

    It always strikes me as odd when people like this have convinced themselves that they are doing such great things for society with their "partnering".

    We cannot change everything but we can make a difference when we take notice and turn it into action.

    Namaste,
    Roger

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  31. Suprising how someone's narrow view of the world sometimes opens our own eyes to what is important to us! A thought provoking post!

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  32. Sometimes I wonder if the people who blindly swallow the ideas thrown at them couldn't learn a lot more from the people who constantly ask the question, "why is this important and how does it apply to the real world."

    In the end, I think the reason I failed teaching at an inner city school was because I failed to answer that question.

    I'm glad there are teachers like you.

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  33. I should just let it go. I know I should let it go. And Sandy would probably tell me to let it go. Sandy herself has probably let it go. Either that or already begun penning next weeks' entry for this meme form it.

    But I can't. I just can't. When someone leaves a post-length rant in a comment effective attacking the character of someone I respect deeply -- based on her interpretation of quite probably the only post she's ever read here... that presses my Big Brother button.

    Why do I say "quite probably the only post she's ever read here"? Because anyone who's spent any time here at all knows how fiercely devoted Sandy is to her job and her students. And if her tone in this sounds a bit edgy, it probably is because she's had to deal with condescending pseudo-liberals who say things like "we visit 'down there' and those children really can learn".

    Yes, there are token middle and even lower income students in private schools. I've known several of them. But they represent a tiny minority of the general population of those schools, and based on the firsthand accounts I've heard over the years, that's precisely their standing in the social strata.

    As for the salary structure, perhaps it's different in New England. But around here teachers in the public school system can't touch the pay scale of those in private schools unless they're almost ready for retirement and being compared to a first year teacher.

    But you know, I've visited with rich people before and they really can have some humanity in them. They're not all priggish self-righteous bastards. so perhaps you have a point after all.

    Sorry Sandy... I had to. It was either that or choke on it. I'll stop now.

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  34. I appreciate your thoughts, Mojo and Robin.

    Let me clarify, Robin: Kids are kids. They are not types. They are invidividuals deserving of our respect. This woman of whom I wrote spoke of them as lab monkeys. I resented that. That was my point.

    My point that she was so white that she was blue was a reference to blue bloods, the nobility.

    Clearly, my issues are not your issues, Robin. And that's okay. God bless.

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  35. Robin,

    You should really get a clue about your infantile rant concerning the post on this blog. For you know not about what you speak.

    Sandy is far from a bigot, she is a brilliant writer and has a masters degree and has been an English professor and is one of the most honest people you will ever meet. She spent many hours this past school working on material to help these kids learn, she spent her own money to print off these materials so the kids would be interested. Not relying on some antiquated outdated text book.

    How does saying she was so white she was blue offend you so much? I guess Sandy needs to apologize to all the blue people out there.

    Have you read any of Sandy’s other posts about her job or any others for that matter.? I guess not by your stupid inane comments. You would see that she truly loves her job and her kids that she teaches.

    You are making a case for product of one's environment, which by doing so makes all of us victims. You have no regard for teachers or for that fact any other humans. Please do not try to paint Sandy as a bigot or some who does not regard other people in this world because nothing could be further than the truth.

    You talk about making ugly statements, your comment is one long diatribe of ugliness.

    Sandy is not jealous of this other person, she is merely pointing out that this person does not see the big picture, nor do you.
    I suggest that you stick to what you know, because you obviously know nothing about the situation or Sandy.

    I really hope that you don’t come back and post such a rude and ugly comment again.

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  36. Paul and Mojo say I was ranting. Was I ranting? That was not my intent. I was just putting questions out there (I was looking for some answers / some reason)....and yes followed by some unsolicited suggestions based on my own feelings....and yes I know I should keep my suggestions to myself. :-/
    I hadn't realized how long my comment was till I hit the "publish comment" button.
    I was not calling Sandy a bigot nor was I questioning her teaching qualifications. I was trying to point out that she had inadvertently made prejudicial statements.

    I think I have been to this blog maybe 5 or 6 times....reading about 2 and 3 posts each time. And I can honestly say I have enjoyed reading her posts and viewing her photos. It was just this post that I felt was a bit harsh. I feel it boxes all rich people and all private school teachers, as well as their students, as cold, insensitive, shallow snobs. I don’t feel that is true.....or right.

    I agree that the statement made by the (private school) teacher was way off base, but we are judging her by one statement on one afternoon. And okay.....I admit it ticks me off to hear that a teacher would say such things. But I question her formal training and this school system in which she has been placed. And I know from first hand that it isn't just the faculty of private schools that are so shallow.

    Again, Sandy, I am sorry...

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  37. Robin,
    Thanks for coming back. Hey, my problem isn't with private schools or with rich people. My problem is with liberate white bigots. These are the folks who talk a great game but very clearly see themselves as other and better. That drives me nuts. This example happened to teach at a private school.

    This is a strong post. I feel strongly about this topic. I don't mind being harsh--which doesn't happen often. I get like this when I feel trampled or see people being trampled.

    In making some generalizations, I made generalizations. They are valid. There are exceptions, of course. Plenty of them. But the generalization is no less valid.

    Thanks for coming by again.

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  38. I went back and re-read the post to see where "all rich people and all private school teachers" are painted with the same brush. Because, that's not any fairer than painting all the poor minority children with the same brush. And what I read was the story of an encounter with a private school teacher who -- when it came time to put up or shut up -- decided that working "down there, in the inner city" (her words, not mine) wasn't "rewarding" enough to pass on the job "she found" at the upscale private school. But she assuages this guilt(?) by slumming with the poor kids in some kind of "partnership" that, the way she tells it, benefits the affluent kids by demonstrating "how fortunate they are". One can only wonder what the token minority and low-income students in her school gain from this interchange, since they have far more in common with the students at the "partner" school than the one they attend.

    So okay... perhaps there's a shot at those in the fields of psychology and social work. Or perhaps, simply those who feel it is necessary to study these disciplines in order to understand those who live "down there". Sounds more like the attitude of an anthropologist than an educator to me. Or perhaps I misspelled that... perhaps she's simply an apologist.

    And a warning shot across the blue noses of the rich -- at least those who assume that sharing the company of the rich improves the not-rich somehow.

    One encounter, with one person, and a handful of possible interpretations of exactly what might have prompted that person to say the things she did. That's what I read here. And frankly regardless of where the woman works or has worked, the kind of bigotry (unconvincingly) disguised as philanthropy that kept tumbling out of her mouth would test the patience of Gandhi.

    I can only hope I'd be as restrained if I'd been in Sandy's place. Because I read it at a remove and wanted to choke her just to shut her up.

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  39. Sandy I absolutely think you are a dream teacher and I would have loved to have you teaching my kids! This woman is just unbelievable and I think you took her crap rather well! and longer than you needed to!

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  40. Sandy I absolutely think you are a dream teacher and I would have loved to have you teaching my kids! This woman is just unbelievable and I think you took her crap rather well! and longer than you needed to!

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  41. Congrats on POTD mention from Authorblog Sandy.

    I love that you've got your commenters commenting with each other; a great way to really learn.

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  42. That's purity in teaching. I have a relative that goes begrudgingly THERE only for the money

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  43. And just what lessons are different for Inner City youth and "the High Falutin's? Nothing I would hope. Reading is still reading, Writing is still Writing and Arithmetic is still Arithmetic...and it should all be taught to the tune of a Hickory Stick...well, perhaps not a Hickory Stick...a willow branch would do more good...and I'd start with her...
    Great post and I am so proud that my friend is a Teacher...I come from a long line of Teachers!
    hugs
    Sandi
    ps
    Congrats on POTD nomination!!!
    Sandi

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  44. oh, and did I say Congrats on POTD? Had a senior moment there!
    hugs
    Sandi

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  45. Beautifully written. And so deserving of your POTD mention from authorblog. Congratulations!

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  46. I hear what you're saying. The Lord bless your eyes for seeing value in these young people.

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  47. Anonymous12:11 AM

    A valuable post on gratitude.

    Thanks,
    Karim - Mind Power

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