Parent conferences were on Thursday night. It was Friday afternoon at my suburban public high school, but we had one more conference to go. The parent of one of our students had been working on Thursday night but really wanted to meet with her son’s teachers, and Friday was the only time she had.
This conference was an equity gut check. No one was required to attend, no administrator would be checking on us; we’d already put in our hours.
This parent and her son are experiencing homelessness, and she had a long way to go from their temporary housing to reach us; we had to honor that love and dedication, didn’t we?
Every one of that young man’s seven teachers was there, and they came to listen.
In that conference, she told us her truth: School had let her down. Because the district she attended didn’t properly license its teachers, she lost two years’ worth of credits and almost didn’t graduate. She told us about the challenges her son had sleeping and how she would put melatonin in his mouth and wait for it to dissolve before she left his side late at night.
And we heard her.
Since our regular communication methods, phone and internet, were not working to get her what she needed to make sure her son was staying on top of his work, we needed a new approach. His dean offered to connect with all the teachers and collect a list of assignments once a week and use Google voice to get a text message to her. Then I asked on what day she wanted that information. “Tuesday” was her answer without hesitation, and she had some really good reasons why. I saw my colleagues flinch. But continuing to do things a certain way because they were easy for us but useless for her wasn’t going to get the job done so … Tuesday it is.
The reason equity needs to be a lived value in all schools is because issues of homelessness, food insecurity, economic inequality and systemic racism affect all our communities, not just urban areas. I’m proud to be in a school that is trying and maybe, on one Friday afternoon, succeeding.
Richard Rosivach is a national board certified teacher in the Mounds View School District.
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