2018 Week 4: Education
Week 4 has been largely a self-reflecting week. When I think back to the goals I had in week one, I am proud to say I accomplished many of them and found new goals to achieve within a matter of four weeks. In the past four weeks, I have been able to push my past my comfort zone, learn new skills, meet vastly accomplished inspiring people, succeed in some moments, fail and learn from the mistakes in other moments, brainstorm small ideas that change the community in a large way, and most of all, discover the various shades of Baltimore. In addition to these accomplished goals, I have come across new goals I want to meet in the next coming weeks. Now that have I discovered the various shades of Baltimore, I want to be able to find a connection between all the people, places, cultures, politics, and lives in Baltimore. This likely would require more than four weeks, probably a couple of years, but it is a goal that I want to start pursuing. I feel that if I open myself to this grand possibility of understanding my community to a deeper level, I would come across more people to befriend, more places to explore, and more challenges to understand and overcome.
The highlight of this week would be the midpoint speaker event. I had the honor of meeting Erricka Bridgeford, an empowering woman who shared her story about how she coordinated one of many cease-fires in Baltimore City. Her wisdom brought insight to my own life and stirred a change of beliefs within myself. I used to be skeptical of the productive impact of ceasefires, but that day I learned many valuable things that changed my perspective of ceasefires. For one thing, I learned that a ceasefire creates a sense of unity within a community. They are so effective because of the community consciousness to not kill anyone. Erricka shared inspiring stories about communities creating resource huts, barbecues, and mediation efforts to stop the violence and the killings. Ceasefires create a time to celebrate life and provide resources for closure, therapy, employment, healthcare, etc. Even though one may argue that a ceasefire doesn’t solve the entire challenge of gun violence, a ceasefire does prevent deaths. Furthermore, a ceasefire brings awareness of the violence plagued upon a community; the system constructed to oppress and prevent marginalized populations, especially people of color, from moving up economically and socially; the public health issue of gun violence and drug abuse; the need for policies that help and aid the poor rather than pushing them further down in poverty; and the need to recognize, remember, and care for each and every death. Lastly, it is fundamentally important to recognize that there is one more day an individual is not killed and thus one more day that an individual is alive.
To conclude this note, I want to share one of the most powerful things I heard from Erricka, which was something along the lines of:
“there are some people born privileged. And there are some people born into oppression without it being their faults”.
Her voice and her words shook me and challenged me to walk into the future with this in mind. It has left me to largely reflect of who I am and what I can be. While I do not have an answer right away, I am sure with some more self-reflection I can provide some insight of my life to the world.
This week, it was too hot to do any canvassing. Instead, the students found other ways to spread the word about the Lockbox fund. This included a social media group, planning the new direction of The Intersection social media accounts, ideally run by the students. There were also groups contacting Baltimore City delegates, and community organizations, with some success so far. After talking with Kim Trueheart, the students had a better idea of other ways to spread the word, and were really excited to speak at community meetings. This week was especially short, we went on a college tour, missed a day for the fourth of July, and went to a workshop with CLIA on Friday. CLIA is a youthled organization that empowers young people to be politically active, and our students debated one another on some interesting topics in an effort to teach our students public speaking skills. The meeting was very short, and I wish there was more time since the activity felt rushed. I am very proud of the relationships I’ve built in the past two weeks, and I am thinking about ways to stay involved with these students through the rest of their high school careers.
One of the goals that my supervisor and I set at the start of the summer was to, “help inspire the young girls in the program to pursue sports, and work hard at them.” Reflecting on this goal at the halfway point of my internships, I think that this is still my greatest area to make an impact and will simultaneously be the most difficult area to change pre-existing beliefs. Over these past two weeks, I have noticed some generational differences between my experience as a middle/high-schooler and the experience of the students that I am working with now. For example, they spend any free second on their smart phones; versus we did not even have them at that age. Additionally, when I was growing up, playing outside and with other people it was the natural and fun thing to be doing during the summer. Many of the students we are working with complain about being with the other students all day, and having to do physical activities (like going to play squash or attending fun training sessions at a local gym). Ironically, in the moment they do still seem to enjoy it most of the time, but they do no see it that way in hindsight or before engaging in the activity.
The powerful culture of complaining and wanted to just be at home in their rooms doing nothing has been very interesting to experience and attempt to shift their mindsets about. I have been working towards reframing their experiences to see the opportunities and really pushing them to think about what they would rather be doing and why. Also, I have found that doing the activities side-by-side with them helps to push them to keep going – at the training sessions or during squash drills. There are glimpses of understanding and agreement, but a significant amount of push back. I do still think that the goal set at the start of the summer is attainable; it has just presented to be more challenging that I initially imagined.
At CodeWorks, we have a #late group message for students to directly communicate to the administrators and instructors if they’re going to be running late on any particular day. I have noticed that the late messages start flooding in around 6:30 – 7 am with messages such as “going to be late bus did not come on time” and “missed my bus coming in late”. I know that this is a relatively minor thing to be bothered by, but our program starts at 9am. This means that students know that they’re going to be late 2 hours before CodeWorks even begins. Because we are a YouthWorks site, the majority of our students live in Baltimore City and should not be commuting long distances to our site. However, it seems that due to a lack of efficient public transportation in certain areas, our students end up commuting 1 to 2 hours for what should be a 20-minute drive. I have another student who walks 40 minutes to work everyday. When I asked him why he wouldn’t take the bus, he told me that taking the bus takes 1.5 hours. This was extremely troubling to hear, because we had this conversation during the week of the excessive heat warnings and it was disheartening to send this student home after classes knowing he would have to walk home in the 95 degree weather.
To be completely honest, I have not thought much about equitable transportation. I am from a city with an extremely extensive, efficient, and cheap public transportation system. And I have had the privilege of not having to worry about my day-to-day commute. However, after listening to various community members and observing my students this summer, I have realized that transportation is an extremely and obviously important social justice issue. And it is a social justice issue that I will now be more cognizant of.
I came across a passage earlier today that got me thinking about the concepts that shape our interactions. In the passage, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson propose that metaphors have become unconsciously embedded in our communication and experiences. For example, they point out how people commonly frame “argument as war.” Consider the language that we use when describing arguments — attacking weak points, using strategies, shooting down ideas, responding with counterattacks, winning, losing. What if instead, Lakoff and Johnson suggest, we imagined that there was a culture in which people framed “argument as dance.” How would arguments change if conflict were seen as creative and productive, rather than something to be won or lost? How would the language and attitude of the participants change? How would the outcomes change?
This notion of changing frameworks and attitudes is a large part of what resonated with me from our CIIP midpoint speaker, Erricka Bridgeford. To some, Erricka’s mission with Baltimore Ceasefire can seem idealistic — ending murder in Baltimore, starting by calling ceasefire weekends. Even when I tried to explain the concept to a few of my friends, I was met with some hesitation. “So…she calls a ceasefire, and people just put down their guns for a weekend? How do people enforce that? How do people even find out about that?” they wanted to know. The vast amount of support and attention that the Baltimore Ceasefire has garnered in spite of the skepticism is truly a testament to how powerful it can be to change the way we frame our interactions. With her movement, Erricka changes the way we view conflict, to address it with conversation rather than violence. She changes the way we think about high murder rates, to continue to honor every life rather than being numb to daily losses. Furthermore, she changes the way that we think of Baltimore, to look past the image of corruption and brokenness and instead see the positivity, love, and potential for healing.
*The next ceasefire is happening August 3rd-5th, 2018. Share the news!*
This week I had the opportunity not just to assist in the classroom but actually run class when one of our teachers took a couple days off. The teacher Mr Z kept in touch via text to help me figure out where to find materials in the classroom throughout the two days. I got to work closely with several students I hadn’t worked with before, as well as with several students I’d already tutored previously. Things were a lot more fast paced — I definitely got practice multitasking between figuring out what each student was working on, photocopying materials, and correcting work on the fly. In all of this, I really found that students were most productive and engaged when I had a chance to sit down with them and work through problems step by step, compared to when I left them to work on their own. This made me realize what a huge impact private tutoring has on a student’s performance. It’s frustrating to think about how much difference two equally talented students will see in conventional performance measures simply because of inequitable access to educational resources like tutoring or extra practice. On the bright side, it really seems like the students who see me around all day are getting more comfortable with asking questions and starting conversations. I had a few more personal conversations about our families, the differences in the ways we grew up and our hopes for the future. As someone who grew up with an adopted parent, it was really interesting when the students overwhelmingly referred to biological parents as “real” parents, regardless of how much of a parenting role the biological parent plays. On a more somber note, we also compared the ways in which we had lost people in our lives. Where the people I’ve lost were all to chronic illness or accidents, both students I spoke to had overwhelmingly lost people to violence or drug-related causes. In general, it seemed the students shared a largely pessimistic outlook on the future in Baltimore. When they found out I was from Canada, they all wanted to know what I saw in the city that made me want to stay even after graduation. I find it so strange that my experience as a non-Baltimorean in this city is potentially far easier than that of so many born-and-raised Baltimore natives because I come from a place of relative privilege.Tags: 2018, Baltimore Squashwise, Child First Authority, CIIP, CIIP 2018, Code in the Schools, HEBCAC YO! Baltimore, Liberty Elementary, Shepherd's Clinic, The Intersection, Week 4