21 March 2012

straight from the horse's mouth

I have two new young Somali brothers in my class, and after class today one of them came up to me and said "You're a good teacher. I've never seen a teacher like you before!"

Uhh, thanks?

At least he preceded it with a compliment.

20 March 2012

i've never liked middle schoolers, but this one's pretty cool

I tutor the same sixth-grade girl every Tuesday night for two hours. I need to make up a name for her, so you'll feel like you know her. Let's call her Hinda. Hinda is smart (tonight for a challenge problem I taught her some simple geometry and algebra), really little (which I think makes her seem even smarter, because I forget she's in sixth grade), gentle, imaginative, remarkably free of pretense (hopefully she won't lose that quality as she becomes a teenage girl), and always entertaining. Here's something she said tonight that I really enjoyed:

Hinda: I like chocolate milk, but now I'm against it.
Me: Why?
Hinda: I'm trying something new.

01 March 2012


A friend asked me tonight where I'd been over the weekend. I explained that I had had two work conferences back to back, one in Portland and one in Pittsburgh. "Pittsburgh?" he exclaimed incredulously and a bit enviously. "I've never been out of the state."


How can that be?

How can the world be that disproportionate?

How is it possible that someone the exact same age as me could have never had the opportunity in his whole life to travel outside Washington state, while I have enjoyed thirty-three states and nine countries and assumed that to be a normal part of life? Doesn't everyone's parents take them to the Grand Canyon? Doesn't everyone drive with ten of their best friends to Florida for spring break? Doesn't everyone attend a private college and study abroad in Oxford? Doesn't everyone work for an organization that pays for them to travel to conferences in Pittsburgh and Portland?

I have never felt in quite this way how much my life is characterized by wealth and privilege. Yesterday another friend mentioned nonchalantly the insults that had been hurled at her at a bar over the weekend because of her skin color. I was shocked that she thought nothing of it; it's a normal part of life for her. My race has only ever smoothed the way before me. I have been given, for no merit of my own, opportunities, experiences, and education that other people only dream of. I am beginning to understand that if my life is ever "successful", it will be 5% because of me and 95% because of my social class, family, background, education, race, nationality, wealth, and support networks.

It's humbling and a little bit scary to see my privilege. I wonder what things I might be blind to because of it.