You can find the Team Teacher’s original post on this here.
In the opening of the book, Jensen says, “I believed that if ‘those people’ simply tried harder to had ‘better values,’ they would be able to succeed. Today, I realize that this attitude was terribly small-minded and prejudiced” (pg 1).
Growing up, what were your experiences with and thoughts on poverty? What were your thoughts and experiences with wealth? Have your thoughts changed, and if so, how?
I grew up in a middle class family. My mom worked, and my dad had multiple jobs. Money was never flowing over the bin, but I never needed something and didn’t have access to it. My parents taught me about money at an early age — my mom showed us the money she had in a pay check and then put in piles for all the bills she had to pay, and showed us how much was left over (not much). My parents had a good work ethic, which they instilled in me. I got my first job at 14 at a local ice cream shop, and have been working ever since.
I also grew up knowing that my uncle was homeless. He has struggle with a mental illness since he was a teenager. As a kid, I didn’t really understand why we didn’t just go get him and bring him inside — other than the fact that we didn’t exactly know where he was. I spent holidays bringing food to shelters, donating toys and clothing to homeless shelters, and working in soup kitchens. Part of it was because I wanted to help others, but a large part of it was hoping to see my uncle and if I didn’t — hoping that there was someone out there helping him, the same way I was helping these people.
In the book, Jensen talks about not pitying people, but having empathy. It wasn’t until I taught in a low ses urban area that this sunk in and I learned the difference. I had always felt bad that people led rough lives, and were poor. As an educator, it was hard to learn the difference between pity and empathy. I’m not sure that I mastered it. I spent more time focusing on empowering my students, believing them, and helping them set and meet goals.
Last year, my uncle was finally brought in by social workers. I spend every Sunday with him. We go grocery shopping, I treat him to lunch, and then I help him take care of anything he needs to in his apartment. His years on the street — he had no friends, and no contact with his family. In the year that we have been in contact, the changes in his behavior, health, and ability to interact with others has improved immensely. I’ve learned a lot about social and emotional poverty through this experience. Love, physical touch (as in hugs and kisses on the cheek) are incredibly important.
As far as wealth, well I grew up singing “I wanna be rich! I want a pie in the sky!” But as a kid that was pretty much the extent of my understanding. Today, I get frustrated by how much money equals power and controls politics — but that is another story entirely.
I’m looking forward to your posts!