Today I had the honor of sitting in front of a group of recent Chicago Public School graduates who now attend some of the counrty's top universities. They're part of an elite minority of Latino CPS graduates who "make it" and move on to much bigger and much better things in life.
As a Latina educator, I thought nothing could make me happier than seeing and hearing these young, insightful students come back to our school and recount their stories of triumph, as well as their tales of caution. Although I've never taught any AP courses and, therefore, have never taught these particular students, I can't help but feel a sense of pride when I see fellow Latinos successfully break barriers and cross borders.
After a while of listening to their stories and comparing their lives to those of the students I interact with on a daily basis, however, I felt a sense of frustration, because the students I work with daily were clearly not considered.
My students, unlike the students on the panel, do not all have a history of positive school experiences and do not all have spotless reputations, but they too deserve to be heard and included. While they may not all have the scores to be accepted into private liberal arts schools, their experiences are real and valid. Despite this, they remain largely underrepresented.
Although I've been teaching for a few years and I am witness to the sickening obsession with test scores and grades, as opposed to growth and the process of learning, I learned that in the eyes of the powers that be, our students really are nothing more than numbers. And unless they're the right number, they don't count.
Those who have the resources and the test scores are applauded and praised, put on pedestals. But what happens to my students, the students who haven't yet figured out where they fit in the larger context of society, the students who lack the resources (in and out of school) that they deserve, and who for many years have been pushed to the margins?
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