By Damaris Gutierrez
Do you ever replay conversations in your head, squeezing out those touchstone moments that you want to carry forth and share? I stop and jot down these gems on sticky notes near, so I can I read and feel those words again. These words come when you least expect them, but they always arrive ON time!
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with imposter syndrome. I question if I am smart enough, or if I am qualified for a role. And at times if I should even have a seat at a table. As a Black biracial woman that teaches in the predominately white institution of public education, it can feel isolating and disheartening. You are 1 of a few IBPOCs at your campus or district. You feel that you have to always fight against the system that marginalizes communities of color.
I frequently say this quote above because I wonder if EVERYONE always feels as if they have to fight for the minimal basic care of
being SEEN and VALUED for who you are and what you bring to spaces.
I fight for this basic care in my daily role as an educator. The children I teach are from predominately IBPOC backgrounds and they are learning an ADDITIONAL language BUT yet it is seen as a DEFICIT.
It is a DEFICIT not because of their ability but because of their IBPOC identity.
I am reminded of a recent conversation with one of my 6th-grade students. I captured his words on a sticky note and placed it on my computer screen so that I can continue to be reminded of them. My student has been in the US for only a year and his family fled from Afghanistan when it fell to the Taliban in 2021. Ninety percent of my students have the same background. After the first months of teaching him, I saw there was something special. He was an inquisitive researcher, an interpreter, and a leader. One day, I asked him to come to my desk to see an email written in English that the school had sent to his father. I wanted him to help his father with the request from the school about a specialized program. The next thing he said stopped me in my tracks.
“I check my dad’s emails for him every day, they must have sent this today.”
I about fell out of my seat! What! He manages his father’s email! I am impressed and curious at the same time.
So I said, “Tell me what else do you do to help your family?”
“I pay all the bills.” is what he said next.
What! I told him my own children don’t even know how to do that. My oldest is a year younger than him. He continued.
“My dad takes me to all the appointments for the family to translate.”
Now this left me puzzled so I asked, “Why doesn’t your dad take your older brother, who is a year older than you?”
“Because I am smarter!” I should have known this response was coming, as he said it with his WHOLE chest. I liked his confidence!
I told my student that I am writing this down to share because people need to know this about you! What I learned about my student was that he is a language broker, a financial manager, a middle child with eldest child’s responsibilities, and much more. He loves his family and will do what it takes to make their lives a little easier in their new world. No qualifying test for a program will ever capture his genius or SEE him!
My #EduColor fam, Jose Vilson said it best!
As I pour into my students about their genius and to be SEEN, I am whispering this to myself at the SAME time! Jose’s words came at a time when I needed to be reminded of who I was!
Because to be played SMALL is to not be SEEN, VALUED, or CARED for.
I can not wait on institutions to SEE my genius! I must be VALUED for who I am and what I bring to the table. I must be CARED for, even when it causes discomfort for others! I am no imposter in the spaces I take up, I am here for a reason!
So I go back to the sticky notes that help me navigate through the tides I experience as an IBPOC educator. I am thankful for the words and the care they give! I am thankful for my community!
I am a mother of 3 and a veteran educator. I am a middle ESL teacher in San Antonio, Texas. I am a proud National Board Certified Teacher and I serve as a founding director of the Texas National Board Coalition for Teaching. I am passionate about supporting students and families from emergent bilingual and multilingual backgrounds with diverse educational experiences. My students have been my best teachers and I am thankful to share space with them! I am an aspiring administrator and my hope is to be a school leader in the future. Being in a community with others continues to support my learning and advocacy. I am new to blogging and I plan to continue to share my story as an educator. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the #31Days of IBPOC.
This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Amanda Bourassa (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog series).
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