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Love and Disdain for the Community

I was born and raised in a certain Southern California urban city where I still continue to live and work. I attended preschool, elementary school, high school and the university in this city and when I grew up I choose to serve the community by working in the same school district which I attended in my youth.  I love the city with all my heart and in my eyes I see nothing but a city full of beauty, rich history, and diversity. I am so proud of the city and I will never leave.

Not everyone feels the same about this city, however. When I was a teacher working in one of the most poverty stricken schools in the city, other teachers would talk about how horrible the city was and classified it as the “armpit of California”. At the time I never used to say anything because I was young and embarrassed to speak up, but it always hurt me that the same people who make tons of money working in this city’s school district could have such a poor image of the city. I always itched to say, “Why don’t you just get the hell out of here and go back to wherever you came from?”

Whenever I shop, eat or run errands throughout the city, I often run into former students or parents while I am out and about, yet I never have run into another teacher or administrator who works in the district. In fact, I have visited friends in a city about thirty miles east of my city and I have seen more people who work in the district over there than here in the city. I have stood in lines in the Barnes and Noble in another close city and have heard people talk about how they work in my city and they roll their eyes in disgust and sympathize with one another about the horrible, poverty stricken, gang infested city.

People often comment to me that the city is very interesting in that it has pockets here and there of “decent neighborhoods” while the rest of the city is in shambles. Hogwash, I say. In my eyes I see the city as a beautiful place with pockets of bad neighborhoods. People lament about the overly aggressive and ghettoized parents. Where are these parents, I ask, because I work directly with the public on an every day basis and rarely come across an aggressive parent. People make excuses that they can’t provide opportunities for parent involvement because the neighborhood is sooooo bad and they can’t “risk” being there after dark. If the neighborhood is so bad, then why did my boss and I stand on the corner in front of one of the “worst” schools last night for an hour without any problems, or why have I never had any problems at my house which is one block away?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am fed up with this nonsense and I am not going to tolerate it any more. It’s my theory that to everyone else the kids and families in this city don’t count because they are poor, black and latino. People drive in to teach in a city that they hate (and make a hefty salary at that) and they don’t even bother to drive around the block from the school and learn a little about the community. How can they truly love and care about the kids if they are so openly disdainful of the city and the people who live in the community?

Honestly, what use are they to this city if they don’t give back anything to this community? Many people don’t shop here, don’t eat dinner or lunch here and do nothing but complain about how horrible this place is. How passionate can they be about changing the lives of the children who live in this community if they are afraid to even get out of their car at the local convenience store or gas station before they get back onto the freeway and drive as far away from here as they can?

The next time that I hear someone whine and complain about this wonderful place, I am going to give them the following suggestion: If you hate this place so much, maybe you should work elsewhere. The kids deserve better.

About the Author: Melanie McGrath is a bilingual education fanatic. She passionately thinks, lives and dreams about multilingual education every waking and sleeping moment of her life. Seriously. Melanie is an administrator of bilingual education programs, and considers herself to be an advocate for students, parents, teachers, and others in the struggle for quality bilingual education programs.  As founder of Multilingual Mania, she’s doing all that she can to help create a multilingual and non-racist society one day at a time.

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