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Mr. Jiménez is a primary grade math teacher at a local elementary school where there is a near-even split of students from upper-class and working-class backgrounds. He has been teaching for over 10 years. Last year, he noticed that many students from upper-class backgrounds went to extra lengths to impress him with non math-related skills such as adding glitter and stickers to their homework projects. Mr. Jiménez overheard a group of students from upper-class families state that they win extra points from many of their teachers for adding these frilly add-ons. Although Mr. Jiménez never gave students extra attention or points for irrelevant add-ons, he is aware that many of his colleagues have done so in other classes. Further, many students from working-class backgrounds had approached Mr. Jiménez toward the end of last year to request that he put an official stop to these practices. They disclosed that their families could not afford to spend money on nonessential school supplies.
Lisa Kwon, one of the most vocal students who approached Mr. Jiménez, had frankly said: "You know, it bothers me that the rich kids get more attention than we do. It;s like they are special because their parents have money. Ms. Paulson gave me a C for my project but Jenny Mitchell got an A because her mom took her to Office Depot to get $100.00 worth of stuff for her poster. When I asked Ms. Paulson for an explanation, she told me that I didn't put enough effort into the project, which was completely untrue. In front of everyone, Jenny bragged about dressing up her poster without spending a lot of time on the essay. I spent over a week working on my essay, and I hand-drew my poster because my mom can't afford to buy special stuff like the 3D poster-board and special markers. It's like you have to be rich to get good grades around here".
Lisa then went on to share that the students from upper-class families made fun of her and her friends for not wearing the expensive school logo shirts with their names embroidered on them. Mr. Jiménez carefully listened to Lisa s concerns. Without going into details about Jenny, Ms. Paulson, or the other teachers due to confidentiality issues as well as his personal responsibility to model professionalism, he thanks Lisa for sharing her concerns, and states that he will address the general issues she raised in the coming year.
Out of response to last year's issues, Mr. Jiménez has decided to intervene early on before the school year starts. He will send a letter home to parents and students a few weeks before class that reads as follows:
Dear Parents and Students:
I hope you enjoyed your summer. I very much look forward to meeting and working with you in the coming year. In order to best run my classroom, I need some help from all of you.
As you know, I believe in equity and respect for all students. I have the following requests of all parents and students in order for me to most effectively do my job as your teacher:
Students who cannot afford school supplies: please contact me or see me privately before the first day of school. I am able to give extra school supplies based on last year s surplus. Parents are also welcome to contact me if you have special requests for your child's educational needs. I will do my best to fulfill all requests.
We will go on a few field trips this year to local colleges where college professors and students will be leading day-long workshops on Everyday Math. Parents: let me know if you need help paying for the $5.00 fee, which covers the cost for lunch. As you know, our new principal, Mrs. Takahashi, has set aside some funds for families who need help paying for field trips.
If you have computers or school supplies to donate that are in gently used or new condition, be sure to contact me. Mr. Ramos and I are collecting items for students who need extra supplies. We would appreciate any help.
I am asking students not to use frilly add-ons when submitting assignments, such as decorating their homework or enclosing reports in plastic sheet covers. The above distract from everyone's learning and is irrelevant to math. Please consider donating such items to a charity. I will ask other teachers to consider adopting this requirement for their students. Remember: quality of work is what counts.
Finally, students, as many of you are aware of, there were several instances of bullying at our school geared toward students clothing. Ridiculing others is childish, irresponsible, and simply unacceptable. Thus, I ask that all of you help make each student feel comfortable at school, and look beyond superficial things like clothing, hairstyles, and what people look like. If you notice someone being bullied, be sure to let one of us adults know right away. Being a bystander of bullying is nearly as bad as directly participating. Remember: we are a community, and we all care about each other and ourselves.
Let us make this year the best one ever. See you next month.
Mr. Carlos Jiménez
Respond to the following questions in your discussion post:
Was the teacher (Mr. Jiménez) conscious of unequal educational opportunities in this scenario? Did the teacher actively seek out solutions to equalize all students opportunities? If not, what could he have done better?
Mr. Jiménez is a primary grade math teacher at a local elementary school where there is a near-even split of students from upper-class and working-class backgrounds. He has been teaching for over 10 years.