Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Complex Realities

The first time I went to visit Ms. Drucker’s first grade classroom, students were turning in a project where they had to research and present on an inventor, describing why a specific invention is important in our lives today. A student named Kimmie was chosen first to present her project, and she was so proud when Ms. Drucker asked her to share her project with the class. As Kimmie walked to the front of the room, stood on the little green step stool with her project, and struggled to find the words to describe her inventor, I felt my eyes beginning to well with tears - it was the oddest (and potentially most embarrassing) thing. I think part of it was that I was visiting the school the Monday after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and I had that on my mind while sitting among these 17 first graders in Ms. Drucker’s classroom. The other part of it was seeing how proud of herself Kimmie was. Kimmie, a small African American girl, was wearing big glasses and disheveled clothing on this particular day. As she struggled to describe what inventor she had researched for her project, I felt bothered because I began to think about the injustice in Kimmie’s life: Why was she born into this situation? What is her home environment like? Why doesn’t she have clean clothes to wear? Does she get enough food at home? Is she taking care of younger siblings? Will she soon be bullied in school for being the ‘smart kid’, the one with big glasses who succeeds in her academic pursuits? Will her educational success be stifled by the cruelty of other kids? I couldn’t help but think of all these things and fear for her future; with so much potential, how can there be the possibility that all of it will go to waste? I finally stopped my mind from wandering through the intricacies of Kimmie’s life and pulled it together, realizing that Mr. Kirsch would look like an absolute fool with tears running down his face shortly after meeting all these 7-year-old strangers. These complex questions and uncomfortable feelings, however, are things that I am sure won’t easily escape my mind throughout this semester… Has anyone else been experiencing something similar?

-Logan Kirsch


  1. I definitely sympathize with how you are feeling. I also think its easy to experience some form of guilt. Why have we had the opportunity to reach higher levels of educational attainment, while so many others cannot?

    I've found the simplest way to reconcile with the complex questions and uncomfortable feelings you discuss is to remember that you are trying to do something about it. You have joined a team of colleagues from Rollins and TFA who are dedicated to righting the injustices that are bothering you so much. While it may not erase the uncomfortable feelings, it may re-establish them as motivation.

    - Sara

  2. That's a great perspective - I love the idea that we're the ones trying to do something to change the status quo.

  3. Love this perspective Sara. I honestly think I operated with a lot of guilt when I first started teaching but now I've been able to harness it as motivation to continue to fight for equality.

  4. Logan,

    Thanks so much for posting this awesome and honest piece. I often think back to many of the kids whose stories motivated me to pursue public health. Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving the classroom, but I also remember how powerless I felt as a teacher to tackle some of those bigger issues beyond the school walls.

    It's funny now in academia how I sometimes feel a little too far away from that -- while working on the bigger picture, I'm missing the individual stories.

    I'm interested to hear how all of you handle this paradox as you move through your careers.