Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fighting Discrimination as an Agricultural Educator

Discrimination happens every day to every person ever created. I am sure of it. Those of us such as myself in a classroom with students can see this, however it is not uncommon for discrimination to happen everywhere those students go. Looking around my classroom I wish that my students did not have to deal with this but I know that wish would fall in vain. Also in that classroom of discrimination however is an educator, me. Do I feel discrimination? How does this make me feel? Am I changed because of it? The answers are in order; all the time, motivated, and emphatically yes.
In my fourth year of education at the same school district, parents and community leaders recognize me and trust me to do a good job with my classroom program. Perhaps just as important is the rapport with other faculty members in the High School. Prejudice usually companies my title, especially for a certain coo of faculty and a certain set of parents. The fact that I teach courses called “Agricultural Education”, in the minds of some, obviously means that I am less of an educator than others.  I teach elective classes, obviously meaning that students do not have to take my classes. I immediately get very offensive when I hear slangs from other teachers in my building and from parents of children who would not allow their kids to take my classes because “they would not benefit from it.” I need to be recognized as a professional educator, unbiased and fair, and not a teacher of nothing. Granted there are “bad” teachers out there, an unfortunate product of the comfort of the education system, but I am not one of them. I am a skilled craftsman of my chosen profession with a skilled niche for agriculture. I can, and do, teach my students how to think with common sense and teach them life knowledge. Nevertheless, I feel discrimination oftentimes at the work place. Furthermore, the students that some of the others do not want end up in my classes because they get to work with their hands in my class. I can help them develop trades and learn basic remedial skills, however I feel discriminated when my department is treated like a dumping ground for the learners that “don’t fit” other places.
Discrimination changes people. It leaves a callous, makes it hard and tough, and not really that easy to remove. When it comes time for students to schedule classes for the upcoming year, for that entire week I teach with a chip on my shoulder. I try to keep the students that I have, and for the most part I do, as they understand that my classes are not “easy A’s”.  They understand that they learn practical knowledge in my classes, and I can only assume they like me as a teacher as well. The callous that the chip leaves when it is not scheduling season seems to get larger each year.
When all is said and done, discrimination happens. It is how I react to it that I can control. “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it” says a poster in my classroom, and those words hold true in this instance as well. I cannot control how others view me and my program, but I can control how I react to it. I choose to react with compassion.

Post written by Mike Derringer

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