I am a teacher in the Wichita school district. This is my 14th year. I am 57 years old and have taught for a total of 18 years.
I am from Iowa, married, have no children of my own and did not go to college or complete high school until later in life.
I grew up as “poor white trash.” My dad had a sixth-grade education. He worked hard every day to keep food on the table for our family of seven.
At the age of 16 or so, I asked my dad what college I could go to after high school. He responded, “We’re not college people.”
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Of course I knew by that time in life our family was different from a lot of others. I knew we were poor, and the reasons my mom had left us. Somehow, though, I had convinced myself that I could go to college and have a better life.
Long story short, I ended up pregnant and married at the age of 17. I dropped out of school and was divorced at 19. My life sucked. Then I met my current husband.
My husband and I obtained our GEDs in the early 1990s. My husband started hounding me about what I wanted to do with my life and suggested I go to college. I laughed and relayed what my dad had said.
Needless to say, I did go to college, and I am living my dream of teaching.
It doesn’t feel like a dream anymore. I feel beat down by the way things are going with the public school system. I no longer feel respected as a teacher. My opinions no longer matter. I am no longer allowed academic freedom. I could go on and on.
I want it made clear that I do not blame our school district. The blame lies at a much higher level than USD 259.
The only reason I keep teaching is because I love my students. I want to be the one to let the poor kids know that they can be the one – the one in their family to break the mold. I want to give them a hug, because it might be the only one they get that day. I will show them I care for them.
I tell them stories of my life as a kid – fun things, sad things, etc. I keep it generic, not too many details, but enough to let those living the same life I lived know that I know what is happening in their home and in their life.
I know I can and do make a difference in children’s lives.
Edie Jones is a fourth-grade teacher at Price-Harris Communications Magnet Elementary School in Wichita.