High School Student
Q: What do you have in common with your teachers?
A: Most of my teachers have been white women. I have never had a Middle Eastern teacher while in public school, even though I know several Iranian students and an even greater number of Middle Eastern students. However, I have had a few Asian or multiracial teachers.
For example, in seventh grade Humanities class, I met my teacher and eventual Writing Club advisor, Kristin Leong. I look forward to casually strolling into her room and asking what she’s working on. From my experience working with Ms. Leong, I’ve learned she loves to fill her schedule with exciting opportunities related to writing, activism, and any of her other interests. I can relate to her love of working on a multitude of projects and to her active character. My schedule is also full of things I love such as starting my own vegan truffle company, yoga, blogging, and writing for Points Living Magazine.
My twelfth grade mathematics teacher and I are both interested in health and wellness. She is vegetarian, and I eat mostly plant-based foods.
My Senior Project advisor is also interested in health and wellness, and working with her on my senior project on health-food entrepreneurship is very exciting.
I appreciate that I share similar political views with some of my teachers. Class lessons about the current political climate have inspired me to write political raps and attend events such as the Seattle Women's March of 2017.
I have analyzed the president’s tweets and watched his inaugural address at school. It means a lot to me that many of my teachers also have similar stances on the immigration ban even if they do not share my ethnic background.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: Yes. It does matter that students and teachers have things in common. I believe in the importance of student and teacher relationships.
For me, it’s easier to create a meaningful connection with someone if we share similar experiences, backgrounds, or interests. This way, teachers become more approachable and the learning material becomes more influential.
When I can converse with teachers about vegan truffles, Persian festivals, and poetry slams outside class, I also feel like I can ask teachers questions with less hesitation inside class.
Teachers who mention healthy eating in a science lesson or tie in anecdotes about their culture into history lectures also create more engaging and relatable material. Teachers who share backgrounds with students are able to tap into students’ perspectives and mindsets. They can teach in a way that personalizes the information for the students and helps them learn the material in familiar styles.
The reason I know about spoken word poetry is that my seventh grade humanities teacher, Ms. Leong, introduced me to it. Because we shared similar interests and personalities, I formed a long-term relationship with her. Many of the opportunities I currently experience developed from that relationship. If I were unable to connect with my teacher in seventh grade, I would not have started Writing Club, learned about spoken word poetry, and started several writing projects in high school. I do not believe I would have pursued these opportunities if I did not have a teacher with a similar character to inspire me.
Diversity in the teaching industry is important because it brings new perspectives and stories into the classroom.
When I was in elementary school, many of my teachers were my role models. If there were a more diverse range of teachers, students would have culturally diverse role models to inspire them. This would be empowering for many young students who come from many different cultures, which is very important especially at a young age.
Niki is currently applying for college while running her company, Rawcoco. To learn more about Niki and her adventures in entrepreneurship, performance poetry, and training for a World Record in planking, or to order her delicious raw vegan truffles, visit Rawcoco.weebly.com.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.