Years in Education: 20+
Mother of a Transracial Family
High School Humanities Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: I now live in the same town as my students (although I haven’t always).
My children attend school with and are friends with many of my students.
I have race in common with about fifty percent of my students (gender, as well). As I have an Asian child and other Asian relatives, my family's status as transracial is also a feature I share with probably thirty percent of my students.
My childhood family culture was probably similar to about half the students I teach, in that I grew up with one caring parent and and we were financially secure, but not wealthy.
I attended public schools, did well with my academics, and dabbled in extracurricular activities, as many of my students do. I also grew up with the expectation that I would attend a 4-year university and earn at least a BA, which I believe is true for practically all my students.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: Today, my students and I discussed the death of a character in a novel, and whether or not he’d had a “good life”. At the start of the discussion, I mentioned that one reason we often read novels featuring death is that it’s the job of great literature to remind of us our own mortality and to teach us how to live so that we don’t die with significant regret. But another reason to read is that learning universal truths reminds us of our shared humanity.
Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common? Well, we DO have things in common, so how are are going to capitalize on them?
I feel so lucky that my discipline is all about examining those things. This is not to dismiss the very real isolation that people feel when they experience a lack of connection. On the contrary, my response here is a blatant plug for the vital role of the arts and humanities in reaching across social and cultural divides, so that common areas are acknowledged and manifestly visible. I can't change the conditions of my birth or childhood to endow myself with more similarities to my students, but I know where to look to find the bridges that connect us.
Marrene has lived in the greater Seattle area her whole life, except for the 2 years she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle with her husband, two teenagers and two adorable dogs.