Spotlight on Danielle-Over the Rhine Residency Program

Congratulations to Danielle Linowes, Jessie Davidson from Teacher Education and Megan Krach from Educational Psychology, who completed the fall 2015 Over-the-Rhine Residency Project as a part of their as part of their student teaching. These student teachers worked at two different schools: Rothenberg Preparatory Academy and Oyler Community School. All did their student-teaching as part of the Urban Teacher Cohort Program at Miami University, directed by Tammy Schwartz of College of Education, Health, and Society (EHS). Kim Wachenheim, also of EHS was the students’ teaching supervisor.

From Thomas Dutton, Director of the Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over the Rhine:

“Offered through the University’s Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, students from many walks of life moved to Over-the-Rhine for a full semester, living together, taking courses, engaging in reflection, and serving deep community need with neighborhood organizations, residents, and organizers… a primary goal is for students and community members, through the relationships and trust they build, to come to see the humanity beneath the narratives that circulate about Over-the-Rhine. Too often these narratives dehumanize; we come together to develop empathy.”

Today we spotlight a reflection from Danielle Linowes from the Teacher Education Department:

“Dear Students,
Or should I call you friends? Calling you students does not feel right. It creates an unequal power relationship that I hope I did not possess in my time with you. Although my official title is ‘student teacher,’ I believe you have taught me much more than I have taught you. You have opened up to me and told me your stories of struggle, of frustration, of silly moments, and of sadness. You have taught me that listening is the most effective way to show empathy and build relationships—something that is completely disregarded in the way the school system is designed. Someone told me that I should “stop asking you about your lives, that you are my students and my only role is to feed you information.” Despite being told that, I will not stop asking you about your weekends and your afternoons outside of school. I will not stop listening to your hopes and obstacles. I will continue, as I have, to listen and ask questions.

There are many stories you have told me that stick out in my mind. One story comes from a smiley and sweet girl. As we were transitioning from one activity to the next, you stood up and proudly proclaimed, “Ms. Linowes, I am so excited for today. We’re getting a table at home and we will actually have four chairs!” I was confused and a little surprised at that comment. I have been so blinded by my own upper-class privilege that I never thought about how expensive furniture is. I never thought about how many of you all probably do not have it. It shook me into the reality of your lives. It’s not that I feel sorry for you—you may go through struggles but overall you are still happy children— but it put my life into perspective. It taught me to be grateful. If you can be so grateful for a table and chairs, I need to look around and realize how much I have. But it also makes me angry—angry that I have never had to think twice about furniture. It makes me want to fight even more for justice, so that shelter does not just mean a literal roof, but also a table. Some of you do not even have any sort of consistent shelter. Yet you continue to come to school everyday. You are told to come “ready to learn” but sometimes I wonder how you are ready to learn if you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep or didn’t eat dinner last night. You have given me the understanding that I must be even more aware of my privilege, that I cannot base assumptions about others off of my privilege. Not all of your stories are upsetting. You have eagerly told me stories of seeing other students at the Kroger down the street and going out to eat at Frisch’s. I hope that I will get to hear these kinds of stories more often.

While your grades may not reflect it, you are all very wise. You notice difference but you do not possess the prejudices that adults hold. I have a fond memory of playing with you at recess. Some of the girls came over to me and started playing with my hair. I let you glide your fingers through my straightened, smooth hair and demonstrate how to make braids like the ones in your naturally voluminous hair. One girl in particular noted that I was “too white to get box braids.” I laughed, realizing that an eight year old understood cultural appropriation better than most adults I know. You accept me for who I am as a white woman, but you also realize that I am different, and while I can stand with you, I cannot take on your culture as my own.

Many times a day, you get angry. You do not yet know how to control your anger or utilize it in a nonviolent way and you may never learn how to. I do not want you to become a statistic. To become one of the 204 unarmed individuals who were killed by police this year. Or one of the nearly 1 million incarcerated Black individuals. Or one of the 35% of Black children to be suspended or expelled. I don’t know how to tell you that no matter how hard you try, the color of your skin and your socio-economic status will make it very difficult for you to succeed (with success being narrowly defined as achieving the American Dream according to our society). While you are told that if you just keep trying, you will get a job and make money, I know that multiple institutional as well as personal factors will provide a multitude of barriers. However, I don’t define success in the way that mainstream society does. I define success as achieving your own personal goals, separate from the external goals that many find important. I know that each and every one of you possess a good and gentle kindness that will allow you to do what makes you happy.

Much love, Ms. Linowes”

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