Uphill battle

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It may be the understatement of the year to say that lately as a Latino in Arizona, I feel under attack. Maybe I should just shut off the news or stay off Facebook (and especially steer clear of the comments section on azcentral.com), but the more vitriolic the dialogue gets, the more I’m drawn in.

The latest controversy got me all worked up until I took a step back and put things into perspective.

By now we’re all familiar with the unfortunate letter written by Tony Hill after serving as a substitute teacher for a class of eighth grade students at a school in Glendale.

What is really unfortunate about the claims made by Mr. Hill – he allegedly claimed that Latino students don’t want to be educated and would rather be gangsters – is that they were taken at face value by our supposed leaders in our state legislature, without any kind of vetting process at all.

It’s no surprise that subs are given the business by unruly students. It has always happened and it always will. But what is really at issue here is the disconnect between a person like Mr. Hill and the changing complexion of the students he is charged to inspire to learn.

When large corporations realize they have a sizable customer base that speaks a certain language, they set out to hire employees who can connect with these valued customers. They don’t give a ratón’s behind how they’re perceived. They know it’s good business.

Sure, schools don’t have the same resources as corporations, but they can at least make an effort. Likewise, it’s incumbent upon us as parents and supporters of quality education to make sure the pipeline is filled with teachers who can connect with these students now and in the future.

It just so happens that my mom is a substitute teacher in the very same district as Mr. Hill, and wasn’t too pleased about his misguided allegations. If you ever meet my mom, you instantly see a stern, yet loving abuela. I’m sure that’s how students feel when they meet her, too. It helps her to manage a classroom of roughies and toughies probably better than Mr. Hill.

She tells me that she treats kids con respeto y con cariño. “I don’t tell them they’re dumb or useless. I tell them they are smart and beautiful,” she says. When she looks at their faces, she certainly doesn’t see the same thing as Mr. Hill so blindly sees.

I’m not trying to paint my mother as a saint, but her approach works, because it considers the future of the children she encounters, and it works for her because she’s trying to get through the day herself. She loves kids and it shows. More importantly, she understands respect is a two-way street, even when it comes to children.

She subs almost every day and she makes sure that the kids in her classes recite the pledge of allegiance with pride and dignity.

My mom does this because she knows what a wonderful country this is despite the fact that it also includes the likes of certain state leaders who seem to lack critical reading skills – and apparently believe everything they read.

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