This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Women’s March 2018 in the city of Riverside, California. I was approached by a local newspaper who asked why I was there. Many reasons were popping in my head, but the main two that stood out were quality education for our youth and healthcare for all. It also crossed my mind that I was there speaking up on behalf of the 800,000 DREAMers who have an unknown future in this country. Our so called “Land of the Free”, the land of the “American Dream”, has an unstable administration that has put so many lives in a ping pong game using the most vulnerable as hostages to pass their selfish, avaricious agenda. One would think that the priority of the Women’s March is to speak up about women’s rights, reproductive rights, equity in the workplace, and simply equity in society; but this march goes beyond that because anything that affects people in society is a women’s issue.
As an educator, I see first-hand how our education system works. I work for a school district that has achieved great progress in providing high quality education for all students, but there is yet much work to be done. Schools in the Inland Empire have a high enrollment of low income families and people of color. We have failed to give students an education with substance that they can relate to. I have found that when students relate the material presented in class to their culture or background, they are more likely to engage and retain information because they now have something to link to. Teachers are not trained to have empathy or knowledge for student’s diversity. Many times we want to force a culture into the classroom not realizing that we have kids who learn differently and come in the classroom with struggles. As educators, we don’t take the time to identify these struggles and differences with individual students so we can meet them where they are, and this makes for a difficult learning environment.
When I talk about high quality education, I mean that educators should really focus on providing different ways of presenting material. Many students learn by visual, auditory, kinesthetic approaches, and it would also be helpful if more students had role models who come from similar backgrounds and circumstances. We must teach our students the real history of our country and show them how we got here in the first place without teaching a whitewashed version that excludes the rich histories of people of color in the United States. One example would be to teach the real “Thanksgiving” story instead of promoting false narratives from a colonial point of view.
We also need to teach our students civic engagement. Students need to learn how to amplify their voices and need an understanding of the democratic process. Let them speak up if they don’t agree with a subject and show them how they can state their argument in an open-minded environment. Educators must have a heart and passion to teach and make sure none of their students falls behind. Teachers should also make sure that students’ ideas are not suppressed and that their students are given opportunities to express themselves.
As for the importance of healthcare, this issue is absolutely congruent with education. When we have healthy families, we have students who are ready to learn. Healthcare has come under attack from the Trump administration. Obamacare has given the opportunity to millions of people to gain access to health insurance, yet we still have much more to achieve, we need healthcare for ALL!
I marched for the Healthy California Act, Senate Bill 562, which would give all Californian’s the opportunity to have access to healthcare, and unfortunately that bill was held in the Assembly by Speaker of the House Anthony Rendon, making it a two-year bill. Sometimes I wonder if politicians realize the impact and responsibility of their decisions. In our current political climate, corporations have for too long bought off politicians, and enough is enough!
People die every day in our cruel, profit-driven healthcare system, and this impacts students as well, whether they are sick or healthy. It’s not uncommon for students to miss class or to have anxiety because they are tending to the healthcare needs of another family member.
We, as women, as educators, as constituents, as human beings, have a responsibility to care for one another and speak up. Then it all comes down to LOVE, the love for your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Senator Nina Turner said it best at the Las Vegas Women’s March, “…this moment is being called and led by wonder women, to lead and to leverage, and to LOVE, because love is the fiercest of them all!”
I have chosen to lead with love, with an open mind, with the strength that has been given to me to protect our youth, our parents, our seniors, our marginalized community, so we are all able to thrive and achieve our hopes and dreams. As the theme for the Women’s March said, “Power to the Polls,” we must vote to make our voices heard, but not only for us but for the many who are unable to vote. Voting is one way that we can take a step toward achieving high quality education, healthcare for all, and justice for our DREAMers and the other undocumented people. Would you join me?
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