On a sunny Saturday afternoon a student of mine took the time to ask me if I would like to attend the spring opera production that Bergen Community College was currently putting on. As I was already going to go see the production later that night because my student was a part of the tech crew, I figured why not go to the matinee and spend some time with another one of my students. I always feel honored to know that my students don’t mind being seen with me but actually cherish our time together. Those moments may be fleeting. I take each opportunity I get and soak in all the rewards from them.
So there I am spending some quality time with one of my best students while watching the opera. Fast forward to intermission. My student and I begin to talk about how we both always carry granola bars in our purses because it’s our “in case of emergency” food, as well as the fact that we both just love granola bars. I take that moment to tell my student about the “Be Kind” granola bars that I love so much that are supposed to be as natural as you can get. It is at this exact point that my student says, “Oh yes I love those but we switched to another brand because those are too expensive.”
Silence. My brain went silent in that moment. I was horrified for bringing up this item which had her admitting the monetary value but she, she was as cool as a cucumber. She just continued on with her story. I, however, replayed that sentence in my head for the entirety of that day. Yes, I know we all bargain shop at times or switch brands to save money, but for some reason this statement just hit me harder than usual. Knowing what I know about this student, this statement deeply resonated with me. Too many times in the recent weeks I have seen the amount of privilege I have not only when it comes to money but also when it comes to family.
Rewind to 2 weeks prior to this when one of my students asked me if I would take the time to fill out his FAFSA with him as he had never done it before and his mother had never filed one either. He was the first one attending college and needed someone’s help. I said of course and took a mere half hour out of my day to help him with this document. That one action has strengthened our relationship. It amazed me how easily he filled out information about his family history on my work computer. I flashed back to when I filed my FAFSA last year for my loan for my doctorate education and how I sat with my mother, at 26, to fill out this document. No, I am not ashamed to admit that.
Both these recent interactions have made me realize 1 thing yet again. I am privileged. My students remind me of this each and every day and it is for this exact reason that I do everything I can to help them.
What moments with your students have made you recognize your privilege?