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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Role models

Note to self, I have been terrible about writing on any kind of regular basis. I started a post, and yet I never got around to writing it and was only reminded of it now when I came to write something entirely different. All I had for that is a title, and I suppose I'll get around to it, as it's related to this, but not now. Later.

Today, I want to go on a soap box and talk about education. Education, of all things. I'm well aware this is enough to signal a lot of people they can stop reading, or that they should brace themselves for boring, or failed attempts at being inspirational on my part. Those things may all very well be so, and I cannot change or even challenge those perceptions. I'm writing this because I care, because it matters to me and because I believe deep in my heart that these things matter. On their own, they have value beyond any I can give it. These issues matter because they affect so many people in so many ways and they don't get voiced or talked about enough. If you're reading on, for any purpose other than telling me off in a comments or in your own head, I thank you.

One of my students is someone I'm proud of even though all our interactions are limited to an hour long weekly meeting. I was introduced to her being told that she was a top client, very picky about her tutoring and that I should put my best foot forward to work with her. She's a great kid. She's well-educated, hard-working, passionate and doesn't take herself too seriously. In most situations, it's this last description that would keep her under the radar, and could render her vulnerable when such a weakness is a strength: admitting your limitations is a disclaimer to anyone who expects too much from you, after all. Here's a thought: she doesn't take herself seriously enough. 

She's challenging a 20+ year old injustice, overlooked by the status quo for being perhaps considered insignificant, and she's taken the challenge head on without looking back. While she could be mistaken for the fools who go on a crusade for the sake of doing what is right under no direction other than some kind of "divine order," she's prepared to argue and counterargue her points. She doesn't just believe her stance to be the right one, she knows it to be so and is determined to demonstrate it to anyone who is in disagreement. She neglected to eat or drink for most of a day, letting adrenaline nourish her instead as she worked for her cause. She knew she was putting herself in the way of verbal assault and apathy and she worked through it. She respects those who politely said no and refused to entertain the idea that their position might be outdated and unethical. She forgives and dismisses the harsh treatment received. She acknowledges the scope of her efforts and is still proud of her accomplishments. She may perhaps naïvely ignore the retaliations that are bound to follow, yet she's ready for them without knowing it. Before graduating high school, she's done more than I have so far. 

She marches to the beat of her own heart, and whether she does it out of fierceness, naïveté, or a combination of the two I care not: she's someone I look up to.

It's indeed an interesting dynamic: as her tutor, I'm expected to be a role model and yet rather than take on that role I reverse it. She may look up to me as a grown woman who is acutely aware and passionate about the same issues as she is, who seems to be where she'd like to be: grown up, having finished college and being good at using my brain, living independently while not forgetting about some of life's simple pleasures. She doesn't see me as being unaccomplished, stuck with a tutoring job out of my inability to find something better. She doesn't see me as being a part of a much lower socioeconomic class than she was raised in (alas, she may sometimes forget her privilege in this aspect). She thinks I'm cool because I'm into make up and doing my nails and hair, chose to study maths, cook, enjoy multiculturality and am a feminist. She doesn't know I envy the fact that she knows about gender-neutral pronouns and gender non-conformity even though she wasn't considered enough of an adult by her parents to warrant having her own mobile phone until about two weeks ago. She is in so many ways only a kid, yet she's more determined, driven and mature than a great deal of the adults I deal with in everyday life.

She's destined for great things and here I am, only hoping that I don't fail her as a maths tutor.