Look at these pictures. These pictures show the familiar landscapes that I see out my window during the commute to and from school each day. This is the Delta I came to Mississippi expecting to find.
This, however, is not the Delta that my students know. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to find out that only 5 of my 19 students have ever been on a farm. My students are surrounded by farm land, drive past it everyday, yet they have never set foot on a farm. To me this shows the unbelievable limits poverty can place on opportunities. The reality is that the experience my students, most of which come from low income backgrounds, is more similar to that of what you would expect inner city students to face. While there are some major differences, the strength of religion and respect and the being a major difference, I am realizing that my Delta students are faced with so many of the same challenges that inner-city students face. There have been several small things to build towards this realization, but a conversation with my roommate who teaches secondary literature really pushed me to start thinking about the similarities. She had a conversation today about pressure with her students today and it shed light on drug, gang, and familial issues that forced me think about the similarities and differences more seriously.
I really wish I had spent some time at the beginning of this experience seeing the towns that my students call home. I feel like it would have helped ground me and also help me pull from experiences prior to TFA to better serve my students.
In the end it really comes down to the achievement gap. We came here to help close the gap. We came here because the gap is every bit, if not more, real for my QES students as it will be for my students in Nashville and in urban populations nation-wide. We came here to give students opportunities and while 5 weeks cannot change everything, it can change something.