Community Teaching Styles

I had an interesting conversation with the teacher I work with at VCCC. We were discussing the taxi war in Vrygrond and how it has been affecting her. She does not live in Vrygrond and often commutes to work via taxi. This week she decided to stay with family in Vrygrond, or even ask a neighbor who she didn’t know well for a ride. These were better choices for her at the time. She went on to tell me that this is common, and the war flares up about once a year. I never would have imagined cab drivers going to such lengths in order to gain territory. But it does make sense because this a profitable business, and a lot of men in this small area need to make money. This conflict reminds me of the tension between Cab drivers and Uber drivers back home. For a while many taxi companies were taking legal action against Uber because of how the business was being affected.

In our chat, she went on to tell me about how it can be dangerous for her to wait for cabs in the morning. It’s still dark, and their is a risk of being robbed by gangsters. I asked if the gangsters ever make her feel unsafe. She said no, because she has lived here most of her life and at the end of the day they are humans. Her perspective reminds me a lot of how I feel about working in the Tenderloin, and in the past working in Hunter’s Point. Often people would ask me how I felt working in the Tenderloin. I guess growing up in San Francisco, it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. The Tenderloin is definitely impoverished and can be considered crime ridden. But similar to Vrygrond there is a sense of community in the Tenderloin that I felt a part of. I think a lot of people knew that I was a preschool teacher, android respected that. Or maybe they just respected me as a young woman in this area who minded her business. They definitely tried to respect the kids as much as possible. Whenever we were in the community people in the street would yell, “Kids coming through!” And people would stop what they were doing to let us by. Although we all led completely different lives we respected each other as neighbors sharing the space.

In some ways I feel like my teaching style is similar to a few of the teachers in Vrygrond. I feel that we are very loving and motherly, and even have informal relationships with our students. At home, I always felt like my students were like family, and interacted with them in ways that I would with my little cousins. Sometimes I would even joke to them the same way I would with my friends. I have also built strong relationships with a lot of my students’ families, and have learned a little about their home lives. Because I have such secure relationships with the children at home, I think that is also part of the reason I am also so strict with them. Some folks in our group were saying that they weren’t able to use the teacher voice to get children to listen here. They had to use a firmer tone to get their point across. I couldn’t help but to think that my teacher voice is normally the firm tone when at home. I felt bad because I know that can come across as mean. But I think that some teachers are strict with their students because it is a part of our culture, it’s the type of love we received from our own family. I think that my students in the Tenderloin and the children in Vrygrond are alike in some ways and have shared similar experiences. When speaking with one of the teachers, she explained to me that many of the children in the crèche have witnessed domestic abuse, drug abuse and violence within the community. My students in the Tenderloin share all of these traumas, but maybe on a different scale. Because this is the reality for the children in these communities, teachers may use a different approach when working with them in order to gain their respect and they are accustomed to this style of communication.

Natalia

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