What do you have to say about white, middle class people working in schools with students that are in poverty and ethnically diverse?
I am drawn to these students because I long to see racial reconciliation, but I am having to confront my own prejudices towards poverty. Can I still be effective?
I am afraid about not being accepted by the community. How do I approach this issue? (I'll be signing a contract somewhere in the next couple of weeks!)
Jennifer, I would say that it all depends on you! Some thoughts:
1) We all have our prejudices. The important thing is to recognize what they are, deal with them, and decide how we are going to respond. If you are unable to believe that anything good can come out of a context of poverty, you'll not be able to inspire your students.
2) Being accepted by a community depends on your ability to convince the people that you care for them, that you don't consider yourself better than they are, and that in addition to teaching their children you are willing to learn from them.
3) I would encourage you to read a book or two on someone who did what you may be called to do. Rent the video "Freedom Writers," the story of a white woman from a middle/upper class background who took on the challenge to teach in the inner city with a very ethnically diverse class. Note her vision; her constancy; what it cost her; secrets of her success; etc. It's a true story.
4) You will suffer. There is no getting around it. But if the Lord is calling you to do it, He'll give you the grace and the wisdom to cross into this cultural context.
5) The key is being willing to take the time to get to know people, understand where they are coming from, and give yourself to them. Don't just take it because you need a "job." Don't go there from pity. Go because the Lord has called you.
6) Don't expect miracles the first week! You'll do a lot of hard-slogging. But in the end you will see that it was worth the cost and you will feel that you have accomplished something truly significant.