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Here is the letter I sent to my students and parents after a generally, low-priority, ho-hum effort helping out the Sonoma County, California fire-victims. I wanted to express my ambivalent reaction to what we did.
I want to share my thoughts about last week's crammed fund and supply-raising project.
On Friday, we fit all the collected donations - water, blankets, pet food, toiletries, etc - into my Toyota Echo and Shannon Chau's small car - I can't remember what kind she has, only that it's small, black and pink. (By the way, a MAJOR Shannon shoutout for driving to Pleasanton through the horrific Fremont/Mission Blvd. traffic. It took her 30 minutes just to get on 680 from school!
I was stressed about how we would get all the supplies from MSJ to Pleasanton where the U-haul was waiting to head up north. That we did it successfully was good. That we could fit it all into two small cars was not. I really thought we'd need a truck (which was on standby but never used). I overestimated what we'd get. On the other hand, many students and their families did donate much needed and valuable stuff. Thank you so much. I noticed who it was, and won't forget it. And, trust me, everything donated was needed.
Ms. Jaclyn Bianchi, the Chadbourne Elementary teacher who organized the project, left with her dad, family members and friends to the Napa area where everything was sorted and then sent to different shelters, based on what was most needed at each. She coordinated everything with her contacts in the North Bay area. Major props to her.
Now, my thoughts on my students response. Overall, it was a success. You made a difference. In addition to the supplies you collected, we had over $2,200 in cash donations. Nice work! More dollars than students at school. Every cent will be put to good use.
However, I believe that for many, many students, this project was given a low priority, below studying for tests, turning in homework or even having a good time doing other things. For two days, it should have been number one on the list of priorities, but it wasn't.
I know why. Colleges - getting into a "good" one - is your primary goal right now - value grades and test scores over service. I get that. But until we start to demand that they don't, I understand why figuring out a complex calculus problem is perceived as being more important than getting out into the community, talking to people (with all the discomfort and lessons that teaches) and helping people who desperately need help.
But even if I understand it, even if I know that change is super slow and incremental, I still don't like it. It makes me angry and sad.
So that's what I'm feeling right now about it all. Ambivalence. Lots of ambivalence.