Gratitude Journal #5 - Power of Poverty

posted on: December 24, 2010

I forget how easy it is to disconnect from the larger things in life when we're so busy worrying about all of our own little problems. The experiences I've had teaching in the Boston Public Schools of Dorchester bring me back to that larger reality. It's a reality that private school families and children may never understand because they have paid to shelter themselves from it. A reality that even suburban public schools may never understand because they can't fathom a place where people don't go the extra mile to support their children in obtaining the best education possible. Frankly, I didn't understand it either, until I stood face to face with the problem three days every week.

When I accepted the opportunity to be a Teaching Artist Assistant for the Citi Performing Arts Center Education Department, I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that I was drawn to the idea of teaching a creative performing arts curriculum in the public schools again (before photography, I taught elementary music.) Frankly, I had reached a point over the summer where photography was only half-fulfilling and I needed more soul fuel (more about that in my year end recap). I LOVE teaching- mostly because it's an opportunity for me to learn from others and the ways in which they experience the world differently. If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you may have seen my excitement about working with the students each day before I'd go in. They challenge me in so many ways, but perhaps the most powerful is the challenge to be a better person.

What is a better person? We often think of it in terms of our own development for tolerance, kindness, and success. However, what good does any of that do if we aren't using it to help others? It's like making a really great discovery and never sharing it with the world. Working in Dorchester has taught me the power poverty has over people and its ability to crush the spirits of otherwise amazing people. At least the students I get to work with are going to school because they have the support of their families who value school enough to help them get to school even on days when it's tough and uncomfortable to be there. You remember those days in high school, right? Now amplify that uncomfortable feeling by 100, and you might get a sense of what it's like for a student who hasn't been given a successful model of emotional stability to deal with everyday problems.

For every student I work with in the schools, there are at least an equal number of people the same age who aren't in the schools getting the experiences they need to be successful in our society. Even though, as a community, we provide these opportunities for to everyone through the taxes we pay, there are still people who don't understand our language or don't value our system of education before work, who prevent their children from going to school. These children don't learn to socialize within our diverse society, they feel shut out of opportunities because they haven't learned to communicate well with other people from diverse backgrounds, and they are intimidated by what seems to be an attempt to control their lives rather than provide opportunities, support, and empowerment. America was founded by immigrants, and only if we work together to help each other out, can we all move forward toward a healthier and more peaceful society. When I found the video below, it really tapped into the things I've seen happen in impoverished neighborhoods. I hope you'll watch it, and I hope it will inspire you as much as it has touched me and the reality of what I've experienced right here in our own back yard.

This Christmas, I am grateful that I have been able to experience these stories in person and to know that they are very real and still happening right in our own communities. It has inspired me to continue on a path of sharing everything I can with others. While we cannot solve the world's problems alone, we can make small differences that, when combined, add up to a big impact. Please visit and join me in helping to change lives.

{If you appreciated this post, please join me in my journey to have a greater positive impact on the world by writing your own gratitude journal and sharing it or a link to it in the comments below. I would love to read your moments of gratitude and share them with others!}

5 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. It s very nice...thanks for sharing

  2. Wow! Anne, this is literally my dream! I studied photojournalism, through the back door, through out college, because I started in a high school darkroom based class. After I graduated with a BA in "Communication Studies" and took a summer job as a teacher, was bitten by the bug and went back for my license. I spent 8 years, off and on, teaching in low funded NC public schools and hoped that one day, I would be able to incorporate my photography into visual anthropology, or documentary story telling. It is such a powerful thing for a kid who feels like he/ she has no voice to discover that the smallest voices can sometimes create the loudest message. I am no longer teaching because I want to refocus on photography once again, but this has given me hope that there is a path out there that leads to a place where both passions will converge. THANK YOU.

  3. Chezley- I felt the same way when I was teaching. I also had to recognize that my energy is drained by a regular 9-5 (or 7-3) work environment. If I hadn't hit a point in my teaching where I was drained every night- I wouldn't have pursued photography full time. If I hadn't hit a point in my photography business where I was bored and unsatisfied - I wouldn't have found a teaching situation that is so flexible, fun, and energizing that I could do it along with my photography business! I can't say that everyone will enjoy working in these same circumstances- it can be very stressful for people who prefer to know everything in advance. But for someone like me, who loves variety and doing something different and being challenged every day, I can say that it has fueled my energy in such a way that I now have more energy than ever!

  4. what a brilliant presentation (! so true too, across all backgrounds/nationalities, etc. do you work for this program? i found it really inspiring. :) now what can i do to help?

  5. I don't work for the organization - but I share their thoughts and message with others. ;-) I donate in various ways - there's a link under the video, or just visit to find out how you can help.


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