Perspective

As I started teaching in January I came across a bigger theme repeatedly. My goal was always to give my students the big idea or theme, the one word or phrase that they could turn over in their head and then I would hit on that word again. and again. and again. As I started my unit on the Revolutionary War the word “perspective” was that theme. We all know as Americans what the war meant but how did the British feel? What were the Native Americans thoughts? Where did slaves motivations lie? It was all a matter of perspective. I realized i had stumbled upon something interesting and important, an anchor for my teaching. I touched on that word repeatedly over the next six months.

I read an article yesterday that got me thinking about perspective again. I almost did not read it but at the last moment of my 15-second, twitter-influenced attention span, I clicked it. You can read it here. The story highlights the struggles of Janette Navarro to make a better life for herself and her son while working at Starbucks. My wife was a Starbucks barista in college and loves the place so I kept reading.

Ms. Navarro is 22 years old. She has a 4-year old son whose father disappeared sans child-support. A boyfriend who is a refuge and strength for her and her son does not last the article. Her mother passed away from an overdose. Her father was not around growing up. She has an aunt and a $9/hour job at Starbucks. She is trying to take classes but her erratic schedule and 3-hour(!!!) commute makes this increasingly impossible. Ms. Navarro’s life is so different from mine it borders on absurdity. And yet as I read I felt ever more involved and connected to her story.

Over the past 8 months I have worked a temporary job without benefits while seeking a full-time job for this fall. I woke up at 5:15am on weekdays and drove over 65 miles to get to my incredibly challenging students. Since that ended in late June I have had 7 interviews. None led to a second round until yesterday (for a part-time position). During this time I have been tempted to get frustrated and feel sorry about how challenging my life has been. And than I read about Ms. Navarro and I realize I am a idiot.

Perspective is everything in history as in life. Every advantage that I have enjoyed in my life: school, family, income, stable relationships, has seemingly been denied to Ms. Navarro. And yet I feel sorry for myself? I am not trying to romanticize Ms. Navarro’s struggles or throw her a pity party. She is evidently an incredibly resilient young women who is holding on to the hope of giving her son a better life by working incredibly hard. I was incredibly pleased to see Starbucks respond almost immediately to the article here.

Perspective gives us humility. Regardless of where I end up job-wise in the next week or so I will be fine. I have faced challenges and will continue to do so. But for today I am thankful for Ms. Navarro’s story and the perspective it has given me as I move ahead. 

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