Equity Tech’quity

I took a day off earlier this year because my back was beyond mangled. I woke up one day and it felt like some surgeon had fused an old, rusted iron rod between my lower lumbar vertebrae. I was also coming off of a cold and the weather projections were nowhere near promising. But truthfully, those reasons were merely symptoms of why I really decided to take a day. Truthfully, I hit that code 10 and took a personal illness day because I was fed up and hey, my mental health matters, too. Frustrated, because the kids in my classroom were in the middle of completing their short stories and the laptops they had been writing short stories on were booked – for the entire week. 


There are roughly 300 students in my school. We have approximately 80 laptops – or Chromebooks to be more specific. And according to SES measurables (standards that measure income and…let me stop there), we are one of the top, or bottom, schools. Because of that, we are a priority within our board, a quote-unquote “Model School”. The school board I work in created measurables that rank schools based on their needs. Or to be more contextually accurate, rankings that indicate which students in what communities are most underserved. I do side with the recent change in terminology – these students are not needy but rather underserved. The students – scrap that, the children in these communities have been underserved. Done so by a litany of victimizers. 


But, where I come from, we have words for people who say they are “‘bout” one thing but then move otherwise – fakes, frauds, scams, snakes, or simply, people who aren’t “‘bout that life.” 


I took that day off because I was fed up, because I realized the game I am playing is run by a bunch of those…


If I teach in a school where the majority of the student body doesn’t have little more but a dime to their family name and a nice pair of sneakers on their feet, then why am I the teacher working in that school who is struggling to “book” laptops? I look to the district to the east of me and notice that every 7th grader on up has their own personal laptop. Is it wrong for me to ask “soooo, why not us, too?” 


Every now and then, I go outside in the morning and chat with a friend who also teaches with me. We talk about the shame we have for not being able to provide for these underserved students. And then we go to meetings amongst educated adults and they glibly slap around the same buzz words to us: “not underachievers, they are underserved – we need to change our language around how we speak about our youth in impoverished communities.” And then another one gets a battery in her back and mentions, “We are teaching students born in the 21st century. We need to meet them on their plane.” Round of applause. We all go home inspired. 


And I try to book a class set of laptops so my kids can continue typing their short stories but they’ve already been booked for the week. We have a lot of teachers and a lot more kids, and a limited number of technology. So, I’d rather take the day off then disappoint them. 


Because, they right – equity and technology are keys to our future. And sure, my kids will be able to pick up where we left off maybe next week. That’s if I’m fast enough on my school-shared Google calendar to book them. Equity Tequity. These school boards ain’t “‘bout it ‘bout it”. 


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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