Poverty, Homelessness, Fear and Insecurity: They Creep Up On You

This is personal.

All my life I have been well-fed, housed, and confident. I always had a job, health insurance, and a decent place to live. I was a typical middle middle-class guy. I could afford to visit my mom a state away, pay for my son's bar mitzvah and his extra-curricular activities.

I was a teacher for 13 years, which was sort of a second career--I had always worked with kids as director of programs for non-profits, camps, and schools. Kids are my life, especially my own kid who happens to be awesome and doing well in 10th grade.

I was a teacher when NCLB kicked in. I watched as things that once were of no value become the focus--test scores, what was on the bulletin board in my classroom, test scores, and test scores.

Teaching had become, over the course of my 13 years, not something I did FOR kids, but rather something I did TO kids. Spontaneity was out the door as lesson plans were required and sticking to them became the measure of good teaching. Any soldier will tell you about plans and how they are often not followed as the situation changes constantly, leaving your plans useless. This is what teaching young students is like--they are not static. Their interests shift. What moves them shifts, often mid-lesson. A good teacher is able to meet these changing needs on the fly, and that means abandoning whatever isn't working, not trying to force it.

Teaching was becoming less about kids and more about "accountability" to management. Well, I have talked about all this before, so I won't bore you with what you can probably figure out from a quick look at this blog, or listening to the many radio shows I have done on BTR.

A few short years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. It's a rare form, called GIST and it attacks the gastrointestinal tract. A patient like me has two options: 1) Get the tumor removed and hope it never comes back, or 2) die of it. I was lucky and got number one.

The surgery was a big deal, as they had to open me up and cut out half of my stomach; the tumor was attached to my stomach and cutting off the half to which it was attached was simply insurance against any spread. We are pretty confident they got it all.

The recovery was long, and I have never really been the same; my appetite changed, as did other 'things' involving my digestive tract. It prevented me from returning to the classroom.

I began working with kids with IEPs and 504 plans as a content specialist/tutor while waiting for my gut to heal, which it never really has, though I could probably get back in the classroom now, some 5 years later.

Then dad died of cancer. Then my big brother killed himself. Mom has never been the same.

I started this blog way back in 2006 as a way to vent about what was happening to teaching that I mentioned above. I gained a small following. I argued with people. I still do.

I realized that I could not end poverty on my own, and it seemed (seems) that few are ready to help now. But poverty is the reason so many kids struggle in school. I realized what I could do to help ameliorate the stifling effects of poverty on young kids--I could open a preschool.

After I lost my home to foreclosure (because I couldn't afford it due to losing the teaching gig) I moved into a fantastic place that I decided could become the greatest preschool in town.

I got a fiscal sponsor and started asking for donations to help make it happen. One foundation did indeed help me out. I formed a non-profit corporation and am constantly asking for donations, which rarely come. We have been turned down for every grant we have applied for. I have lots to say about all that, but not here, not now.

I got licensed to open the school, bought all the stuff a preschool needs, and started advertising for kids, and got one who would have started next month. Then I got slammed.

The lease, up in a week, was not renewed, and for no reason. I must move.

I found a great place and rented it. I am still going to make it happen. But, we spent everything on the deposit and must get the license transferred and can accept no kids until the transfer is done.

This all means I have no more money and no income until we enroll some students.

When the 'job creators' as they erroneously call themselves take about certainty, they are talking not about certainty of housing and food, but certainty of profit.

I now understand the true meaning of certainty and instability; impoverished families live with insecurity of food and housing, and the fear the lack produces.

And that is why I am asking for your help. I am asking you to help me get through the next couple months so that I can open the school and help at-risk families. I can't do it without you.

This is about money. It's the country we live in. There is no sugar-coating it.

You can help with donations, and there are two ways to do it.

1) You can donate over there on the sidebar at the Paypal link. That money goes to me, TFT and will help me eat and pay for the son's health insurance. It is NOT deductible.

2) You can go to the school's website and donate at the Paypal link there. Those donations ARE deductible and go towards the costs the school must pay, like rent, supplies, advertising and subsidizing tuition for families who need the help.

I have found that very, very few people donate money, especially to a cause that isn't already established. I get that.

I am a simple man with a son and an elderly mother who will need me very soon. I am the greatest teacher you ever saw. I ran into some bad luck and need your help. Your help will allow me to create a school that will serve the under-served. It will give me a job, one I was built to do.

I will make you proud.

Please, instead of Lattes this month, send that money to the school, or to me. It will be paid back when the kids I serve get what they need at the school I am creating where they will get the background knowledge, love and care I have spent my life providing to kids for the last 30 years.

It does indeed take a village.

Please, give what you can.

I am happy to talk with anyone who wants to hear more. I will even call you. Send me an email and ask me anything.

--Rich (TFT)

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