One aspect that struck me on Wednesday as we were leaving for Thanksgiving break was that nobody wished me a "Happy Black Friday". At my former school this is what all the focus and excitement was about. Now? Nobody even mentioned it. Don't get me wrong, it saddened me every time a student genuinely wished me a happy Black Friday, but I suppose after awhile I just came to expect it.
Maybe it is the difference between the amount of recent immigrants at each school. More children at my current school come from families who celebrate Thanksgiving itself as a traditional family holiday-not an adopted holiday from their new country. Or maybe it is the difference in socio-economic status- families who rely on Black Friday for their Christmas presents or just general household upgrades compared to families who see Black Friday as an adventure in bargain hunting but without the necessary need for the deals. I don't know, but it is a striking difference.
Another difference I've noticed is in how kids talk about their weekend plans. In both schools I've worked in kindergarten classrooms that sing the same fun song on Friday mornings before the weekend:
"Hey there friends, the weekend is near, whatcha gonna do when it does get here?"
At my former school the answers were all the same- play at the park at their apartment buildings, watch cartoons, or do nothing. Even getting them to come up with "watch tv" could be a stretch. Mostly they said, "nothing." Their parents worked weekends, they didn't have cars or bus fare so weekends looked a lot like every other day. Year after year it was the same weekend answers as we tried to make their tv watching Saturdays sound exciting.
Now I listen to kids excitedly discuss trips to the mall, the American Girl store, the library, or different small adventures. They aren't remarkable weekends, but I rarely hear anyone just say they are going to watch tv. Families are home with cars to get places.
Other small differences stick out as well- the amount of kids with winter coats surprises me daily, the large amount of kids who bring lunch because their families have the time to pack it (or simply are not eligible for free and reduced lunch), the existence of the PTO, the large amount of parent volunteers, and the Vera Wang bags kids transport their birthday treats in to share with their class. (You know, I often use old Macy's bags...)
Both schools are Title One but the small differences like this remind me of the differences in poverty. There is being in the lower class, there is being poor, and there is a deep cultural difference of living in deep poverty. We can't talk about poverty like it is one universal term and that one solution for "poor families" will help all families. We can not assume all Title One schools are created equal or that all schools in the same general area serve similar students.