He had hardly spoken the words, and I knew in that moment what he had just shared contained more truth than I had heard the entire week. I entered this man's vehicle as a presenter heading home from a tech conference. I quickly assumed the role of learner as he unpacked his story of unfulfilled dreams.
He was Ricky, a 62 year old taxi driver from North Carolina. I was still just a passenger who really wanted to get home. As my new teacher shared about the different barriers he had encountered while trying to become a professional musician, I found myself wondering what was stopping him.
He was obviously very passionate about writing music; he even had me watch a music video he had previously uploaded to YouTube. Eventually, I found myself pulling for him. I inquired, "Why don't you just do this?" or "Have you tried doing this?" That's when Ricky said it. He shared something I had been missing all along. Something we could all learn from.
He said, "You don't know what's it's like being poor until you're poor."
Strangely, in that moment I understood what he meant. I had recently had a similar conversation with Ruby Payne on the educational podcast I co-host, #UnearthED. I remembered what Ruby had shared about stability and survival. My chat with Ruby was one of the most compelling conversations I've been a part of in a long time...until now.
After listening to the man driving me to the airport and conversing with Ruby Payne on the same topic it was becoming clearer. I need to listen and learn from people who better understand poverty if I'm going to be the school leader that our students from poverty need. I hope you'll consider listening to the podcast with Ruby HERE. She (and Ricky) taught me why I need to be more intentional about learning in this area.
They taught me that no matter how hard we try to support all learners, we cannot do it effectively if we're stuck clinging to our own lens and experiences. In addition to outreach, we need to reach within to confront our own assumptions.