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What motivates Hamed Kadiani to work towards educational equity?

By Whitney Stoepel-Brewer

June 22, 2022

Alumni Conversations : Hamed Kadiani

Hamed is a 2019 TFA Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana corps member. His first two years were as an Algebra 1 teacher, and then he switched to Algebra 2 at Taft High School and just finished Year three! Hamed will be going to Germany next year to teach English through the Fulbright Program. Watch the video or read the transcript below. 

Hamed Kadiani: My name is Hamed Kadiani. My pronouns are he/him, and right now I am actually at my school, Taft High School, where I teach Algebra 2 for mostly juniors. It's my third year in the classroom and my first year at Taft. So for my first two years, I was at a school in Pilsen, and then I moved here for this year.

Wisam Fillo: What motivates you to work towards educational equity? This is your fourth year teaching. Just talk to us a little bit about why you're still doing what you're doing.

Hamed Kadiani: I am very, very passionate about public education in America, and actually, so I'm applying for a lot of stuff right now, and I was looking back at all of the applications I've submitted in my life, and I found an essay I wrote in high school called This I Believe, and we all had to do it. All high school seniors had to, and we just had to pick an issue and write about why we believe in it. And so mine was about public education in America. I was 16 or 17 when I wrote it, and it was like, "This I believe in the yellow school bus."

Well, back then I said, "It is the great equalizer." I think now maybe it could be the great equalizer, because it's definitely not, but I've been a public school student my whole life, and I just think that education just really is one of the most important things, and when you take the second half of that phrase, which was, "Equity," I think there's a lot that needs to be said about equity by definition means that if you need more, you should get more. That is equitable, but right now in America, not only is it not equitable, it's not even equal.

“"I think it's important to be on the front lines and see what happens in classrooms day-to-day to actually work towards getting more equity and education."”

Hamed Kadiani

2019 TFA Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana corps member

And it actually advantages those with already more, even though they don't need more, and you see that as a teacher, and you can make an impact in your classroom. You can advocate on a slightly higher level, but I think it's important to be on the front lines and see what happens in classrooms day-to-day to actually work towards getting more equity and education instead of what we're seeing right now.

Wisam Fillo: Yeah. Proximity is important. You kind of just alluded to this, but tell me a little bit about how your identity impacts your work.

Hamed Kadiani: This school has a more affluent community. There's more white students. And so they have more resources, and my identity plays a very different role in each location. So at my old school, I had typically a lot more power in that space, and I did not look like my students, and there was a lot of work you have to think about really decentering yourself in the class, which you're still doing at Taft, but it just looks very different. The interactions that you have, you're just perceived very differently. And I mean, every single minority in America knows this, but you just have to work double, triple as hard to be given equality, which I think I see a little bit more at this school than at my old one, because there was just a lot more people of color at my old school.

Wisam FilloYou're making a big transition very, very soon in a few short [inaudible 00:03:14].

Hamed Kadiani: Yeah.

Wisam Fillo: Tell us where you're going to be, what you're hoping to accomplish in the short term and then in the long term.

Hamed Kadiani: Yes, so I will be going to Germany next year to a small town called Dietzenbach. I'm very, very excited. I'll be teaching English there, and it's my first time not teaching math, and I'm also very excited because a large portion of my students are going to be Muslim, so it'll be really cool to have people in my school who share the same identity with me in terms of religion, because as a Muslim teacher there aren't very many. There are a few more at Taft than I thought, and I think I'm just excited to see a totally different education system, and I think you can get very disillusioned with America's.

 I think German schools typically trust their students a little bit more and just to kind of see how can that really shift the way schools operate. In terms of longer terms, I'm hoping to apply to grad school to get my administrator's license, and maybe take some of the lessons learned from Germany, from the last few years of teaching, and potentially get a role in an administrative position at a school.

Wisam Fillo: Yes, leadership. We love to hear it. I'm sorry. You're going to be in Germany for what? Was there a program or a fellowship?

Hamed Kadiani: You're going to make me say it, aren't you?

Wisam Fillo: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hamed Kadiani: I'm going on Fulbright.

Wisam Fillo: Yeah, congrats. [inaudible 00:04:37].

Hamed Kadiani: Thank you.

Wisam Fillo: Congrats. You did the core here in 2019, and you're an alumni here. You taught in Chicago. Tell me a little bit about moving, transitioning from being a core member to an alumni. How has being an alumni, being part of a actually huge alumni base, there's over 3000 alumni in our region, how has that impacted what you just talked about, some of your professional trajectory?

Hamed Kadiani: I think the transition between core to leaving the core was pretty big. Having the network is so helpful, because it's so easy to get stuck in your school that it's just nice to have people at different schools who are all experiencing different things, but also similar issues at all schools. And that's just a really nice support base to have, because there is a very bonding experience of just being in the classroom and not really knowing what's going on, but even though it's the end of my third year, and I have... I don't want to say that phrase. I have my ducks in a row in a way I did not before. It is still really helpful to go back and think about.

Wisam Fillo: The last question I have for you is, as you know, gay to gay, it's Pride month, and we should be talking about gay issues. We should be seeing more representation outside of the month of June, and it is worth asking, in your opinion, what do you think are some ways that districts could support LGBTQ+ students and teachers in CPS, outside of CPS?

Hamed Kadiani: Yeah. I mean, I think that the big thing is that you see teachers are kind of in a rough spot in America right now, and then queer teachers especially in Florida, Texas. I mean, I think that kind of goes without saying, and I don't want to speak too much on that, because I think that's very top of mind. It's just right there, but what do you do about it? And I really think that districts like CPS, they need to come out with very strong stances and also action orient things to that, and not allow a lot of the kind of flagrant homophobia and transphobia to keep going. And I think you potentially could have specialists at schools, have counselors that are really, really well versed in what it means to be a queer youth in Chicago, because we're really missing that. I'll be honest. CPS could start with hiring counselors at all. That would be really helpful for our teens who are going through a lot right now.

Wisam Fillo: Well, I appreciate you a lot. I appreciate your work. I know your students appreciate you. I love you. Thanks for chatting with me today.

Hamed Kadiani: Yes, love you too. Thank you so much. And I also would like to say before, I don't know if you're going to put this in or not, but you should, that it also is really important that when you have young queer teachers, that they have queer mentors, because I had that. And my journey was made so much better because of the people I had along the way, most notably you.

Wisam Fillo: Aw, [inaudible 00:08:10]. Okay. Thank you.

Hamed Kadiani: So thank you very much for your role in this journey too.

Wisam Fillo: Thank you. She's going to stop recording now.