BELONGING WITHOUT COMPETING By Thomas Kaup Thomas Kaup recently completed his 30th year of teaching at Auburn High School, Auburn, Washington. Kaup has advised and taught in Nebraska, Iowa and Washington. Kaup is the co-author of Middle School Journalism, a textbook published by Teaching-Point. net. Kaup founded the Magnet journalism program at Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska. Kaup was selected as the Washington Journalism Adviser of the Year in 2014 and has written articles for Herff Jones and Walsworth yearbook magazines. Kaup advises Trojan Journalism at Auburn High School, which produces the Troy InVoice and Invader yearbook. I refused to collect money for Relay for Life during my sixth-period class. I am not opposed to their work, far from it. I have a dormant, at least for now, tumor in my left kidney. I call him Pepe, after the name I took in my seventh grade Spanish class. He has a lease for the basement apartment down there, single bedroom efficiency, until he begins to grow. Then I will have to evict him. So far, he has been a fairly quiet and well-mannered tenant. I refused to collect money because I abhor asking my students for cash when I know most of them have little to none. I know some of them will give up their lunch money, some will just look down and ignore the hat going around, while a few others can pull an easy five or ten out of their wallet and toss it in. I am always aware of the kid who is on the outside. I never want that student to be uncomfortable about anything in my class, especially about the economic reality they live in. There is no shame in being poor. There is a lot of shame reminding someone that they are. The teacher sponsoring the event came to my room after receiving my email message. We spoke for a few minutes and then she said, “Wow, you are a fierce advocate for your students. I really admire that.” I also admire her work to raise money for a good cause. Other teachers here do it, and I am glad that they do. I just cannot live with myself if I thought one kid might sit there and get yet another reminder of how poor they are. I just won’t do it. My goal as a journalism adviser and active member in state and national journalism organizations is simple: I am going to be a fierce advocate for my program. Being a fierce advocate means I will make some hard choices for my kids, just like any parent would. I will not subject them to more reminders of how little they have, or how they differ from the kids from families with means. I will not take the three or four of them who have the extra money and means to a convention or conference, while the program picks up my fee as a chaperone, and leave the bulk of them back home. Yes, we can apply for scholarships or reduced fees. For some reason, that galls me, as well. It just makes the whole point even more obvious. Plus, what do we do once we get to the wonderful world of Disney? It obviously takes even more money to be admitted to the happiest place on Earth.