Source: Instagram @edgapcloser
I ran across this picture Tuesday and it really got me thinking about the state of racial affairs and how it affects my kids, my classroom, my coworkers, basically my whole school environment. I began to think about how not only my thoughts and views affect how I interact with my kids and vice versa but also how the thoughts and views of my white coworkers affect how they interact with their kids and vice versa. There's a certain level of empathy that a person should have when working in a predominantly black school, especially if you're white. Recently I've noticed that several of my white counterparts (in my building and in other buildings) are complaining more about disrespect from their students. I'm talking disrespect to the point of wanting to leave the classroom. Since there were so many complaints, I decided to look into how some of these teachers interact with their kids, and how they think. During my research, I found that most of these teachers have taken the narrative of kneeling during the anthem away from a way to protest racial injustice and inequality and brought it to being disrespectful to our country and the many men and women who fought for our freedoms. They refuse to recognize or talk about the real reason behind kneeling. Instead, they've made up a reason to fit what's comfortable for them or to fit what’s easiest for them to understand. I then started talking to my white coworkers who don’t seem to have problems with their students. I asked them whether or not they felt disrespected by the kids and if they did, was it bad enough for them to leave the classroom. They all said no. After we discussed that, I asked them their views on kneeling during the anthem. Not a one of them had a problem with it. Either they recognized what the real purpose for doing it was, or they felt like kneeling was still being respectful. Here’s what I gathered from this: The teachers who are having trouble with their kids don’t understand what’s happening in the world and how it affects their kids. Or they understand what’s happening and just refuse to acknowledge it because it’s uncomfortable. As teachers, we’re public servants which means we are here to serve the people in our classrooms. We can’t do that if we don’t understand the people in our classrooms. When a teacher minimizes the struggles of his/her black and brown students, they are failing to understand the people in their classrooms and therefore, cannot serve them. When a teacher yells at kids for not standing for the pledge instead of asking them why they aren’t standing, he/she is failing to understand the people in his/her classroom and therefore, cannot serve them. When a teacher fails to acknowledge that racism is still alive and well in America, he/she fails at understanding the people in his/her classroom and therefore, cannot serve them. When a teacher says things like “All lives matter” and “Blue lives matter,” he/she is failing to understand the people in his/her classroom and therefore, cannot serve them. We cannot allow our personal beliefs to affect how we treat the people in our classrooms. I’m not saying that those teachers are mistreating their students. I am, however, saying that somewhere along the way, those kids felt as if they were misunderstood, as if they were not liked/loved, as if they were not respected. It probably started when you yelled at them for not saying the pledge.
Call to action
White teachers, this is not to bash you in any way. My purpose is to make you take an uncomfortable and realistic look at yourself and see how your beliefs have shaped the environment in your classroom, especially if you teach at a predominantly black school. You HAVE to take the time to get to know your kids. Use the current events to educate. We have healthy debates in my classroom often. By doing this, I have taught my kids tolerance, empathy, and how to debate their side without negating the other side’s feelings. These are life skills. Together, we can change the narrative on things such as racism which can ultimately lead to world change.