As a black woman who grew up in a 96 percent white suburban school in Long Island, New York, it was hard not to notice me—a member of the “only one club”.
The only one who the teacher wouldn’t make eye contact with when discussing slavery, the only one who challenged my teachers on their lessons regarding the Black Panthers, the only one who held the school board accountable for a more inclusive history curriculum.
The only one who would dare call the superintendent of schools as the student representative to discuss diversity—only for him to say on the phone “oh, you’re black” because my voice didn’t betray a certain inflection he was looking for.
Like many of you I went into education because I wanted to have a positive impact on the next generation of leaders. I wanted to be the person they could count on to help mold their dreams into a tangible reality—especially when I could see, that if not for my attention, there may have been no one else invested in them.
The classroom is often times, as you know, the first microcosm of the world that a child will enter into. It’s designed as a safe space to learn, question and develop.
What does it say then that we are only creating that safe space for “some students”?
What I’ve learned from working with a variety of other teachers is that very few people were taught in their programs how to not only engage with students from varying backgrounds (race, socio-economics, religion, sexual orientation/ gender identity etc.,) but also their families and/or caretakers.