Sunday, April 30, 2017
There are two things that my parents gave me, and I am forever thankful: exposure to the awesome wonders of Christ and an excellent education. In regards to the latter, unfortunately thousands of American K-12 students struggle to classify their educational experience as a noteworthy one. Last Friday, TV One’s journalist, Roland Martin, led a panel discussion regarding charter schools. During the broadcast, Martin said that as long as a child is learning, and the school is high performing, then it should not matter if the student is learning at a school outside of a traditional public institution.
Martin asked his guests if charter schools were the “right choice” for African Americans. Dr. Paul Miller, one of Martin’s panelists and an administrator of a thriving NY charter school, is a major advocate of charter schools. Miller stated that “charter schools, if ran well, can be a victory for all impoverished people of all races. . . Charter schools present the opportunity for minorities to take control of our kids’ academic futures. It must be done in such a way that creates opportunities through accountability and high standards.”
Some would beg to differ with Dr. Miller. One of the major opponents of charter schools, particularly in predominately African American communities, is the NAACP. As noted in Zernike’s article, “Condemnation of Charter Schools Exposes a Rift Over Black Students,” the NAACP declared that charter schools are the “pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires [and[ that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.”
Examples of this disruption would include Detroit’s charter schools. In “A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/us/for-detroits-children-more-school-choice-but-not-better-schools.html) Kate Zernike addresses the failures associated with the Motor City’s charter school system. Zernike interviews Ana Rivera, a Hispanic mother, who lacked faith in Detroit’s public school education, and enrolled her son at Cesar Chavez Academy, a charter school. Per Zernike, parents found it easier to “find a charter school than to buy a carton of milk.” National charter schools had selected Detroit as one of their markets to “set up shop.” Riviera enrolled her son, Damian, at Cesar Chavez, which is located directly across the street from her residence. Her son’s aim was to become an engineer. The summer prior to seventh grade, however, Damian’s felt as if his dreams were shattered. Damian attended a University of Michigan science program, where he “struggl[ed] to keep up with students from Detroit Public Schools, which is known as the worst urban district in the nation.” This is shocking considering that Damian was a straight-A student. Yet, at the Ann Arbor, MI program, Detroit public students had to educate him about how the human body is composed of cells.
Damian’s school stopped assigning homework, and his mother attempted to enroll him at a different charter school; however, enrollment deadlines had passed. Damian was able to receive a scholarship to attend a Catholic school, “where he struggled to rise above D’s all year.” His desire to become an engineer disappeared. Per his mother, Damien, “d[idn’t] want to hear the word engineering.”
Although Michigan kept its promise to constituents that they would create an alternative to public school education, their efforts have largely failed. Some argue that it has led to nothing but “competition and chaos” largely due to “unchecked growth.” Although more Detroit students attend charters schools than public, “half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.”
Scott Romney, a lawyer and board member of New Detroit, a group formed after the 1967 Detroit riots, claims that the aim was for charter schools to elevate Detroit’s educational system however, it has led to “a total and complete collapse of education” within the city.
Although Detroit has experienced a renaissance, unfortunately its school system has not. New Nike stores and expensive restaurants may be a boom to the city’s economy; however, children, especially children are color, are not experiencing a regeneration. Smart caps were created to prevent failing charter schools from expanding, yet in 2011, the cap was lifted. Underperforming schools, like Cesar Chavez Academy, were able to expand.
Rivera, a product of a substandard Detroit public high school, wanted better for her children. Similar to many minority parents, she had “no idea of the education system.” For her, the word, charter, sounded better than public, due to not receiving as much negative press as the traditional schools.
I am a former employee of both Arizona public and charter schools. I am not impressed with either educational systems, but I am especially sickened by some of Arizona’s charter schools. There are some effective ones, such as BASIS, yet they are located in affluent areas where many of those children come from households where their parents can provide them with outstanding educational resources. The question is, what about children who come from poverty? There is a charter school located down the street from my residence. Parents have informed me how their children need special education services, but have yet to receive them.
Previously, I worked at an online charter high school. For the sake of this post, I will refer to it a Dream Deferred Online High School (DDOHS). Being the Pollyanna that I was in 2005, I thought that I would be able to make a difference at that institution. By the end of my first month of employment, I knew that I was to solely pass these children along so that the owner could take his revenue and purchase a new vehicle every six months. The school’s owner was Dr. Bosley (Note: His name has been changed). He was a former Arizona public school educator, who realized that he could become relatively wealthy. Bosley’s audience was credit recovery students. His mission was to assist those who were truly in the greatest need of help. I definitely did not see that during my tenure. Teachers were pressured to pass students along. I taught many children in dire need of education accommodations. How was I supposed to pass students who could barely read and write at a third grade level?
By the end of my tenure at DDOHS, I was disgusted by Dr. Bosley. It hit me especially when I attended Dr. and Mrs. Bosley’s Christmas party. Bosley’s wife is Hispanic. I realized that helped Bosley be able to bamboozle Hispanic parents that he cared about their children. In their beautiful home, there were dozens of photos and awards showcasing Bosley’s and his family’s accomplishments. His mother-in-law sat across from me, and she stoically had a “Look at what my white son in law and beautiful daughter have accomplished.” My expression was, “Yes, they have accomplished at lot, but at the cost of failing to adequately educate children who look just like yourself. These kids would have done better obtaining a GED than attending your son-in-law’s ‘school.’
When I returned home, I took one of the hottest showers of my life. I had to scrub that experience off of my skin. Bosley did not care anything about his students and he punished educators who were actually trying to teach them.
Arizona’s charter school law allows charter schools to operate for 15 years before review (https://www.brookings.edu/research/mixed-results-for-arizonas-charter-schools/).
Questions to consider:
1. Is the NAACP correct in their declaration that charter schools are a poor substitute for public school education? Could their views possibly be marred by their alignment with teacher’s unions?
2. Charter schools contend that they are trying to reach all students. What measures are needed especially to educate children who need special education services?
3. Parents, what do you need to do to educate yourself about charter and public schools? Are you a Ms. Rivera? Why are you allowing yourself to simply be fed information that you view as “truth” simply because the person is a school administrator? Research!
4. Parents have the right to provide their children with an effective education. Simply because charter schools rise in numbers, does that mean that they are the most effective school systems?
5. Public schools, there are many outstanding charter schools who are making great strides in education. What are these administrators doing differently than public educators?
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
In John Singleton’s classic 1991, “Boyz in the Hood,” he introduces us to Ricky Baker, a Crenshaw High School football star. He serves as a contrast to his older brother, Doughboy, who has served time in jail. Ricky aspires to win a USC football scholarship; however, he must score a 700 (minimum) on the SAT examination. Ricky’s mother, a single parent, sees her soon as her potential ‘ticket’ out of the hood.
Liz Dwyer, an educator reporter, discusses black male college athletes in “The Real March Madness: Only Half of Black Male Student Athletes Graduate" (http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/03/18/real-march-madness-only-half-black-male-student-athletes-graduate/_). She states that although a “shockingly high number of black male student athletes earning millions of dollars for TV networks and the NCAA never take home the real prize: a college diploma."
This harsh reality can also be said for many African American male high school student athletes. People have shared stories with me regarding how their sons, standout high school athletes, won their school state championships, yet they lacked the grades to attend college. In fact, their low scores led them to not being able to graduate with their high school class. These are children who, like Delency Parham, began their athletic career by playing junior league sports. Then, they went on to play in high school, and dreamed of a Division 1 scholarship, and eventually be drafted. The key difference, between Parham, and a substantial number of black male athletes: he had a “healthy doubt that led [him] to take [his] education seriously.
During my seven years as a high school English instructor, I saw my share of Rickys and Mrs. Bakers. Many of the athletes came from single parent homes, and unfortunately, their mothers saw them as their “come up.” I will never forget sitting in a counselor-s office during a parent-teacher conference, and the discourse that occurred regarding Oscar Norton (Note: His name has been changed). Oscar was a 15 year old, 137 pound high school Sophomore. He lived, breathed, and ate football. Oscar was failing my course, and as a result, he was benched. His mother, a 31 year old single mother, was irate. Tutoring had been offered, yet Oscar refused. He thought that by having his mother come to the school, she would be able to coerce administration and his counselor to pressure me to change his grade.
Ms. Norton arrived with her three month old daughter. While listening to her, I immediately realized that she viewed Oscar as her means to a better life. If Oscar managed to receive a college scholarship, he could possibly go pro, and his football salary would be the means for her to leave South Phoenix.
My second example involved a black male basketball player. I was not his instructor, but I heard many accounts about what happened to him. Jackson Smith (Note: His name has been changed) lived, breathed, and ate basketball. Jackson’s closest friends were student athletes, and they aspired to receive a scholarship at a Division 1 university. Academically, Jackson struggled throughout high school, but miraculously, he was eligible to play during the basketball season. Three weeks prior to graduation, Jackson’s mother, a single parent, was notified that her son would not be receiving his high school diploma.
The “blame game” started. Everyone was at fault – counselor, principal, school athletic director, Jackson, and teachers. The only person not at fault – the single parent, because she was busy working in order to provide for her child.
The blame game is real when it comes to African American male student athletes not having a successful post high school career. There are four culprits, and a close examination is needed for each one:
1. The Principal Indeed, I fault you. You are the head administrator of your school, and oftentimes, greed prevents you from having black student athletes’ best interests at heart. Per state high school regulations, high school athletes must maintain a certain GPA and attendance record. Yet, when you are desiring a new trophy, in the school’s trophy case, you forego these requirements. Also, state championships mean revenue for both your school and the school district. When it comes to school principals, I compare them to Lady Macbeth. One day, they will find themselves frantically trying to remove the “spots” from their hands. These “spots” are nothing but the marks of their former athletes’ failed dreams. Lastly, teacher bullying is unjust. How can you threaten a teacher’s livelihood over illegally playing a student athlete?
2. The Coach Coaches, I know that you desire to win these championships, but you see the grade reports in Synergy. How can you honestly play these students? A substantial number of y’all are African American. Do you really have your black male athletes’ best interests at heart? I have seen many of you serve as predators. You prey on these young boys and their mothers. You act as if you are this surrogate father to them, and when they do not graduate from high school, so many of you abandon them and divert your energy to your next victim.
3. The Single Mother Truly, I empathize for your struggle. My mother was raised in a single-parent household, and my grandmother had it extremely difficult. Despite adversity, she was determined that her daughter graduated from high school. She did not expect any teacher to care more about her daughter than herself. I am not a parent, and I hear often, “Cicely, you shouldn’t say things, because you do not have kids.” You are correct; however, for six hours per day, many teachers, who are non-parents, are nurturing your child. Single mothers, please stop depending on these coaches. They are not these boys’ father. If their biological father is not around, do not expect these coaches to raise your son. Once they fail high school, or college, do not then blame the coach for not doing enough. You have to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Where did I go wrong? Was I as involved with his academic success as I was with his athletic tribulations?
4. The Athlete. You are the person who holds the blame in this blame game. I need for you to please have some “healthy doubt,” about your future, and do not view your education in a superficial manner. If your mother is working long hours to provide for you, the least that you could do is excel in school. If you cannot multitask, then it is time to drop leave the ball on the court/field. Take your skills and channel it into your education. There is absolutely nothing wrong with becoming just like Ricky’s and Doughboy’s friend, Tre.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
On social media, I have seen a substantial number of posts about the lack of African American male teachers in K-12 education. Some black male educators have created Twitter accounts, such as Black Male Educators (#BMEsTalk), in order for black male instructors to connect and provide their perspective about K-12 education. Drs. Steve Perry and Paul Miller have served as outstanding role models to black male educators.
Yet, we need more than a handful of black male teachers who “made it.”
In his 2016 article,: Why Black Men Quit Teaching,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/opinion/sunday/why-black-men-quit-teaching.html) Christopher Emdin discusses the problematic logic associated with “fixing” black boys’ low performance by hiring black male teachers. As Emdin notes via various examples, African American male teachers should not be forced to become school districts’ ‘Black Jesus.’ As Dr. Donna Y. Ford has urged, professional development workshops, regarding cultural training should be offered. The Black Jesus notion came into fruition under the leadership of Arne Duncan, the former secretary of education. Rather than urging school districts to invest funds in cultural training workshops, for their teachers, he suggested that black male teachers should be hired as a means to “fix” the problem regarding black boys underperforming at school. Duncan traveled to several historically black colleges (HBCUs) and encouraged male undergraduates to obtain a teaching degree. John King Jr., Duncan’s successor, delivered similar messages. For his “call,” he informed students that “only 2 percent of our nation’s teachers are African American men.”
Duncan and King were engaged in a game of dodge ball. They failed to address why black male students are failing. As Emdin notes, these children are often “struggling with the adverse effects of poverty, the inequitable distribution of resources across communities, and the criminalization of black men inside and outside of schools.” In short, if these boys’ father and/or mother are incarcerated, or abandoned them due to substance abuse, do you honestly think that these children are in the mindset to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic? Also, it is dangerous to assume that although the black male teacher is African American, that his background mirrors his students. There are many black male teachers who grew up in a two-parent middle class home.
The tasks of a black male teacher are arduous. In a sense, he is to be the school’s “Hey Mon.” He is required to mentor, teach, and discipline. Whereas the Mammy is to be passive, African American male educators, when addressing black boys, are to administer “tough love” to unruly students. During their interviews, teachers informed Emdin that they were asked to “keep black students passive and quiet.” When major violations occurred, they were to suspend them. In short, black men were not hired to teach; they were recruited to keep ‘little colored boys’ in line. This is similar to slavery where the master asked good, field slaves to assist him with keeping ‘unruly darkies” in check.
Per Emdin, initially black teachers drink the “tough love” Kool Aid. Once they realize that this form of ‘teaching’ is damaging, guilt sets in, and they abandon the profession. For those who remain in the field, we cannot blindly believe that simply because these teachers are African American that they identify as being black. Self-hatred is real, and I have seen it amongst black male educators. From those that I have observed, their goal was to be the Golden Negro, and adequately teaching and mentoring troublesome black boys interfered with their aim to ‘shine’ for their principal, which would lead to becoming a department chair, which would then prompt them to return to school in order to become a principal, which would possibly lead to a job at the district office, . . .
Y’all get the picture?
Emdin should have also explored the economic reason as to why African American men are not desiring to teach. Black men are also leaving the profession due to low salaries. By leaving, they are saying: If you want me to be Black Jesus and turn what y’all call “bad ass” black boys into Don Lemon, Jrs. (which would be the equivalent of turning water into wine), I need to see some money. Where is the money?”
I asked Dr. Paul Miller his sentiments regarding the lack of black male teachers in K-12 education. He said, “Black men aren’t desiring to become educators. . . . They often come up in struggle and want a career that will be lucrative enough to change their struggle.”
Thus, these men quit.
Questions to consider:
1 How are some school districts designing teaching, for black male educators, as a modern-day form of slavery?
2 Who is effectively listening to African American male K-12 teachers?
3 Are university teaching programs effectively preparing black male undergraduates for the field?
Monday, April 24, 2017
Yesterday, I read Sophia Alvarez Boyd’s article, “His teacher Told Him He Wouldn’t Go To College, Then He Did” (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/04/23/520021794/his-teacher-told-him-he-wouldnt-go-to-college-then-he-did). In her essay, Boyd discusses Ronnie Sidney’s account of being “discriminated against in school as an African American.”
I know my share of Ronnie Sidneys. I lived with one, and I also taught several. From 1988-1992, I attended Bishop Noll Institute (BNI). BNI is a Catholic high school located in Hammond, Indiana. I had some wonderful instructors, and they pushed me to excel.
As I look back, I now understand that I was an African American female attending a Catholic high school, and my experiences were probably different than my black male peers.
My brother, and his African American male friends, had a different experience at the same high school. He attended Noll from 1995-1999. During his high school years, there were a significant number of black male students. From my assessment, I sense that they were not properly mentored. By the time that my sibling was in high school, I was college dealing with issues related to racial battle fatigue; however, I recall how my parents informed me about my brother’s lack of motivation. When I came home for holiday breaks, I watched my brother’s interactions with his close friend. I asked them about school, and they would roll their eyes and tell me that not everyone was like my “nerdy ass,” etc. . . I also noticed that my brother was nearly obsessed with talking about the black experience.
Everything made sense after he posted Boyd’s article on his Facebook timeline. My brother, like Ronnie Sidney, was one of the many black boys, who was told “none of you are going to college.” During our Noll experience, there was only one African American instructor, and he was a classic example of a Golden Negro. Those boys probably did not receive much mentoring from him.
Our family’s Ronnie Sidney is Ryon Jayson, Cobb, Ph.D. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at The University of Southern California.
Discrimination against African American male students, particularly those who receive special education accommodations is real, and it impacts graduation rates. Boyd states that during the 2014-2015 school year, nearly “37% percent of black students with a disability left high school, compared with 23 percent of white students with a disability – a 14 percentage point difference.”
Sidney claims that his special education teachers were extremely supportive, yet his mainstream instructors failed to make a meaningful connection with him. He recounts how his English instructor had assigned the class to read aloud a book that contains the racial slur, nigger. When Sidney was asked to read excerpts of the book aloud, he replaced the word with “neighbor,” and other words that began with the letter, “N.” He was reprimanded for not taking the task seriously.
Sidney is not the only one. Boyd reports that “one in four black boys with a disability were suspended during the 2013-2014 school year, compared with one in 10 white boys with a disability. “ Consequently, the probabilities of black boys, who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are likely to drop out of high school.
Sidney graduated from high school and college. He also has a master’s degree in social work. Sidney wrote the children’s book, Nelson Beats the Odds. It is based upon his experiences with special education.
Dr. Donna Y. Ford, a Vanderbilt University education professor, strongly argues for teacher training that requires educators to be “aware of their own biases – implicit or explicit.” She is 100% correct. I witnessed racial biases against African American special education students. I taught in both urban and affluent high schools, and the comments made regarding black males, who had an IEP, were atrocious. These were some of the comments that I heard:
· - Cicely, why are you wasting your time? His daddy is in jail, and he’s going to be in a cell right next to him
· - All the kids, in that family, are special ed. There’s only so much that we can do
· - Just pass him along. McDonalds needs someone to hand you your bag of food, or greet you at Wal-Mart.
· - Cicely, I simply don’t have the patience to deal with this anymore. You should see all of the accommodations mentioned in his IEP. I don’t have time to “cater” to him.
These teachers failed that to understand that they were making these comments TO a black woman. I would see them bend over backwards to:
· - Help a white student get tested for special education services
· - Cry along with white parents when their child was struggling with school work
· - Make follow-up phone calls with white parents about their student’s progress
I spoke with two white teachers from a Phoenix, Arizona elementary school district that proudly celebrates the fact that they have been providing educational services for 125 years. I asked them about black boys and how they are treated at their school. One woman said, “Cicely, it breaks my heart. My white colleagues do not know how to identify the cultural issues impacting these black male students, and rather than learn about it, they immediately get them tested for special education services and/or ask that they be removed from their classroom. It’s heartbreaking.”
After the conversation ended, I asked myself: How is this white female teacher, who has a black son, serving as an advocate for African American children at her school? Is she willing to stand up, or is she quiet in fear of retaliation?
Questions to consider:
· - Is the average black parent aware of how her child is being treated, or have white educators convinced her that her son is simply “bad?”
· - How many black boys are labeled “big dummies,” combative, and difficult per year?
· - How is this treatment only strengthening the pipeline of sending black boys to prison?
What is the correlation between special education and prison for black male youth?
· - What happens to white teachers who advocate for children?
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017
You Are Just Not What Our School Needs: Principals and the Bullying/Termination of Teachers in K-12 Education
A substantial number of African American elementary and secondary education instructors are electing to leave the profession. Today, I would like to examine the role that K-12 principals play in teachers leaving the field faster than the Israelites left Egypt. In “Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools, “ (http://neatoday.org/2012/05/16/bullying-of-teachers-pervasive-in-many-schools-2/_ Cindy Long states that bullying is on the rise in the workplace, and this is especially “prevalent in the field of education.” The bullying of K-12 instructors has “become a serious problem.”
Long discusses a teacher’s experience with her principal. The Augusta, Maine instructor was emotionally scarred from her interactions with her school’s administrator. In fear of retaliation, she wanted her story told, but she would not allow Long to name the school where the bullying occurred. Although no longer employed with the school district, the educator feared that her former employer would blackball her. She states, “I am sufficiently frightened enough by my former employers to fear that maybe they could still hurt me. I need to get a new job but won’t be able to do so if I am unable to receive one recommendation from an administrator. I know it and so do they.”
Her problems stemmed from her failure to transfer to both a new school and new grade level. By her failure to leave the school, administrators began to:
- - examine her test scores
- - ask her students to leave her class for 1:1s in order to discuss how effectively she taught. Students were asked not to discuss these meetings with her
- - accuse her of not using technology in her classroom
- - request her weekly lesson plans a week in advance
- - say that she overly relied upon the school’s literacy coach
Her peers warned her that she was being targeted, and due to health issues, the instructor quit.
Long notes that it is not solely administrators who bully instructors. Both fellow teachers and helicopter parents have a way of bulldozing teachers, who they have labeled as ‘ineffective.’ Mr. Carv Wilson, a Legacy Junior High geography teacher, states that the “only thing that seemed to offer any protection was membership in our local association.”
At least for the state of Arizona, I beg to differ. I have personally witnessed teachers, who were members of the teachers union, attempt to go to their union representative, for assistance, and receive the following response: “I am fearful of our principal. I am one year away from retirement, and if I help you, the principal will then come after me. You may want to contact our sister high school and ask their Union representative to help you. I see what you are going through, and I know that if I help you, I will be targeted. “ Therefore, some teachers quit the Union and created a savings account for possible lawyer fees, especially after realizing, like Mr. Wilson, that their administrator “revel[ed] in people being driven out of education or to another school.”
If white instructors are feeling this way, one can only imagine the fatigue that African American K-12 teachers endure. My colleagues have witnessed both Caucasian and African American principals engage in these practices. Yet, with black administrators, who are bullying African American teachers, the bullying is worse. For some black administrators, if they feel as if a fellow African American educator has ‘disobeyed’ them, they take it personally, and the attacks are brutal. Here are some of the incidents that have been shared with me:
Some black principals:
· - brand the African American educator as “crazy”
· - will believe anything that Caucasian teachers say about the instructor. The White teachers’ hearsay is believed even when the black teacher has evidence to support himself
· - will primarily call in white students for 1:1s, and just as seen with the Main instructor, the white students will be asked not to say anything about the meeting. If black students are called in, and said students praise the African American teacher, the black administrator will make statements such as, “Did he ask you to say this? Are you making these remarks out of fear?
· - will promote, within the community, the need for the black educator to be fired in order to “protect” the students, although the students are the bullies
· especially, within an affluent school district, will need to retain their status as the “Golden Negro” and attempt to destroy the “radical black teacher
· - typically feel threatened by the bullied teacher due to age, beauty, education, etc. . .
· - have received their jobs solely due to being a “Golden Negro,” and if they do not appease the white community, may become bullied and lose their position
Do y’all still think that we reside in a post racial society? In his video, Dr. Boyce Watkins, an African American author and social commenter, talks about black administrators terminating African American teachers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH2rXOZ_qp0
). Boyce emphasizes the word, “allegedly,” but one can infer that he questions the motives of Ms. Angelique Blackon, the black principal, at Howard University Middle School, who fired educators for teaching black history. You can read about the story here:
I am sure that there are some Caucasian and African American readers - - - those who buy into this post-racial society foolery – are thinking, “Dr. Cee must be crazy. These black principals are hiring African American teachers. Therefore, why would they want to bully them?” My response, “Are you familiar with what occurred on plantations between house and field blacks? If not, please take an African American history course at your local university.”
A bullying incident, involving an African American principal and teachers, occurred in Maryland. When black teachers attempted to protect a white teacher, their black administrator targeted them:
Often, some black administrators like to say phrases such as, “I would never say that. That doesn’t even sound like something that I would say.” It is as if they have carte blanche not only within their school and district, but within the community. One day, abused teachers have to hope that these administrators’ discretionary power will disappear.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Where is the Attendance Line’s Calling in Black Option: Racial Battle Fatigue and the African American K-12 Educator
This morning, I informed a colleague that I was writing about racial battle fatigue and its impact on African American teachers. I mentioned that I could write a book, in my sleep, about the topic. She said, “Cicely, no one should be able to write about that.”
Nearly 13 years ago, I received my Ph.D. from Purdue University. While there, I suffered from racial battle fatigue, but I had NO idea how challenging it was until I became an Arizona certified teacher. For seven years, I dealt with passive-aggressive White educators and Golden Negroes, the Judas Iscariots of K-12 education. My interactions, with them, emotionally and physically drained me. Sam P .K. Collins explores racial battle fatigue in his article, “Black people aren’t making things up: The science behind ‘racial battle fatigue” (https://thinkprogress.org/black-people-arent-making-things-up-the-science-behind-racial-battle-fatigue-9726fcebc938). His discuses William A. Smith’s coinage of the phrase, “racial battle fatigue.” Initially, Smith used his phrase to describe the impact of “racialized microagressions” on black students. In his essay, “Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue,” Smith argues that black students often “worry, have trouble concentrating, become fatigued, and develop headaches when navigating personal and professional spaces that have historically favored white people.”
Although these students graduated and possibly obtained a good paying job, their fatigue probably did not disappear. If anything, it may have worsened. From my experiences, K-12 schools are a battleground where black teachers will may fight against racial injustice and desire to “call in black” at least twice per month. African American teachers may find themselves:
· serving as their school's Rosetta Stone in regards to anything pertaining to the African American experience
· teaching a black literary work, yet since they are the African American teacher, Caucasian students
* will ask them questions that they would not think to ask their White teachers, and the instructors’ Caucasian colleagues may deem them as deviating from what they agreed to address during their planning meetings
* will ask them questions that they would not think to ask their White teachers, and the instructors’ Caucasian colleagues may deem them as deviating from what they agreed to address during their planning meetings
· being asked how they manage to change their handbags/shoes on a daily basis, which is code for “How can you EVEN afford those luxury items?”
· receiving compliments regarding their wardrobe, yet be told, “It must be nice to be able to afford new clothes”
· constantly having to “prove” that they are smart, and no university “gave” them their degrees
· trying to explain their hardships to a fellow black teacher to only find out that person is a Golden Negro. That reality also contributes to racial battle fatigue
White educators, many black teachers are tired, and your failure to properly assess our anger, fatigue, and desire to abandon the profession is disturbing. You hire us, but what genuine support do you provide us? White students/parents are demeaning us; our white colleagues cannot wait to run into a department chair’s office and “drop a dime,”
and you still expect us to:
· grade papers in a timely manner
· come to work and look perky-perky
· smile extensively throughout our professional day
· return to our classrooms, with a smile, after we have been admonished in an administrator’s office over a White student’s complaint
· act as if we are extremely happy to work at a place that claims that they are an institution that provides equal employment opportunities to all staff
Then, there are the Golden Negroes who only add fuel to the fire.
If you are suffering from racial battle fatigue, please consider this advice:
· leave your job in the parking lot daily
· know that the “crazy” should never define who you are
· if someone calls you crazy because you complain, and they say that you are fabricating racial issues, do not even waste your energy trying to change their views, especially if they are a Golden Negro. Golden Negroes will never learn until the white community, who they depended on to elevate them, ends up abandoning them
· find a good support system
· fight racial fatigue by pushing yourself NOT to quit your job/profession
· if you are religious, seek guidance from your pastor
· WRITE. Keep a journal regarding your experiences. Use them to create a blog, scholarly articles, etc. . .
· find yourself a seasoned, White veteran instructor who wills serve as your advocate. Although it pains me to say this, I have witnessed how school districts have embraced the notion that “White is right, and black teachers are non-factors.” Find yourself a so-called “factor” that will present the “facts” about you to those that are attempting to oppress you
Lastly, identify the Sub Finder phone number as one of your “Favorites.” If you have the sick time, call and take a personal day. You earned it.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Students, Meet Your New Teachers, Miss Pollyanna and Senor Pocho: The Need to Change White and Hispanic Teachers’ Vision of K-12 Education
The film, “Freedom Writers,” led to a significant number of Caucasian desiring to become K-12 educators. Their aim was to see teaching as their “ministry.” Similar to Whitney Houston, they believed that the “children were the future,” and their ultimate goal was to “teach them well” so that they could eventually “lead the way.” A prime example of this type of educator is Amy Davis. In “How to Change White Teachers’ Lenses” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/tomorrows_test/2016/06/how_white_teacher)s_can_become_culturally_competent.html ), Vanessa Romo explores how U.S. students are “now majority minority,” whereas their K-12 instructors are not. In the article, Romo discusses Davis’s nontraditional path to a teaching career. In 2002, Davis began teaching second-graders in South Los Angeles. Prior to teaching, Davis was an executive.
From my perspective, she was the teaching equivalent of Disney’s Miss Pollyanna. This was a young woman, with eyes dazzled with hope, who only anticipated “occasionally hit[ting] snags with issues like lesson planning.” Although she was accused of “sounding black” by white supervisors, and spent her childhood amongst African Americans, she still was not African American.
When I initially read Romo’s account of Davis’ initial teaching experiences, I said aloud, “Sister-girl, you are teaching in the hood. I’m black, and I could tell you that lesson planning was going to be the least of your worries.” Davis, a product of a poor, white, single-parent household thought that she easily relate to her black and Latino student population due to her upbringing. She attended 61st Street Elementary, a “predominantly black school” where her “skin color was never discussed.” After middle school, she was bused to a white school, where she felt as if she was an outsider. From my perspective, Davis believed that she and the children could be Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown and sing, “We Got Something in Common.” Both could relate to:
· mothers who had to rely upon food stamps and welfare in order to feed their children
· living in poverty
· being raised in a single-parent household
The one commonality that Davis, however, did not share with her student population – she was not a person of color, and that difference would impact her first year of teaching in South L.A. Secondly, Davis had escaped her years of poverty, and was an “established member of the middle class.” Although she came from a poor background, she was not “culturally competent.” Davis is a member of the 80% white teacher workforce. What makes her stand out is that Davis, during her tenure as a teacher in a Title One school, strove to create a bond with her students. Davis understood that she needed to understand their lives as students as well and children navigating life in a poor community.
Romo makes some excellent points in her article. I love her statement, “Becoming a culturally competent white teacher means a lot more than setting a few Shakespeare sonnets to a hip-hop beat.” I concur that it takes more than privileged White teachers (you can still be privileged and come from the hood) having students engage in Come to Jesus moments in order to understand minority students. Davis realizes this and fully IMMERSES herself into her students’ culture and environment. She called students’ parents, and as a result, the students started performing more effectively in her classroom. Amy started reading novels where the central characters were children of color. In essence, Davis “walked the walk and talked the talk.” Davis became an educator who was culturally sensitive to the needs of her student population. In this environment, her conversational cadence was appropriate and valued.
In her article, Romo cites Dr. Sally Campbell Galman, I need to meet Dr. Sally Campbell Galman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and give her the hardest high-five. Galman strongly argues that the reason as to why a significant number of K-12 educators fail is because a substantial number of teacher trainers are older, Caucasian academics who do not feel comfortable addressing race issues.
White, older college professors are not the only culprits. They are also older White K-12 department chairs who embrace this mentality. Let me break this down for you. Your average K-12 educator will have a White female department chair who will:
· act as if she celebrates diversity
· will find a black student, who is talented, and treat that child like a “show pony”
· ignore the cries of black teachers, enduring racist acts by Caucasian students and their parents,
although she is an advocate for her “show pony.”
I need for white K-12 educational trainers and department chairs to do better. As Galman suggests, Caucasian supervisors, please realize your White privilege and deal with racism. You are looking at children of color on a daily basis, and you need to do right by them. If racism makes you feel that uncomfortable, please leave the profession.
Amy Davis is currently an assistant principal at 66th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA. I am extremely proud of her. She is on her way to being a Dr. Marybeth Glasman. Indeed, K-12 educators need an advocate like Marybeth.
Senor Pocho. Oh, I how know my share of Senor Pochos. Pochos are a Mexican version of an Uncle Tom (Tio Tomas). Many Hispanic Americans view Mario Lopez as a Pocho. It hurts my heart when I see a person of color SELL OUT, and in my K-12 experience, I have not only see my share of black K-12 Uncle Toms, I have also worked with my share of Senor Pochos. I have to ask Hispanic instructors, what is it about being Hispanic that troubles you? This question is similar to the one that I pose to Golden Negroes. We have white educators teaching in the hood, making great strides to be culturally diverse, yet a significant number of Hispanic educators (from my perspective) are trying to abandon their roots, and be Hispanic “when convenient.” If you embrace this type of behavior, how are you being a role model for children of color? Here are my experiences with Senor Pocho:
· typically a fair-skinned Mexican-American
· has a last name that could one could think is Italian
· came from the barrio/raised by a single Hispanic mother
· father is absent
· is a smart child and benefited from minority scholarships
· “makes it” and becomes a teacher in a school district
· is “Hispanic” when convenient
· typically steers away from radical Hispanic and African American educators
· exclusively dates White women. If she is from a wealthy family, that is a plus
· wants to only “bond” with teachers of color when his back is against the wall
· is loved by white and Golden Negro administrators
· wants to be “cool” with the popular Hispanic , Caucasian and black students, especially athletes
From my experiences as well as the black K-12 educators who spoken to me about their interactions with Hispanic teachers, I must ask Senor Pochos the following questions:
· Why do you self-hate?
· Since you self-hate, and education’s mission is to help children self-love, why are you an educator?
· How supportive are you to black educators?
· Do you see yourself as a culturally conscientious instructor?
· What are you doing to ease the burdens associated with being a teacher of color?