Dr. King

Tpockley

Both the school newsletter and the letter from the principal left out the Martin Luther King Jr. Day closure. These notices pass through multiple hands. It was a simple oversight. Probably. Most likely.

It's been a few days, though. I haven't seen a published correction.

Kids of colour in our building are being pushed out in growing numbers. It will not all be reflected in the data. Suspensions are one thing. Constantly sending a child home until the parents pulls them out or finding them an alternative school to attend is another thing. "No Tolerance Policies" are good for creating a system that disproportionately targets children by race. I speak to educators of colour in our building– women– who fear that their intervention will backfire and kids will be retaliated against by people in charge. One of my children feels like a particular adult in the building is constantly watching and correcting him. He wonders if it is because I have sent emails wondering why we are creating unnecessary barriers for student's success. I wonder where their colleagues are, the ones that wear their BLM t-shirts and teach tolerance and multi-culturalism. One of my child's teachers told us in conferences that she knows that he often doesn't understand but that she cannot take the time to answer individual questions because the class is too unruly. I feel bad for her for a moment. And then I sit stunned wondering if she hears herself.

One of my children learns about voter suppression in Ohio. He wears his, "Malcom, Martin, Huey" shirt and can tell you who these men are and why they are important. They participate in Restorative Justice Circles. They have had teachers create their own curriculum to address learning loss and to push kids ahead who need accommodation. One of my kids often refers to "Rolling Thunder Hear My Cry" and two of them have a coach who shares affirmations with them and constantly buoys their spirits.There is good learning happening here. There are good people doing good things. There are good people caught up not knowing when they are doing harm and then doubling down on that harm.

Another teacher wrote a comment on my child's essay remarking that teachers will call into question his character based on his lack of proof reading/poor grammar. The essay was a first draft, typed. It was an unfamiliar format. He earned an F, but was told "he was so close" to meeting the standard. What new, impossibly low standard is this? I wonder how the instruction has been scaffolded to catch all the kids up and push those of whom need it, ahead. In these comments the teacher had no less than 4 typos/grammatical errors. I do not know what to do. I believe that this person cares deeply about the kids that they teach. I believe that they have not been adequately trained and I believe that they are encouraged to center relationship over delivering competent instruction.

I am not an educator. I do not know what I'm talking about. I become the parent that no one wants to see come through the front doors. I become the parent that is followed once I am in the building. 

Public shaming of children by adults in charge become tools my kids recognize instantly. A line of kids of colour snakes out of the office waiting for the principal. We are told that we are imagining it. Our children are told that their concerns will be taken into consideration. They see through this immediately.

I wonder where Response to Intervention training happens. I'm curious why we ignore studies on Trauma Informed Care. I wonder why our district has a Racial Equity Education Policy when it is not built into everything we do. I wonder why people are not held accountable to following it without being threatened with a lawsuit. I grieve the kids who think that this is their problem and not solely an adult problem.

This is, I'm hearing, just the tip of the iceberg. This is only one building in a district of many.

I understand why Black families are pulling their kids across the country and, at great personal cost, investing in home schooling. We are failing each other. WE ARE FAILING EACH OTHER. When you are literally taught that you are less a person in the classroom, where do you go? Why would a parent sign their kid up for that?

I will tell you, that locally, there are things that you can do and pay attention to (say nothing of the National Mess we are cosigning to).  

When Elite Parents Dominate Volunteers, Children Lose. We have begun referring to this as Booster Mom Gate Keeping and it is something I have surely participated in. It was a nice, cold wake up when I realized that my kids' peers and families did not want my charitable volunteerism when it came at the expense of their dignity.

My friend, Chrysanthius Lathan breaks it down, Dear White Teacher I see our admin and our teachers do this every day. Not all of them, surely. But it should not be any of them. I hear she's writing a Part Two. Thank God.

The work of Christopher Emdin is powerful and timely. He's also pretty funny, which is helpful because this crap is not.

This is a short overview of the School to Prison Pipeline that we tacitly condone in this country. The examples in this article are extreme but don't be fooled that this is not happening in your community. Liberal enclaves can look just as bad. In Portland the most clear indicator of achievement is race. Full Stop. Not Poverty.  What's up, Minneapolis?!    

6 Comments

  1. I feel like education should be our #2 concern right now (after the bigoted authoritarian regime coming into power as #1, of course). It’s THE BIG institution in our country and it could be so much better. I feel so bad for our teachers but worse for the kids who are told day after day that they are not worthwhile because of their color. We need MLK Day badly this year, of all years.

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  2. Thank you for this. Always. You know our District suffers the same. And while I know public ed was the greatest gift my kids have received – I know it is because they are white.
    And the gate keeping. A million times over.
    We are blessed in our local district with an extraordinary board member who does right. He is up for reelection in March, and the fear (as it was when he ran 4 years ago) is the union busting, DeVos friendly CA Charter School Association and its allies will throw millions behind his opponents. We shall see. We shall fight.
    Education needs to be #1.

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  3. Oh this is horrific; this is alarming and sad and infuriating. Thank you writing this and uncovering injustice.
    Kelly Wickham Hurst spoke to an anti-racism group that I belong to; she runs an organization called Being Black at School. Would you mind if I shared your post with her..?

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