"Let's start by talking about his strengths", she said.
"He's quiet. Kind. On task."
After a very *crispy* summer, all six of the Framily Children began school this August. The youngest one was declared the Most Ready in The History of Readiness as she marched into Kindergarten unafraid. She's already treating it like some kind of all-inclusive resort where one takes full advantage of the transportation, meal service, leisure, and educational opportunities to get one's money worth. On Saturday night she told us all that the thing she was most excited about is that there is only ONE MORE DAY BEFORE I GET TO GO BACK.
The eldest three are all in middle school and dealing with the familiar pains now that the new-shoes-new-backpack-new-hair sparkle has worn off. There has been some locker confusion and I wonder if this will be the year they are required to use their planners as tools and not as backpack filler/doodle venues.
I am left on my own during the day for the first time since 2004. Expectations are high. Lunches are long. I have rewritten my resume and made a list of projects to tackle. I have agreed to volunteer in ways I am half dreading and I am cutting back on the coffee.
"Well, it would be good if we could get him out of that period and switch him around. There are a lot of challenging behaviours in the room and I see him getting sucked in."
"I think I could do more for him if he wasn't distracted by overbearing kids."
"He's drawn to the wrong crowd."
I was in an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) Review meeting for one of my kids. His whole team had come and I was looking forward to facing this year with some great strategies and kid-centered accommodations. I am a public school junkie and this is where I bask in its glory: free and appropriate education for all. I marvel that there are laws that guarantee access and we can challenge the manner that these laws are deployed.
AND. And. Here we are, sitting in a room of wonderful educators who are using coded and deficit language to describe their challenges with classroom management and their weaknesses in delivering instruction. I know this child. He is not quiet– not by personality nor circumstance. And "quiet" certainly isn't a strength for a child who needs to learn to self-advocate and be fearless in the face of academic challenges. No, the word "quiet" in this case means compliant. And the word "compliant" in this place is code for Whiteness. Who are these "bad" kids he's drawn to. Is it because they clearly hold the power in these rooms? Do we draw close to power in order to survive?
His case manager glances at me. She knows. I suck in my breath and we push forward.
"He needs to trust you, but he doesn't need to like you. He will learn if he trusts you. Don't confuse the two", I said.
How are you handling the return to school or to education or to routine or to the same thing you do every day? What drives your commitments to yourself, to your village, to your family? How do you manage self care in a time that seems so fraught?
I bought a small pack of Black History Flash Cards Vol 1 and pulled them out yesterday for Manny's sick day. He picked four to learn: Montgomery Bus Boycott, The 1968 Olympic Protest, The Haitian Revolution and Barak Obama. We had to do some word definition and some major backtracking and even though he knows all about Dr. King, he still somehow thinks he was the first Black President. He's with it though, and wants to pick out four more today when he gets home.
Racial Consciousness: How White Boys are Deprived Without It (There parts of this that read like poetry, and parts that read like a knife to my heart, and parts that I want to tattoo on my soul. READ THIS PLEASE. It's not long.)
Raising white boys to see their privilege and use their moral compasses to actively interrupt it begins the labor pains of true racial equity. Parents, it will hurt. I'm not white, but I've personally seen white folk stand up, only to lose family, friends, jobs, spouses. Pain is a part of labor. Breathe and push! Not only is racial consciousness vital to the interruption of systemic and personally meditated racism in our schools, jobs, prisons, banks, churches, stores, and places of business, it's good for the soul of the ones who have always had privilege anyway – the white human boy. He was put into your arms for you to help him grow into his best life. Don't let your racial ambivalence rob him of it. Nurture the baby. Privilege is not his birthright. Racial consciousness is.
Here Wee Read— On the advice of friends I started following Charnaie on Instagram and I'm forwarding her blog to all my teacher-friends and bibliophiles.
I pre-ordered Devin Allen's A Beautiful Ghetto this summer and it arrived last week. It is beautiful and joyful and heartbreaking. Make space for experiences and feelings that your are not a part of your current reality.
Always, always look forward to your posts. Thank you for sharing about your family and linking to the article.
Holding on by a thread and it’s only week 3. Reading this from the bathtub, my first time to myself in almost a month. Tearing up at the article. Damn. Always love coming here for some truth. Thank you.
Last week was rough; this week feels a little bit better. I work in education (but for little ones, 0-5 y/o), and I’m sorry you had that experience in an IEP. If I had been the person across the table from you, I would want you to call me out on it. Meanwhile I’m off to read that essay, and requested MultCoLib purchase A Beautiful Ghetto.
I can’t tell you how much I admire your curiosity, intellect, and bravery. Thank you for your blog.
I am the mother of two white boys (12, 14) who go to a public charter school in East Oakland where they are the minority both racially and socio-economically. I could not agree more wth the quote above. Choosing this school for our boys 15 years ago was one of the best decisions for them that we have ever made. Thank you for all the real ese that you share.
Damn autocorrect! Thanks for all the realness that you share!
Thanks Liz. Im going to talk to one of the educators about the impact of her statements/thinking because Im very sure shes ready and willing to hear it. As much as I want to assume good intentions, I can tell that the others arent– which certainly wont stop me from pushing back in the future! Being called out/in is such a gift, isnt it?!
Thanks for another important and poignant post, Melissa! I adore your blog, which I initially found due to our mutual interest in quilts, but I come back again and again to read the wisdom I find here. I admire you very much.
I just tried sending you an email but it won’t work on my computer (due to an issue with a MAIL app that is related to my husband’s job).
I’m going to be delivering a sermon at some point on my white privilege, and I wonder if you have any children’s picture books you can recommend on the subject. I did check out Here We Read which you linked above, with no luck. Many thanks and all the best to you. I am also interested in sending you some $ to help pay for the cost of your blog… it is of great value. Have you ever tried to get some of your writing published on Huff Po? Elsewhere?