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I Am Not A Racist

I have often mused with my non-white, suburban, educator friends how I, this melanin-clad, over forty, urban, middle class teacher would fare in suburbia. Would my no-nonsense, you-are-going-to-learn-today attitude meet with resistance in a school where poverty is a discourse and performance is without question? Of course, they assure me I would be just fine. I’m a bit dubious.

What I am sure of, however, is that far too many of my non-melanin popping sisters and brothers may NOT ask themselves the same questions before taking on the arduous task of teaching in an urban school. 

Intentionally, I digress to share background information for those of you visiting this blog for the first time. Now retired, I have made a lateral move from teaching students to teaching teachers. As consultant with Fostering Teachers, I work primarily with new teachers who teach in high poverty, low performing schools and are not having success. I save districts time and money by assisting these teachers. I save new teachers their sanity.

At Fostering Teachers we believe that Failure Is Not An Option and Zip Code Doesn’t Matter. The mission we embrace is Equipping Life-Giving, Passionate Teachers With the Skills and Strategies to Sustain Mastery Teaching and High Academic Performance. Inoculating oneself with these core beliefs ensures endurance at a minimum and success at its pinnacle in challenging schools.

While the research appears inconclusive, (http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/03/12/new-research-confirms-black-students-better-taught-black-teachershttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/black-teachers-may-not-be_n_1587896.html) I speak here of what I have witnessed in my tenure: There are white teachers in urban schools who teach well and are highly regarded. There are white teachers in urban schools with tenure who are sarcastic and unimaginative. There are white teachers in urban schools who are there solely for the pay. There are white teachers in urban schools who understand the struggle and face the challenges undaunted.

I know, I know, I know! There are black teachers who fit the bill as well. However, there is USUALLY one criterion that sets the two apart, an undeniable advantage: Black teachers understand the struggles and challenges faced by students in urban schools. Despite being a teacher, despite being middle class, Black teachers are not removed from racism, scrutiny, and disadvantages. They are intricately familiar with the struggles students in urban schools face on a daily basis. They have the ability and the consciousness to be intimately empathic to their students’ needs. The six degrees of separation we have with our students is the reason we are so demanding each and every day. We are keenly aware that if one is to gain a semblance of equality on an uneven playing field, our students must have the deck stacked in their favor – education, and a quality education at its best!

A MESSAGE TO MY WHITE COLLEAGUES: Embrace the struggle. Know that you can be successful. You can reach your students. What you can’t do is bring white, middle class values into an urban school. Seek the help and assistance of your African American colleagues. Ask question. Be willing to learn. Make adjustments in your thinking. If, however, you find you just can’t, that the work is just too much, PLEASE QUIT! Don’t kill our kids. They already have a target on their backs.

 

 

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