I teach Black and Brown children and their lives, more than those of any other group of young people in the United States, are literally on the line. I know that my influence on them must be decidedly positive every day if they are to have a fighting chance of happiness and meaningful fulfillment. The influence of all their teachers must consistently be positive in order to combat the ever-present brute, harsh, and ugly world around them. They must see themselves represented in every facet of their education, not just a few lessons each year during Black History Month in February and Hispanic Heritage Month in October
Whether we realize it or not, teachers and classrooms are our students’ safe-havens, their refuge from homes, neighborhoods, and realities that are laden with issues that we couldn’t even imagine, or want to — but definitely need to. It is within our classrooms that all of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization — are explored and addressed.
The question remains, however: are these needs, in fact, being addressed successfully?
Just to be clear, it is not fair for teachers to have to deal with the ramifications that societal plagues have on our children, given the little respect or resources we receive in this role, but I’ll expound upon that in a future blog post. But, fair or not, teachers are saddled with the responsibility of providing classroom environments that feed our students’ minds, bodies, souls, and often broken spirits. We are America’s overlooked co-parents.
With that being the case, it is past time that school districts and school administrators be charged with creating school cultures that are predicated on this foundational truth: Education is the greatest social vehicle outside of the home for the fostering and nurturing of whole, intrinsically motivated citizens who leave our public school systems feeling worthy and equipped to take on a world that is in desperate need of healing. If we are serious about being the change we want to see in the global community, I strongly suggest that we equip America’s teachers across the board with the tangible tools needed to engage our students.