I’m so scared for my Black students. I can’t speak about any other demographic. I work with Black students every day and I am so scared about what I see. More and more they seem less and less interested in academic endeavors. We talk so much about having more technology in the classroom but today I saw that, even with an engaging web-quest lesson loaded with opportunities to use technology, watch videos, and work at their own pace, there were still those students who just refused to put forth any effort towards learning.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Black teacher but I couldn’t help but notice that it was all Black children who fit that disengaged demeanor. I got so frustrated that I had to ask a colleague to step in my room for me so that I could step out. I needed to release the tears that were welling up in my eyes. My educational philosophy coupled with my real life exposure to the school-to-prison-pipeline has created a hyper-vigilance in me to ensure that my students do their absolute best. I see Black children who aren’t doing what they need to in school and I get scared. It’s not an imagined or far-fetched fear. The fact remains that Black children who don’t do well in school are at greater risk of being further marginalized by society via incarceration and poverty.
Do you know what I see when I look at my Black students who are falling between the cracks? I see kids who are undereducated and over-disciplined. I see kids who are crying out for love and attention. I see kids whose creativity is mistakenly touted as disruption. I see kids who are simultaneously angry and misunderstood with no viable outlet for a positive expression of their angst.
I am an English teacher, but a lot of the time I’m listening to my students and addressing their emotional needs, not teaching them English. We talk so much about student trauma but the reality is that many — too many Black children like so many Black people in general — are living in a perpetual state of trauma. We’re traumatized by our men being incarcerated more than any other people on the planet. We’re traumatized by the day-to-night work we do outside of our homes just to barely make ends meet. We are traumatized by the constant micro-aggressions that we endure every day of our lives being Black in America. As an adult, I’m telling you that it is a difficult existent to navigate.
According to Erica Loop,
Societal problems affect more than just the adult population. From racism to a topsy-turvy economy, students and schools often feel the effects that trickle down from other sources or social systems. As prominently noted in the ecological theory of child development, students, schools, communities and even more abstract societal concepts are all linked together, connecting to and influencing every level of a child’s growth and learning.
To see my students struggle to successfully navigate their educations breaks my heart. It’s like they recognize the plethora of obstacles stacked against them and at a young age they’ve already given up. What’s going to become of us as a people if that sensibility catches a fire? What role will the education they receive in school play in making us whole?
Honestly, as optimistic as I am, today I saw something different. I saw things getting worse before they get better. I saw that “check-out” look in some of my students’ eyes. My God! They’re only 12 and 13 years old. This can’t become our truth. Not on my watch. Not on any of our watches. I’m going to need any and every educator who even remotely understands what I’ve shared in this post to join me in doing something about the apathy and disheartened posture that is pervading our students of color. They need help. They need us.