Around this time every school year, I reflect upon my professional glows and grows as well as my students’ academic and social progress. This year is no different. The four key things I learned this 2018-2019 school year are:
(1) It’s beneficial to build relationships with all students in my school — whether I am their classroom teacher or not. I’ve been fortunate to have a group of seniors show me love. The relationship I built with these seniors began when they were sophomores and I would cover their Spanish class when their teacher was out on leave. Whenever I saw them in the halls, we would talk and this year we really bonded. They come in my room, check on me, include me in their future plans. It is all just really rewarding — for all parties involved. I’m grateful for them and I can’t imagine going to work everyday and not seeing them.
(2) Being a vocal Black teacher in a predominantly White space can be very lonely place. There’s much to be said for speaking up and out against that which I know to be wrong; however, it’s not easy and much of the time, even when people know you’re right, they are hesitant to be public allies. Many are the private messages and hushed whispers of support for being vocal about the need for more Black teachers in the classroom and the need for more opportunities for Black students. Most of my public support, however, comes from other Black teachers who identify all too well with my sentiments. It can be lonely, but it is definitely worth it. Online communities become very relevant in such times.
(3) Social media is destroying our children. They are far too often unable to function without checking in on social media: Too much of their self-worth and validation is wrapped up in what is happening on the pages and timelines of their online spaces. We have become a society that allows externalities to define us and our children have bought into that lie hook, line, and sinker. Integrity is on the decline and is rapidly being replaced with the facade of keeping up appearances for likes and follows. We introduce technology to our children way too young and, quite frankly, books can hardly compete with all the bells and whistles that social media interactions provide. We are killing their love of reading and learning before it has a chance to take root and flourish.
(4) The active engagement of parents/guardians in their kids’ lives is crucial for their academic and social success. I repeat: The active engagement of parents/guardians in their kids’ lives is crucial for their academic and social success. This is the most important part of this blog post. There’s just no way around this one. No matter how busy our lives get as parents, we must commit ourselves to being partners with teachers and schools. Every year there are parents whom I never meet. Most of the time, those are the parents I need to see most urgently because their child is in jeopardy of failing my class. I know how hard parenting is and I know how busy life can be, but you must be involved in your child’s academic and social lives. If you can’t make it to the parent-teacher conferences, find someone in your circle of trust who can attend in your stead. If that’s not possible, call/email the teacher and ask for another way to meet. A quick 5-minute phone call can do so much. Get connected with whatever online grading tool your child’s school uses so that two-way communication between the school and you can be as easy as texting. Don’t stop at asking your child if they have homework. Ask to see it for yourself. Whether you understand it or not, that’s not the point. It’s about accountability.
In fact, this reflection is my act of accountability, As an educator, best practice suggests that self-reflection is ongoing, especially when it is written down and reviewed from year to year. This practice is worthwhile for all teachers, parents, and students. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you find this to be true for yourself as well.