Something that I'm thinking about a lot right now is how I’m going to support students and advocate for parents. Only my mom went to college, but neither of my parents knew how to advocate for education. They knew that if you did certain things then you would succeed, but between 4 children, my mom working full time and my dad in and out of the hospital, they didn’t have the time to sit with us every day and read bedtime stories. My parents knew the importance of education and how it could help with getting a career.
Also, I leverage my role as an opportunity to fight systemic racism in education. As a teacher, it’s my responsibility to provide students with skills to navigate our society. A critical part is identifying oppressive systems so students work around them. We currently have the highest rate of Black and Latino male students not graduating. It’s up to all of us educators to ensure that we catch those students and challenge the system that considers it acceptable to operate this way. We have to help them build enough confidence so that they go to school and successfully enter the workforce.
Still, there are many barriers that are beyond our control, like the pandemic. In some ways, the pandemic is helping educators realize that there are inequities. People have been saying this for years, but now others see it, too. As a colleague, I challenge my peers to act. Now that they’re realizing the inequities of the American education system, I’m encouraging them to take the next steps to ensure that students don’t fall through the gaps. For instance, I had students who were at a third grade reading level in tenth grade and we were reading The New Jim Crow. I wasn’t going to tell them that they couldn’t read that book and instead hand them a third grade reading level book. That’s not fair. It’s up to us to make sure that each student participates and to ensure that they have the tools for the next time they have to read a difficult hard text. To help students be successful I had the privilege working with a team of teachers that focused on different strategies. The school pushed our thinking about the different strategies to help support students.
The favorite buzzword in education is ‘equity’, ;anti-racist’, ‘Black educator’ even ‘woke’. As a teacher, it’s simple to look at your gradebook and say, who's failing my class and why? Or to ask yourself, why am I lowering standards to students at this moment in time? Too often, teachers give up on students by labeling them as incapable of learning a particular topic. Those students get left behind because no one is trying to create a scaffold or support for that student to succeed.
For parents, educators and everyone advocating for education – it’s not going to be fixed overnight. It's a really sad realization, but you can shift your approach to focus on the things that you can change. Ask yourself, what solutions can I play a part in? Each of us has a role to play in supporting students and enabling them to be the best that they can be.