Teaching Black Stuff

 


...a white student told me that his father was questioning the amount of "black stuff" I was teaching. He said his father said, "You teach us about this so much because its all you know." I was very offended. Even with all of my degrees and accolades, in this parent's opinion, my belief in the need to expose the youth to such vital and often misinterpreted/ misrepresented aspects of history was not because it was important enough for them to learn about but because it was all I {their young black teacher} knew. I was infuriated at such an ignorant  accusation and indignant at the way he facilely passed the torch of bigotry down to his son. But instead of standing strong on my beliefs and subverting against him, I grew insecure. Maybe I believed his father. Maybe that was all I really knew. So I cowered away from wanting to empower my students through the exposure of their history as a people and began to try implementing more Eurocentric pieces of text, while keeping my lectures on being black in America to myself. That didn't last long though. It wasn't natural and I found myself back in front of my students, showing them movies like "Do the Right Thing" and assigning homework assignments that prompted them to find out as much as they could about Eric Garner. I had to. And now I finally realize why. It's because what my student's father said was right. "Black" culture is what I know. It is not "all" I know but it is a subject that I am well versed in because of my own personal experiences, an extensive knowledge of my people's history, and my crescive intelligence level. 

As I write this, I feel like a veil is being lifted, I am at the forefront of a newfound vision of my purpose in the classroom. I finally realize that critical pedagogy cannot just live in scholarly journals, it has to be brought to life in urban schools as well. Empowering my students with self-actualization is my passion and my purpose but I cannot stop there. I have to coach other teachers and show them that no matter what race and class structure they come from; this can be done in their classrooms as well. Focus must be diverted from ones race as a teacher and directed toward ones actions. As educators of such disenfranchised children, we all have a responsibility to do this work and do it well. 
 
This work begins with 3 steps. First, one must have a keen understanding of who their students are, not just as African Americans or urban youth (although that does play a huge role) but also as individuals. The next step is to face the realities of the purpose of educating African American children in this country. After facing the reality, a decision must be made by educators about whether they will reconstruct our systems or reinforce them. If the first two steps are taken, then the last one will come naturally. Educators must be reflective on who they are, the role they play in their students’ lives, and what else they need to do to continue to close the achievement gap among their students.

Now begins my journey. I am going to have to re-construct my pedagogical skills and build upon my theoretical knowledge-base so that I can be effective enough to give other educators the tools to empower themselves and students in the same way. 

Comments

  1. You take the words out of my mouth! "I finally realize that critical pedagogy cannot just live in scholarly journals." we must do the work. We need more teachers like you! Keep up the good work.

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  2. I'm planning to teach more "black stuff" next school year...

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