This is one of the most critical think pieces on education I’ve read in a long time, published in Medium by Lisa Kelly.
A moderate teacher often uses the rhetoric of maintaining high standards without interrogating themselves —holding students to high standards of what? As my comrade G.T. Reyes wrote, “Educators …if you’re still asking about how to “hold students accountable,” I would suggest you first ask yourself — accountable to what? This might sound crazy to some of you, but maybe you are wanting students to be accountable to learn their place within white supremacist, capitalist schooling.” Many credentialing programs teach that it is racist to expect that black and brown children are less capable than white children, which is absolutely true. However, this doesn’t mean that the solution is to expect any student to reproduce capitalism or whiteness.
From school uniforms to accountability, how white teachers continue to uphold white supremacy and colonialism comes in wave after wave. During this time of emergency remote learning and teaching, the number of teachers who are aghast at students turning in blank documents (they did this before, by the way), terrified of students cheating, not being accountable, on and on and on…ladies: you are exhausting. And students continue to act like, well, students. The cat and mouse game of “gotcha” is part of the teacher-student dynamic: but does it have to be?
The first answer that comes to my mind would be — schooling that is centered on relationships. Not relationships that are about getting kids to like you enough to want to produce for you. But relationships built on understanding the unique humanity and the community that each child brings to education.
Every year, sometimes at several check points, I give students surveys to express and provide confidential opinions on my teaching, what they liked, what they wish would change, etc. And overarching themes emerge: they want to wear what they want, and learn about things that will empower them in the moment, in an unknown future, and that feel relevant and worth their time. (Gee, almost like this generation understands existential crisis or something.)
As I continue to grow as an educator, I am mindful that I will always need to push against racist ideas and bias. I am fortunate to have a spot on the Wednesday webinars with Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi on their collaborative book, Stamped. I am going to ask my admin if we can use this as a book study for next year: if not the entire staff, then perhaps my immediate ELA colleagues would be interested.The essential piece of all this is as we’re reimagining schools, beware of who’s trying to hold teachers “accountable” and who is building authentic relationships. Those people service in complicity to hold teachers and students accountable, too. Look for those who include teachers’ and students’ voices, who have experience in making those connections. We cannot underestimate the danger we’re in right now. And personally I am struggling to hold onto hope. As the person said in Samantha Bee’s video, I now consider myself to be, as Meehan Crist quotes, an “Undefeated Despair.”
Keep focused: what brings us to teaching, what brings children to learning, and what are the most critical things to teach? That’s it. I am thinking about entire semester of simply reading critically for argument and bias, and how to have fluency and accuracy in detecting bias and agendas. Looking forward to digging into this resource, too: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/qanon-nothing-can-stop-what-is-coming/610567/
PS Something that popped up from the past — it’s a charter school, but am wondering–you know–https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/47694/to-engage-students-and-teachers-treat-core-subjects-like-extracurriculars