Long story short: I posted this TikTok on a large English teacher group, with the point being the teacher doesn’t have to leave out her “non-honors” kids in asking about books. We’ve all seen the fragility and defensiveness, and my only point or request to other teachers was not to do this. It was a fun activity, and could be a great activity if the teacher just made one adjustment. I came across the TikTok from another teacher I follow and greatly respect on Twitter.
That set off a firestorm in the comments. Many teachers, most white, were admonishing me for posting her TikTok, which is public by the way, and a lot of ‘how dare I’s?’ and not to blast new teachers — we can’t keep teachers in the profession, according to some comments, because of people like me who are so mean to new teachers.
Well, okay. This isn’t a job for the faint of heart. And I realized the post turned into a dump-on-Kelly instead of focusing on the pedagogy. Many teachers want to strive for equity and inclusion, and when an example popped into my social media, I should have seen the potential fall out. Only a few good souls saw it for what it was.
And here’s the thing: the teacher responded to me. She’s not new. She posted this TikTok and rebutted all the critiques. It is so hard not to be defensive in this profession. Ask me how I know. And it hurts. All I am asking is that, please, when you come across something that could possibly harm students, speak up. And if you don’t want to speak up, send me a message.
Do I make my own TikToks? Maybe. And I do agree that critiquing something is destructive and not constructive. Stick around, though, while I build things back up. I do not offer insight w/o trying to offer solutions.
And as Selena Carrion said:
One thought on “Big trouble.”
I think they got upset because the fragile white folks did what fragile white folks do. To me, it says they’re making the same ignorant and harmful assumptions about their own students and are reacting from guilt.
I’ve worked at (and CHOOSE to work at) schools where the students are dismissed as “bad” or “uncapable” and I’ve never found those stereotypes to be true. And my kids – the ones that failed out of traditional high schools and were deemed the dregs of society – fully engaged with cannon books because I taught them how to enjoy reading. I’ve had students slam their book down on their desk, yell at me because “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!”, and ask to leave the room so they could have a moment to cry in the bathroom (The Hunger Games); decide to want to learn more about los desaparacidos and start an independent research project on it or follow up a reading of a book by starting a campaign to get students involved with the local NAMI chapter (I can’t recall the title of this book at the moment, and it’s packed away), and make loads of other life-changing connections to what they were reading – and all of them had been dismissed by traditional teachers and the traditional school system.
I’m telling you – tell a Mexican gangbanger that you want him to find out if white folks are wrong to dismiss a theory a Black man had about Fitzgerald writing Gatsby as a Black man trying to pass for white, give him the tools to understand how to do that, and you will be amazed at how engaged he is in proving that theory right. And then when he tells you that’s his favorite book of all time? You will never believe that “below level” readers can’t read at level or love books again.
Teachers need to stop underestimating their students and damning them with low expectations from the get-go. Students will live up or down to the expectations we set for them, always, and the know when we don’t expect them to achieve very much.
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