As Black educators we must take a stand for our black boys, love them or leave them alone. As Ava DuVernay’s latest Film When They See Us points out, when they see us, they fear us and develop narratives no matter how different the truth is. Who are they? Bigots, racists, oppressors or small minded folks who refuse to analyze America and it’s sorted history with racism. It’s safe to say if you grew up in America, prejudice and bias runs deep within you, so we must consciously fight to dismantle it, especially in our schools. When we see them we need a new, unified response. They are ready to act when they see black boys, so let’s meet them where they are be ready to challenge the status quo when we see them.
Black boys specifically are over suspended, over expelled, and placed into remedial classes faster than any other sub-group in this country. We must love these babies that much more fiercely, because this country continues to tell them “you don’t matter”. When the world has only feared you, it's a wonder you continue to thrive. So to counterbalance the acts of ignorance and hate, educators must love them extra. Now be clear love doesn’t mean low expectations, in fact it means the opposite high standards, high belief that they can reach them, and high support to make sure they do so. How do you do this? We have a few suggestions:
SEE THEM AS PEOPLE, NOT STATISTICS or NARRATIVES
Ask them questions, get to know them, learn about their parents/families, find out what they love to do. When you really see them, you will grow to love them because they are beautifully made.
TELL THEM YOU CARE
It’s never been helpful to anyone to hear “I got my degree, you need yours” so stop using that destructive and privileged language. Instead tell them “I care about you, I know what it takes to get to college, and I’m here to help you accomplish your goals”. It lands better, gets desired results faster, and saves you from looking like an ass.
SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS, KEEP THEM THERE
You help absolutely no one by lowering the bar because you think it’s best for their future.Too many teachers “underestimate the potential of black children more than that of whites” (Smith, 2005), so avoid that.Truth moment-a study found that “the effort and academic motivation put forth by African American students was as high or higher than that of White students” (Smith, 2005). The real question is how will you use that motivation to help them.
This is the responsibility of every educator regardless of race, remember you joined an ongoing intense fight for equality. Therefore we don’t have time for you to get your bearings, and then act. We need you to join the right side of history and call out the hate when you see it, immediately. My son, who is 4 is more than someone else’s fear, and I plan on making sure the world learns to see him for all his complexities and greatness. I fight for all black boys, because their stories are rich and full of resilience. Make some time to listen today because that small action impacts them more than you know!
Keep fighting for equality,
It was the Spring of 2017, I was working full time as an Assistant Principal of a well known Charter Network, and tired would’ve been an understatement. I was in year 9, and wanted to be the forever educator that former students could come back and see decades later. However, with another school year on the horizon, and no summer break in sight I recall feeling depleted, overwhelmed, and weary. It got so bad that the stress began to take a physical hold on my body that summer. I dropped weight, fell into a depression, and began to suffer from anxiety, which was totally foreign to me. As most people do in dark times, I went home to visit my Mom.
After some nerves, many tears, and lots of hugs I confessed to my mom “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. I felt I was letting her down. As a single mom, she worked to put me through college, and here I was leaving a 10 year career that I worked tirelessly for, what would I do next? My mother stopped my thoughts and spoke over me, “Baby working that hard, and missing out on your life is never worth any price. You’ll figure it out, I support you”. With encouragement in tow, I left Rhode Island that November confident that leaving was right for me, my family, and my mental health. Keeping my secret was agonizing, and I wondered if leaving was the right thing too many times to count. Luckily, my inner voice continued to narrate that I needed to leap out on faith.
I spoke to my Principal in January of 2018, and though the conversation was a tough one, it was a necessary step. From that point on, I decided to focus on closing out my 10 year journey on a high-note, prioritizing my mental health, and loving on myself and family more. May 26th, 2018 was my last day of a decade long trip and it was bittersweet, but what happened after has been nothing short of amazing. Fast forward a year later, and I am now the CEO & Co-Founder of my own Educational Consulting Firm, Restore More. We help schools train teachers to enhance the Social-Emotional Development of students.
This is the work I am most passionate about, helping black and brown students better manage their emotions to thrive and be successful. It was the part of the job that fueled me most, and now I get to do it ALL day. This undertaking has been a wild ride and I can’t wait to share more as we travel the bumpy road of a social innovation start-up. With this blog we hope to educate, uplift, and unite communities, especially of color, by providing insight into our worlds & minds.
Welcome to the Journey,
My business partner and I at a Pitch Night event!