Thursday, April 8, 2010

why i will never be black

A long while ago, when I first started this blog, I had this huge piece of sadness that occurred to me one day when a paraprofessional back in MA started talking to the kids in street, to help the kids along in a concept. It may not necessarily make me sad in the way of, "oh, that's depressing, he's talking street," it was more of a "wow, I will never know how to do that, nor will I ever be able to relate to my students in that way."

Race is powerful, and it's even more powerful when you look at yourself and you realize that there's something you just won't ever be or get, because you're not black/Latino/Asian/American Indian, whichever. It makes me sad that I can't ever connect to my African American kids like the other African American teachers can...I don't have the language, the attitude, or the understanding.

Today, the guidance counselor helped dispel a kid's anger about getting rid of his carrots (which I knew he was going to eat in class and/or throw) by just taking him by the arm, guiding him along the hall and covering his face. She moved in this ridiculously fluid motion, saying, "Nah, nah," making him laugh. She moved toward him, puffing her chest out like she was going to hit him--a fake, if you know what I'm talking about--which was more than obviously a joke. He calmed down instantly. I would never have handled that that well, at least not now, and it made me extremely sad. I don't know if I'm describing this so well, but there was this air of it that really said to me, "You won't be able to do this; you can't relate like that; you're not black."


Anonymous said...

Turn this around and think how these kids will never be understood in mainstream America, hmmmmmmmmmmm! You wouldn't accept that comment would you, otherwise you wouldn't be a teacher. So be yourself, sometimes race works for you and sometimes against you. It also works the other way around, "White is Right" - so if a white person says it, it must be okay. I've actually been in elementary schools were the kids denied they were black like me. She was successful with this child coz she made a connection, she used what she had, and you need to use "yours", whatever it is.

The Washington Teacher said...

It is important to establish a connection with our students through mutual respect in whatever manner we are able to do that. If we can develop this connection, then we can help our students work through whatever challenges they have regardless of our race. I am an African American and I believe we need many multi-faceted ways to reach our students. I believe that there are different types of models because no one strategy or model works for all of us at any given point in time.

I am sure you bring to the table something that this counselor you described lacks. While it may be easier for me to relate to a student of my same race, the true challenge of our skills is relating to students from different races and backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

Don't fake it - just be yourself. You have to use what you have, you also never know what the kids are thinking inside. You will find a way. Kids hate fakers, whether they are black or white. And believe me, I'm black but as a new teacher I'm seriously challenged by some (most) of these kids on a daily basis. Maybe what she also had was experience. DCPS makes you feel that when things don't go right it's the teacher's fault, but they don't provide new teachers with much support. I used to stress about everything, felt like quitting many times this year, now I take it day-by-day and just say to myself "I'm doing the best that I can with the tools that I have". Anyone from DCPS administration listening, your support for new teachers SUCKS.

Anonymous said...

I've been teaching in urban schools with black kids for the past seven years. And I'll never be black, either. And I don't try. I'm as white as white can be culturally But I don't think that matters to my teaching. I have high standards for my students, I work their butts off, I don't take their crap, and they love me. Way more than my white students ever did.

It's not about culture.

Anonymous said...

You just have to be real. Yourself. And don't be afraid to love your students, even if it means being tough and pissed sometimes.