“On the whole, nonwhite districts receive significantly less funding than white districts. Because our system relies so heavily on community wealth, this gap reflects both the prosperity divide in our country and the fragmented nature of school district borders, designed to exclude outside students and protect internal advantage. For every student enrolled, the average nonwhite school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district.” – EbBuild
In this blogs designed for teachers and schools, you will find…
- The joys and mistakes that I experienced in teaching as I worked to throw away my own deficit mindset in place of a mindset of joy and honor for students, families, their cultural backgrounds, and their communities (also known as an asset mindset)
- How my students of color thrived as I presented antiracist lessons that attempted to center their ethnicities in a way that honored rather than ignored the image of God in each of them
- How I built trust and accountability by seeking out parent partnerships and demonstrating that I cared enough to see color and affirm nonwhite identities in the classroom
- How I discovered the harm inflicted on white students because of white-centered literature, curriculum, and incomplete history and how I worked to repair that harm and empower and excite my white students to be agents engaging in conversations of race and class with justice, mercy, and joy
- How I used my personal narratives on race and class from my own life and, through the use of children’s literature, facilitated student discussions that welcomed student narratives and challenged their academic minds and hearts
Over 12 years ago, when I began teaching in Minneapolis, I eagerly sought out teaching books from “expert teachers.” Classroom management was a constant focus in these books. I even remember older teachers joking that their classroom management tool was to “not smile until Christmas…”
In turn, I repeated this mantra. However, the more I taught, the more I began to smile, even laugh, daily and often well before Thanksgiving, Halloween, and even during the first few weeks of school. The more I shed this “the classroom is a battlefield” and “students against the teacher” approach, even without knowing it, the more I found that I had more in common with my students than some of the veteran teachers I had met within the books and schools where I had taught. Honestly, today I truly regret having jokingly proclaimed and even shared this mantra myself.
Early on in my teaching, I stopped trying to manage students, or should I say “control” them, and focused more on organizing and crafting my teaching practice to honor the precious time I had each day with my students and to honor the natural brilliance entrusted to my by their families. I suppose you can say that I realized that the deficits that schools and teachers were convinced came from the communities of my black and brown students and from within their families, instead primarily came from predominately white and upper-class institutions of power.
Although my students came to school each day with the rich beauty and brilliance gifted to them by their families, neighborhood churches, and communities, they were being subjected to school and districts plagued with an education debt birthed and perpetuated by a national history and tradition of class-race inequity. The deficit was not my students’ nor the result of their cultural backgrounds but instead stemmed from the cultural illiteracy of teachers and school officials and the unfair policies and distribution of local funding withheld from the communities that my students came from. Despite these disheartening realities, my students and I learned and made memories through the medium of humor and laughter during the first few weeks of school because life is too short and the school year to fast for me not to enjoy my babies!
VISIT OFTEN as more experiences and practical, tangible tools will be shared! The first step to beginning or returning to the joys of teaching when you yourself do not embody the cultural identities and spaces of the students that you serve begins with YOU – not them. Committing to the journey of an asset mindset starts with a change in – YOU. Don’t be surprised if it goes against most of the teacher/staff conversations, curriculum and instruction, and school and administrative culture that surrounds you. You may have the academic content and teaching degree to teach, but your students embody the key to how it should be taught. Their culture, communication styles, and ways of being are the mediums by which they learn best. Enter it with an open heart and mind and watch them change you far beyond the classroom!