It’s been all over the news that the Fairfield Board of Education in Ohio had to suspend a white high school teachers, Gil Voigt, for telling a black male student, “We don’t need another black president“. The story reminded me that, as black parents, we entrust our children to people who may not have their best interest at heart. For that reason, I think that we need to do a post-school debrief each day because we need to counteract any benign racism our children may have experienced.
Teachers or dream crushers?
I’ve seen first hand a teacher’s benign racism which can crush a child’s future ambitions. I had the opportunity to student teach when I was in law school and I heard a well-meaning teacher tell the class of mostly black students that people who used to be victimized now use that history to complain and get out of being productive. While she didn’t say black people, it was clear who she was talking about. I discussed it with my professor and we were able to come up with a lesson plan to pushback at what the teacher had probably been telling those kids all along.
I wondered then if the students discussed their experiences with their parents but as a parent now I realize that we have to gently pry out of them a run down of what their day was like. Most importantly we have to counteract the negative they may have heard in school with consistent messages of cultural pride. The research shows that black children who are proud of their heritage do better in school and I think it’s because their self-esteem acts as a protective mechanism.
Short of pulling your child out of school and homeschooling, what can you do? Well, I found a blog that has an excellent guide about how to debrief your child after school in a way that doesn’t come across an interrogation. Here’s a sample from the article:
Demonstrate a curious and open mind:
Ask open-ended “green light” questions.
“How did that come up?” “Is that important?”
|Patterns Emerge||Over time you’ll start to understand your child’s likes and dislikes by the repeating themes.|
|Understanding||People—especially kids—don’t always have the language needed to express thoughts and feelings so it’s up to us to watch for opportunities to decipher their important messages. See Patterns Emerge.|
|Connection||Being understood is a relief; a relief that is rewarded by the relationship it fosters.|
|Influence||Communication is an artful relating skill that requires grace, elegance, and lots of practice and patience. Done well, you’re connected to your kids by common ground and you’ll have a greater range of ways in which to respond to them.|
|Promise Kept||We promise to teach our kids to value themselves as worthy of all good things. By demonstrating how to value your gifts to her, you’re making good on the promise.|
I know that Voigt isn’t representative of all teachers. I know that. But even if only 1 child out of every 10,000 is affected, it’s still 1 too many. So please check out the blog above and when school starts up again, debrief your child about their day.
Questions: Are you already doing a debriefing? Can you share what you are doing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
- White Teacher to Black Student: We Don’t Need Another Black President (theroot.com)
- After School Debrief (peacemaker-coach.com)
I talk with my child’s teachers in as many social settings as I possibly can to get a real flavor of what that person is like – as a person, not a teacher. I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by the people that my brown son is exposed to in school and I am glad. I am glad that I know, as much as I can anyway, who these people are and I plan on teaching him how to do his best to deal with these difficult people in his life. It is not my job to make his life easier by removing him from tough people and tough situations while in middle school. He will need to do the same when he is no longer with me and I hope he will have enough experience to roll with the punches when he is older – and keep the dreams tightly in his grasp.
I love this: “to get a real flavor of what that person is like – as a person, not a teacher.” I think sometimes that we forget that these are human beings who may or may not have flaws and we entrust our kids to them. For instance, I live across from a teacher and I would hate for her to teach my child to even tie his shoes. My son’s enrichment teacher is a nice person period which makes her a great teacher. Yep, we cannot separate the person from their profession.