It is February, National Black History Month, and public schools across the nation are supposed to dedicate a portion of instructional time to teach students about the unique African-American experience through the lens of “A People’s History” in this country. More important is American political ideology and practices impact upon the black experience and the countless UNKNOWN contributions to society. An exploration of the many origins of popular culture arise from this often maligned and misrepresented black culture, and yet how fractured we remain, has to inform and enrich instruction in order to frame historical relevance to students. Lest children know their past, we can’t expect them to imagine a future, for the present offers many no gifts.
I posed a challenge to educators, and asked that instructional context, not content be altered to witness a positive impact upon student engagement, motivation and behaviors exhibited in our classrooms. Once again, I can guarantee every one that there will be a remarkable difference in your students, and such changes can be sustainable. Even attendance will improve when relevance, respect, and affirmation enters the classroom in American schools.
We can’t possibly believe that children, today especially, will not present behavior problems and not pose constant challenges to teachers and structure within any school ‘system’, when that system does not demonstrate their authentic and comprehensive support of and for them.
We are asking students to be motivated to learn, behave AND engage, when none of the subject matter and content relates to life that helps them to explore who they are, which WILL always precede who they wish to be or how they will fit into society. Please, educate yourselves while educating, supporting and bringing meaning to student learning. Be as diverse as diversity is in class! These are your students! Teach to them as you teach to children who look like yourselves. Affirm them, and they will affirm your role as window to the world, with mirrors that help them to develop a love for learning at school and at home, as much as you say you love to teach.
#TEXTBOOKSSOWHITE means that we are teaching black and brown students to aspire to reach a level of positively contributors to society by preparing them to successfully navigate their future lives with purpose, drive and a solid sense of self. However, the inner and cultural self of most public school students is not reflected in the books that they are given from which to learn. That is #TEXTBOOKSSOWHITE! If we fail to affirm and feed the mind/soul, then don’t expect their bodies to cooperate with established classroom environments. Give students much needed substance that will make them want to engage and ‘behave’ in school settings.
The rise of charter school networks over traditional public schools, in my opinion, is about choice/ better options. Willful and purposefully adaptive school climate and culture, their schools, often in the same physical space as traditional public schools, not so rigidly bound to an outdated deficit model and success and achievement are an expectation, rather than an exception. Based upon identified strengths, instruction is aligned to the standards, but their educators, demonstrate full awareness of the demographics, a component of a whole child approach. and they adapt pedagogical methodology to the environment. At the point of instructional planning, they adjust and add relevant materials to support the learning objective. No loss of rigor, they affirm students, their families and provide all children with measurable, demonstrated quality educational experiences. That is the real difference-all about engagement, encouragement, and clear refusal to view children of color and their families as inherently deficient upon entry.
Teaching is already a difficult yet rewarding job, and so incredibly important. Let us no longer emphasize or go out of way to introduce and highlight black history within the limits and boundaries of the month of February. Sprinkle love and inspiration and encouragement throughout the school year. So your curriculum, or scope and sequence does not outline this instruction or content area, it is within every teacher, every educator and every school’s power to begin to bring relevance into school, because after all, the browning of America is real and the seeds we plant today will dictate either the growth of flowers or weeds in society’s future. Plant flowers and end the systematic ‘diss’-ing of diversity! It’s not them; it’s US in the U.S.A.. We keep growing weeds. BE THE CHANGE we need to see! Teach beyond the textbooks and teach to the students!