With so much divisiveness in this country, and the lack of respect for our cultural pluralism:
I envision a day when public education becomes the true equalizer that it is supposed to be for all who enroll their children into a system designed to prepare them for life, college and career success. Educators will no longer view ‘different’ as deficient, but just as determined as all others to live the American Dream and realize their own dreams as global citizens.
I envision a day when educators will teach, not to the test, but to the students and with relevance to instill cultural pride, self-love and respect for diversity. Children will learn with purpose and determination and will each be presented with sufficient ‘mirrors’ and ‘windows’ that will encourage each to pursue their own excellence. Schools don’t employ short-sighted persons who lack confidence necessary to show respect for anyone who doesn’t look, live or believe as they do. Schools are the environments where safe, supportive exploration of ideas and concepts aren’t dictated, but presented for thorough examination, comparison and contrast for deeper meaning, and only empirical data is deemed right or wrong. Students are encouraged to exercise their natural curiosity and ask intelligent questions and act as independent thinkers.
I envision a day when going to school is a daily excitation FOR ALL CHILDREN. Learning is interesting, relevant, challenging, thought-provoking. Educators acknowledge that everyone has a gift-an intelligence and make it their mission to uncover, discover and develop them in class. Educators authentically engage parents within the community and everyone sees the bigger picture…. It is all about the ‘village’. Educators do not fear making home visits and they meet parents where they are, as equally valuable educators with shared interests.
Parents are empowered as advocates, leaders, and decision-making partners with schools, and schools are linguistic & culturally-responsive community hubs. Food insecurity is mitigated, medical needs are addressed, behavioral health services are accessible, and comprehensive family supports are provided in a village collaborative. In fact, some schools have designated space for laundry, and babysitting services are regularly provided to parents with young children. Parents have a space to learn with flexible hours while acquiring work readiness skills, resume writing, interview skills, and parenting enhancement groups in school. Multi-generational strategies exist and parents are involved in all matters pertaining to learning.
I envison a day when teachers no longer over-discipline students because they don’t ‘get’ them, because educators possess empathy, insight and cultural proficiency. Before assuming, they will ask questions to engage students authentically and restoratively. Social justice takes place in the classroom, and not the police precinct.
I envision a day when, whether African-American, LGBTQ, Puerto-Rican or Sudanese, instruction is responsive to the cultural background, complementary to the unique identities of students and aligned with the standards. The core curriculum, responsive to student demographics, is individualized according to student interests, strengths and in preparation for meeting the demands of a tech-rich, information-driven global workforce. Students are prepped for the future, realizing their potential as change makers, culture creators, and compassionately global citizens.
I envision a day when Black History Month is not just celebrated during February, but throughout the school year, as educators dutifully endeavor to teach beyond the texts…in every class, every subject, because there are countless resources that align with instructional content and resonate with students. Teachers expose students to their own cultures as well as the cultures of others. That is only just and fair. Students respond to it. After all, it is what students need to feel they belong in that environment.
I envision a day when teachers understand that every child needs a hero. Whether parents, neighbors or someone from the past, there is a hero for everyone in every subject. Heroes are positive people who inspire others, motivate, mentor, encourage, and enlighten, and they don’t have to be alive; just relevant and relatable.
I envision a day when teachers are not afraid to expose children to cultures and they yearn to learn as much as the children. Teachers are unafraid to learn along side the students, invite opinions, perspectives and seek understanding but respect all, whether agree or disagree.Teachers have become literate in Emoji, students’ native language
I see a day when we have abandoned the biased textbooks that are given to students, developing minds, and teach without them, with relevance and inclusively to affirm and engage every child. On that day, teachers will have experienced their ‘aha’ moments and have had their breakthroughs to eradicate the gaps, disparities and disproportionalities. These former barriers to achievement were remnants of implicit bias and inequity. Educators are aware that the privileges they have been afforded are not afforded to all. They understand that their role is to give students the tools and skills to afford equally accessible opportunity for success.
I envision a day when teachers understand that when people feel they have little to no agency or control in their lives, that the illusions of control they do possess is exercised in choice of names, slang-language, dance, musical expression, and that each provides clues to their worldviews. What is noise to you is perceived as melodious self expression to others. Educators have a keen awareness that everyone has different experiences and one person is not indicativeof an entire group, race or culture..
On that day, teachers realize that expecting student achievement, good conduct and engagement is fruitless on the larger scale, if nothing is relevant to them. Teachers understand that ELA was never relevant with only Chaucer and Hemingway, but perhaps Alice Walker, Dumas,[Three Musketeers], Richard Wright[ for high school ], or if Gershwin and Porter are not sprinkled with Parker, Joplin, Marsalis[either brother]. Science with Edison, and not including Ponce DeLeon. Mlk accompanied by Andrew Young, Percy Sutton, Nikki Giovanni, Hughes, Jones, Tupac, and teachers brought these people to life in the classroom. No one is invisible in history or life and anything that tells that version is not in children’s best interest and not quality education but quasi-education.
Huey Long is explored with as much depth and meaning as Huey Newton. Gordon Parks is explored alongside Hitchcock. Vuitton is introduced with Bentley Farnsworth, Dorothy Dandridge with Marlene Deitrich and Lena Horne. Ella Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway and Sally Hemmings. Paul Robeson and Paul Simon. Maya Angelou and Margaret Sanger. Flying Tigers and Tuskegee Airmen.
I envision a day when children, adolescents, make mistakes-poor decisions/choices, and are not taken out of that learning environment ONLY TO BE ARRESTED. Children will not be placed in handcuffs and shown the pipeline to prison. Instead, the pursuit of potential and practices which are restorative. Acquiring the capacity and mindfulness that when maladaptive behaviors emerge, educators will reframe, redirect and respond less punitively. This is an environment in which appropriate and adaptive behaviors are also learned.
I envision a day when educators are mindful of the differences between intent and impact of behaviors instead of taking offense by these expressions, understand that their students’ range of emotional literacy skills is still developing and incomplete and can be unreliably appropriate.
The education that I envision is one in which all children enter the classroom as gems and each is valuable. Teachers focus on strengths, and build upon them. Pedagogues take a captive audience and captivate them with challenging, and relevant knowledge with which students carry into the world as life long learners.
I envision a day when teachers’ salaries match the magnitude of their roles in shaping our future, and there is no more cognitive dissonance regarding diversity in the educator community. No longer will slang phrases, clothing styles, music genres, and physical characteristics of blacks be appropriated by whites and at the same time an underlying air of superiority is also held. For these conflicts, at the subconscious level, emerge in attitude and behavior, and blacks have so eloquently described it as being ‘two-faced’-you know, smiling in my face and hating me when not in my presence. It shines brighter than the words or deeds. This day, we have fully learned to respect and appreciate one another.
On this day, the love of teaching and the love of learning collide, students do less sitting and more doing. Educators greet each student with delight, and not disappointment that a student is in his or her class. Teachers invite the challenges and also collaborate with the school community to support learning and achievement of all students.
On this day, learning at school is deeply digital, actively experiential, intensely engaging, family-friendly, futuristic, future-focused and future-ready. Parents are empowered and equally engaged in the learning process. Their children, our children are the future-your future, my future, our future, and educators understand that. Moving forward, no matter where we start, the focus is on where we are going, and where we take them, because soon they will be in the driver’s seat moving forward into the future.
On this day, that day will never end, for it will be the change that we wish to see. It will look like the future and it will be a daily reality in future-focused 21st Century education!