With only 2 weeks left until the start of the 2019-20 school year, I’m still gathering resources (mainly picture books) to share with my students. After school ended, I spent 2 days in a Culturally & Historically Responsive Literacy training at Georgia State with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad. To say the training was transformative would be an understatement. While I entered knowing the importance of #RepresentationMatters, Dr. Muhammad helped me understand how to create more windows and mirrors for my students. While being able to speak and understand Spanish go a long way, I knew it wasn’t enough. Rightly so, nothing will make me comfortable being the minority in the classroom, but I am open to learning ways to make our space more reflective of my students.
I’ll be teaching 6th grade Resource Math and Science in a Metro-Atlanta district this year. Forty-five percent of our students are Hispanic; 22% are Black. The majority of the students in my classes were Hispanic. Yes, I know there is discourse regarding over representation especially in schools that are majority Hispanic and/or Black. This post is not about that. Instead, I want to share how I feel when I look into the (varying shades of) Brown faces, with brown eyes, and heads full of thick curly or wavy black hair.
Honestly speaking? There were a lot of days where I thought, “Damn, these kids deserve to have someone who looks like them, standing in front of them.” We had a total of three (noticeably, by name or features) Hispanic teachers, a counselor, an interpreter, and cafeteria staff. That’s not enough. Not even close.
Considering what we know about the traumas Black kids carry into school and those they experience in school, it does not take much effort to figure out the needs and traumas of our Hispanic students. We need not look any further than the tweets/political platform/racism of #YallPresident as one source of trauma. It trickles down and finds its way into our classrooms. Since White women comprise the majority of the teaching force, we must acknowledge the possibility (reality) that some share the same ideologies (?) as #ThatMan. Also: Black teachers can be guilty of this too.
I suppose this internal struggle I have with being the minority in the classroom is minor when it comes to what students are experiencing. Part of this anguish is due in part to being an empath. I can’t help it; it’s in my DNA. I need to find a way to accept the hugs, random drop-ins from kids who aren’t in my class, or the smiles that cross their faces when they learn I speak Spanish.
“More like Spanglish”, I tell them.