Thursday, December 23, 2021

Is Santa Burned? Are People of Color Represented in Your Classroom/School?

My teacher-friend hung a Black Santa in her room. One of her 4th graders asked her why Santa was burned. 

The other day, I received a presentation on the dangers inherent in social media. I scrolled through the slides, and then something made me scroll through the slides again.  There were 30 slides and there were no people of color. None. Are there no situations where people of color use social media?

Look around your classroom. Do your students of color see themselves? Do your other students see people of color?

I went into a classroom where the teacher's theme was superheroes. Superheroes were all over that room. Not one superhero of color.

And it doesn't matter what the population of your class is. People of color should be depicted in some way in order to acknowledge that they exist. That they matter. That their contributions to the world aren't only faces plastered as mug shots on the nightly news. And I'm not just talking about February. Every month, in every classroom, our children of color should see themselves or the students in your room should see people of color.

It is almost the end of 2021, and the fact that a Nigerian Medical student/artist went viral for drawing an illustration of a black baby in a womb is appalling. A black baby in a womb! He went viral. Why? People of color are not represented in textbooks and diagrams, and for many, this was the first time they had seen a black person in a medical illustration.

You might say, "It doesn't matter" or "What difference does it make?"

I remember growing up, watching television with nothing but white actors. Reading books with nothing but white characters. Learning history, from the majority of my teachers, that did not reflect the contributions of my ancestors. I remember taking a white sheet, twisting it on my head, and shaking it around, trying to mimic straight long, flowing hair. 

Because of this I am very deliberate about the images I use, the books I read aloud to my class, even the videos I show. I make sure that people of color are represented.

Be deliberate about what is hung in your room and around your school.

Be deliberate about the books you choose.

Be deliberate about the images you use in presentations or the videos you show.

Our children need to see representations of themselves, and other children need to see these as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Imagine the Impact:Productive, Positive, Post-Observation Meetings

My first year teaching in a NYC public school I sat down with what would now be considered a "student advisor" for my post-observation session. He asked me how I felt the lesson went. I told him I thought it went pretty well.

He replied snarkily, "You must think very highly of yourself."

Well actually, yeah, I did. I was 24 and confident as hell, I still am.I knew I had room for improvement, but I also knew my lesson went pretty well.

Was his comment helpful? Not at all.

I recently sat down for my post-observation with my current admin. How refreshing! It's not often that you get to sit down and have a productive, positive, discussion about what is observed in the allotted 45 minutes.

I was taken aback when my admin said, "Ok, let's look at this first standard. What would you give yourself?" 

I am usually very confident about my lessons and how they are perceived. However, after years of being observed, and fighting to get the score I believe I deserved, I guess my level of confidence has been slightly diminished.

After years of feeling like every observation was going to be turned into a "gotcha", which would then turn into me writing rebuttals, and evidence to support said rebuttal, I didn't know how to respond.

I always say I don't care about those numbers. 4 or a 3, who cares? As long as I am not given a 2 or a 1,it doesn't matter.  But when I know I am good, and I deserve a 4, whether I admit it or not, I want my 4.

So when I was asked, I felt I deserved a 4 for the standard. But instead of saying that, I stuttered, flustered, and floundered for words. But she pushed. 

"Tell me what you think you deserve, and tell me why." 

And I did. I told her I deserve a 4 because... And when I was done, she agreed. Not only did she agree, but she pointed out things that happened during my lesson that I didn't even realize I did to meet the criteria for a 4.

And we continued... It was such a positive encounter.

Understand, when I teach, or when I am being observed, those numbers are not in my head at all. I just do what I do. Engage my learners to the best of my ability, in any and every way I can, Make sure they are learning in a safe, warm, environment. 

But when I sit down for a post-observation meeting, I want it to be a discussion about what is happening in my classroom, where I can grow, and of course what positive things are happening. I hate those numbers that are applied to my teaching, but as of right now, it is what it is.

Oh, back to that "student advisor." circa 1984. After he made those comments,I heard nothing he said, so that post observation was useless. I was angry. I went back to my classroom and ranted to my colleague. Then I typed up a letter to my principal about what was said to me, and how I felt about it. I can't remember if we had a meeting, but the end result was that he was told he would never observe me again.

It's been so long since I had a productive post-observation meeting, I forgot what they can look and sound like. If only, they could all be this way. Imagine the impact.