In light of everything that has been going on in the news, especially in Charlotte, I must say this: teachers, please make space to discuss these events in your classrooms.
As a teacher, I am more than aware that the beginning of the year and the end of the year can be a very stressful time for parents, teachers, and students. However, we must not forget that even in the yearly and daily routine of starting a school year, the world continues to turn and our students bring all of the pretty and ugly that society has to offer with them into the classroom.
I once had a conversation with an administrator who thought that the best way of dealing with what he called the “sudden onset” of the Black Lives Matter movement in his school was to ignore it. He believed that when children came to school, they came to learn reading, writing, mathematics, and science. Because of his beliefs, he instructed his faculty and staff not to address the death of Travon Martin, Alton Sterlin, Jordan Edwards, and the countless others who died tragic deaths at the hands of police before and after them. Moreover, he instructed them to squash the issue or subject should it even come up in class by any of the students. This was his way of keeping what was happening outside of the school exactly where he thought it could stay: outside of the school walls. But that wasn’t the case, and it could never be that. In response to this attitude, students organized a school-wide and peaceful walk out to make the point that administration and faculty did not provide them with the support, education, and guidance they needed during that confusing and difficult time and that it was not ok. They understood the risks that came with walking out of school that way (suspension, expulsion, lost of membership on varsity teams, etc) but, as a student body, they believed in something and were not afraid to take a stand and do something about it to communicate their needs to the people who taught them. I was very proud of these students.
To believe that math class or science class (or any class, really) isn’t the right time or place to bring up the sometimes messed up reality that we all live in, is wrong. You can’t call yourself a teacher and think that addressing the police brutality, immigration and deportation, representation in this country, racism, and many other countless topics plastered all over the media since our newly elected 45th president came into office, is beyond your classroom.
These issues are in your classrooms, and next to your classrooms, and outside your classrooms and woven into the things that you chose to address, and lessons you chose to teach, and messages that you verbalize, and in all of the moments when you chose to remain silent. We are teaching both when we are speaking and when we are not. So it is time you become more intentional about making space for these conversations to happen in the classroom.
By Dora Acosta