Take a moment, if you will, and look at the bar graph above. If you notice, "Black" is listed at the very bottom of the totem poll....as usual. It seems as though every ethnic group known to man is performing at much higher rates than the black population. I put this here to give an example of how wide the education gap is in relation to ethnicity according to the California Department of Education. I'm not here to talk statistics; however, I want to bring facts based on my personal experience and observation taken over the last 10 years as an educator.
Working across several different demographics ranging from White to Hispanic, poor to wealthy, English learners to fluent English speakers, I have seen different variations as to how these students are taught and disciplined. Over the years, I have studied the pattern in education and followed a lot of political topics concerning the education system in general. And what I have learned is that regardless of the school, the subject, or the district, black students are treated in a much harsher, non-compassionate way than any other student from different ethnic backgrounds. The problem is much deeper than Title I schools or teaching in low-income, poverty stricken areas. The issue is with the teachers and their inability to reach out to black students with compassion. I want to be sure that I emphasis my direct experience in the education sector because it is not cut and dry like most parents think, and it is more political than many parents and students could possibly imagine.
When the Department of Education (DOE) introduced the TEACH Grant, it allowed for more students entering college to enroll in a Bachelor's degree program in an attempt to get more educators into classrooms. This allows for teachers to get up to a $4,000 grant per year for teaching at an elementary or secondary school in a low-income area for four years. I studied Journalism and Communications in college (I planned to be a journalists and ended up in education); after completing my program, I started to second guess my decision and thought it would have been better to go after the grant and teach in a low-income school to shave off some money when it's time to pay the good ole' DOE back. But after talking to a lot of educators who accepted the grant and pledged to teach poverty stricken students for at least 4 years, I found out that it is not as glamorous and fulfilling as it seemed. Let me rephrase that; "they" found out that it is not as glamorous and fulfilling as they thought. And when I say "they," I mean white people; females specifically.
The problem I ran into over the 3 years I spent working in a Title I school is that the white teachers were there for one reason, and that is to fulfill their 4 year agreement in order to save $4k a year in student loan debt. They could care less about educating poverty stricken Black and Hispanic students. They walk up and down the hallways with their arms folded as if they're some sort of genie floating on a cloud without a care in the world. They openly say that they'll be leaving once they complete their 4-year agreement. It's sad because this kind of mentality leaves minority students at a double disadvantage. One being that they never once intended to truly and genuinely teach our students in the first place; Two, it makes the education system look like a revolving door of teachers. Seeing the disadvantage that our Black and Hispanic students are at when it comes to education is heartbreaking to me. Many teachers take on the job for paid holidays and summer vacations year-round. Don't get me wrong, teaching is a stressful job regardless to what demographic you are teaching; however, it involves a lot of patience, the ability to connect, a deep rooted understanding and investment in the community that you are teaching in.
The problem the nation is now facing is the lack of black teachers stepping in to teach in general. Currently, working in a predominately wealthy white school, I can account for a total of 7 black teachers and staff (including myself), and the rest are white. The average classroom houses roughly 24 students, and out of those 24 students, at least 2 black students can be found in each classroom. Working in a school such as this one is challenging for me as a passionate educator because I see the blatant mistreatment black students face daily and the extreme difference in compassion towards our students. Go to www.greatschools.org and it will give you the breakdown on every single school across America so you can get a better idea about the makeup of a lot of schools in various cities and towns.
As a support teacher providing instructional support to students with learning disabilities, I have only white students on my roster that are in need of servicing. Majority of the student body makeup in need of additional support are Caucasian, with only 2 black students throughout the entire school suffering from a learning disability. Yet somehow, black students are failing at an alarming rate on a national level. Grant it, I don't teach students across the nation, therefore, I am speaking on behalf of the issues in my district, and in my opinion, there should be no reason for black students to be as low as we are claimed to be. My white students are very disrespectful, unwilling to participate in engaging activities, and carry a privileged attitude as if they don't have to do work. They are struggling in all areas including reading, writing, math, science and social studies. They want questions read to them because their comprehension is low, and they try to get answers to test questions by saying things like "I don't get it," or "could you just tell me what to write."
In regards to discipline, white students get away with murder without the slightest outrage from teachers. They talk back and even give permission for their parents to be contacted about their behavior by making remarks like "I don't care," or "you can call them if you want to." And this is because nothing will be done at home. The teachers will be reprimanded by the parent for contacting them about their child; how dare a teacher bother a parent about their child after they've had a long day at work because it's a teachers job to deal with the disrespect their child brings to school. That is the attitude of America's privileged families. In other words, don't bother e-mailing because you'll only get politely cursed out for informing parents on their child's progress. Let statistics tell it, black or Hispanic, low-income poverty stricken families are least likely to care about their child's education and performance in school. This has been proven false to me over the last 10 years. White parents are extremely busy working and expect the teacher's to do their job. But what they fail to realize is that learning does not end in the classroom. Showing up at PTA meetings and conferences doesn't count because that does not guarantee that ongoing issues have been addressed.
Some of the responses I have seen coming from white teachers regarding the behavior of white students sound like this:
As for black students, one example is a black male starting kindergarten this year and he is having a hard time adjusting because he never attended school before, not even the free Pre-K program that is offered in the State of Georgia; therefore, he is unfamiliar with what it is like to be in a school setting. I can excuse this, he simply does not know the rules and therefore needs to be taught how to maintain in a public school setting. I get this, but for some reason my white colleagues don't seem to understand. The first time he runs out of the classroom screaming in frustration, all of the white teachers say that he needs to go and that "he doesn't belong here." This makes me very angry because there is no compassion for our black students at the hands of white teachers. There is no patience or even the slightest attempt at understanding. The first reaction is "he's got to go." This is something that frustrates me because I see the blatant disrespect that whites have towards us and the fact they don't see anything wrong in what they are saying. White people have become immune to racial bias and injustice because they don't even think it exists. Let them tell it, Black people are the ones overreacting all of this. So when a black child is struggling at school, it's because:
I am honestly struggling to find the right words to put this article into perspective so that you can follow where I am coming from and truthfully, part of me feels bad for speaking out on this issue because I genuinely care for my students and I give them 100% when I'm there; Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, it doesn't matter because I take pride in my work and I want what's best for my students. A lot of white teachers do not carry this same attitude and devotion as black teachers. They think it's all about putting things on paper in order to look good or to get recognition from colleagues or administration for a "job well done." Black teachers actually take pride their work and their students. We slip in the door and slip out everyday without a gripe, complaint, or moan over a hard day of educating the future, our opinion isn't valued anyway. The education system in America needs a more common sense approach and a common connection to students. This is something that black educators can offer because we adapt well in various environments and our diversity in reaching out to others is something that this country could use more of.
I apologize for the fluctuation within this article. I was in my feelings when I wrote this.
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