On Tuesday, one of my Instagram teacher friends posted a photo that stated, “If you teach in urban education and you are offended by players taking a knee, TAKE A SEAT. You are already deemed ineffective by your cultural incompetence.” As soon as I read it, I immediately reposted it and let out an obnoxious “YAAASSSSSS!” As teachers, especially in urban areas, we are responsible for being social justice warriors for and with our students. I am a firm believer in getting involved in current events and advocacy in the community.
All of my life, I’ve been a huge fan of the show, “A Different World.” In fact, my dream school was Howard University. As someone who is used to getting her “Blackness” questioned, I always believed that my life would’ve been different if I attended Howard. However, despite not attending a HBCU and getting all of the benefits of my Black card, I attended LMU, a Jesuit school that wholeheartedly focuses on social justice. It was there that I learned that teaching is not for the faint of heart; it’s for leaders and advocates.
At LMU, I learned that teachers in urban areas are not allowed the luxury of having students who submit homework on time, have Mac computers at home, are well-rounded students, and have amazing families. Sometimes, life doesn’t always deal our students that hand. Therefore, we must advocate for them. We must, nowadays, put our lives on the line for our students. We might have to stay at school until 7pm to help a student with work. We may have to provide our students with breakfast out of our own pockets because they haven’t eaten in days. It’s possible that our students know someone who has or have sold drugs themselves just to provide for their siblings. It may also be possible that we have to protect our students from ICE because the president is an orange idiot.
In the three years I’ve been teaching, I have made sure that my students know exactly where I stand on certain issues. With every outfit I put on my back, my views are in plain sight. In today’s times, it’s necessary. To build a rapport and trust, your students must know that they are safe in your care and you won’t allow any danger come their way without a fight.
In addition to my outfits, my assignments are heavily focused in culture and identity. From identity flags and choosing their spirit animals, I want students to be proud of who they are because there are many factors that influence their identity, and it’s okay to stand out. By the time my students leave my classroom, I want students to have an idea of their own identities and be wholeheartedly unapologetic about it. Although my students are in 7th grade, I want them to start advocating for themselves early so they are secure in their identities as they grow into young adults and beyond.
Do you agree?