Sunday, May 13, 2007

So Many Thoughts, So Little Time

There was a period of my life, when I was taking Sociology classes related to education and recruiting for Teach for America, that "closing the achievement gap" between white students and minority students in high-needs areas was a part of my daily discourse. Since I began teaching, I have been almost wholly focused on the individuals of my classroom. I haven't completely forgotten the bigger picture, but the words "closing the achievement gap" haven't crossed my lips or my mind in the past three years.

In the past week I have been in training to learn how to best teach a new group of alternate-certification teachers coming in in June. Suddenly, I'm delving back into theory and sociology. We spent a large portion of the time discussing an article by Lisa Delpit called "The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children."

Whenever someone begins to discuss race in relation to education, things get heated. I do believe that we need more diversity represented our teaching force. I don't only mean we should have more African American and Latino teachers, but also more male teachers. I strongly believe that students need role models that look like them. Some people get offended by this, because they view it as being synonymous with the idea that white teachers cannot teach minority children. It's not.

I'm thinking about what these new teachers will face in relation to how much I can give them and how much I still have to learn myself. I am a white teacher and while I try my best to meet the individual needs of each of my students, I worry about what they may face as minority students in America. I want them to succeed, and I find myself thinking beyond those individual needs and IEP goals to how to really teach them to move ahead within the "culture of power" that Delpit describes.

Last year one of my students asked why I was white and he was black. One of my friends had her students tell her that she was not white, because she was nice to them. My roommate and I have discussed how obsessed our students become over our blue eyes. They are very aware of the differences between themselves and their teachers, which means they must be aware of the lack of teachers that come from their own cultures.

I believe I am an effective teacher, mostly because I am passionate about what I do. I am dedicated to improving my students' academic achievement. But now that I have the opportunity to really look at the bigger picture again, I find myself filled with a desire to act. Right now I just don't know what action to take to tackle this huge issue. For the moment, I've just got to get my thoughts in order and organize what information I will share with this new group of teachers who have no idea what they're about to get in to.

No comments: