Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Lately I have been feeling pretty negative about my decision to become a teacher in an urban setting. Much of my negativity revolves around the baggage that comes with being a white teacher of black students (I plan to teach on the south side of Chicago, where most neighborhoods are extremely segregated, and most of those are predominantly black). I am conflicted by the realization that, if I were a black woman, I would probably actively seek out black teachers for my children to combat the normative whiteness of our culture. It's not that white people can't or shouldn't teach black people, I am just sometimes disheartened by the large proportion of white people, at least in my own program, that suggests to me that we are helping to perpetuate an unhealthy racial dynamic in our schools. To look at the silver lining of my current malaise, however, I think this feeling serves to remind me of the importance of bringing in black professionals to be mentors, guest speakers, and tutors in my classroom, and to create projects and assignments that provide opportunities for my students to be around successful professionals in whom they can see themselves. And I need to focus on the things I can do: I can set high expectations for my students. I can build an atmosphere of trust. I can value my students by taking my work and their work seriously. But it's not easy to stay positive when you're thinking and talking about gross injustice day in, day out.