My first class of fifth graders are graduating high school this week. As I went on a walk today, I was thinking about them. With everything that is happening in our country, I’m thinking of my students of color more and more. I’m thinking of their families. I’m thinking of my Black coworkers. I doubt my texts are enough. I worry about my students; how are they doing emotionally with everything that is happening?
With everything that’s been going on, I’ve been reflecting a lot.
As I watch the news or videos on social media of protestors and think of George Floyd and his family, I think of the students past and present. I think of the Black mothers and fathers that I’ve had conversations with. I think of the moments I’ve had uncomfortable conversations with ten and eleven-year-olds about race, racism, stereotypes and prejudice.
What have I done to educate and learn myself? I didn’t know much with my first class of fifth graders seven years ago. I learned a lot from them- what to do and more importantly, what not to do. From that year, I realized I had so much to learn.
From all of the experiences I’ve had teaching in Indianapolis, I’ve learned a few things. I learned that I’m a white woman and I have implicit biases. I will never understand what life is like as a black person because I have white privilege. I need to have meaningful and tough conversations with students, coworkers and people of color. I need to check my biases. I don’t know what I don’t know so I need to educate myself more. It makes me sad to see the boarded up windows, scorch marks, and spray paint around the city I love, but I can’t imagine the sadness (or anger or frustration or other feeling) a Black person experiences when their relative, friend, or fellow Black person is killed. I can have empathy for that person and their family. I can have empathy and support for those who are protesting. I can try to understand- by listening, asking questions, researching, voting.
Now I realize, I have so much more to learn. We are all humans. But there is a history of systemic oppression, micro aggressions, inequities, and racism that cannot be denied. I will continue to learn as an anti-racist teacher about racial equity and find learning materials with BIPOC. There’s a lot of work to be done. My students and society deserve it.