During our third meeting we began to dive deeper into the text and make connections with our own classroom experience. Some of the prevalent themes throughout our meeting were the absence of teachers of color, white privilege, making authentic connections with students and critical thinking in the classroom. Throughout the third section of the book, Delpit identifies the massive failure in test prep for standardized testing. Delpit states “Some instructional approaches focused solely on repetition of decontextualized bits may “work” temporarily to raise test scores for children in urban settings, but if the children’s minds are not engaged, then the programs are failures”. We began to discuss failures and successes in our classrooms. Some teachers spoke of thematic units in their classroom in which they incorporate the Common Core State Standards while engaging students in authentic learning. Others admitted that our focus on test preparation made our classrooms one of the environments that the author warned against.
Our discussion then moved to encouraging critical thinking and authentic learning from our students. I was deeply moved and troubled when I posed the question “How are we supposed to engage our students in critical thinking when we as educators aren’t encouraged to be critical thinkers?” Prior to this meeting I had a discussion with a veteran teacher who recently retired. One of her major concerns was the focus of standardized testing and the top-down control of her teaching practice. As an educator, she felt stifled by the major erroneous changes that were made to her classroom instruction. The veteran teachers of color who are being pushed out of the classroom and the current teachers who are constant targets of attack and harassment dishearten me. I am troubled by the lack of respect for all educators and structural racism that is a constant slap in the face. In many ways I am feeling that same animosity. Delpit states, “Only those who are authentically and critically literate can become the independently thinking citizens required for any society’s evolution”. This new school year will bring more control over teacher instruction and less value in teacher creativity. The dilemma is how to navigate in a system that seems to destroy the natural talents that educators bring to the classroom. Based on the text, the group suggested the importance of teacher collaboration to find your voice. The WE & TAG Summer Book Groups are the perfect opportunity to collaborate with other educators.