Thursday, July 14, 2016

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, Meeting #1

In our very first session with the book club "For White Folks Who Teach In the Hood and The Rest of Y'all too", we had tons of highlights worth mentioning. As facilitators we met beforehand and asked ourselves what quotes in the book stuck out to us? We also challenged ourselves to think how we can we engage all group members, and even those who didn't read the book. We pulled several quotes from each chapter of the book and created a quote gallery walk. For each quote, people were asked to respond and define it. At each station, there was great discussion flowing from every cylinder. It was amazing to see and hear discussions around some of the quotes. As I walked around to hear and even participate in some of the discussions, I noticed myself getting lost in excitement. Every single discussion seemed to plant the seeds for social change and development. I think there were two discussions that truly captured the zeitgeist of the room. As a small group, one discussion was centered around the quote in the book that said: 

“Years later, when I became a teacher, I learned much about the structure of urban schools and grew to become the embodiment of the very teachers who placed me in the vice that had squeezed all of the fight out of me as a student.”

I found myself immediately in a circle sharing my experiences with these amazing strangers I had just met. I instantly could connect to this quote because I can remember how my first day as a teacher changed me. It triggered a recall of the moment when I discovered I had slightly became a manifestation of the things I said I wouldn't become as a teacher. The conversation morphed into what we thought about the systems in place that prevent students from enjoying school. It was a great conversation!

Later on, once we all met back at the table, we quickly shared out our thoughts from each quote. Every group wrote their responses down on chart paper to keep record of the conversations. All of the share outs were interesting. At the end, we asked the group to share questions they may have that will lead us in future discussions. We heard many, but one question particularly stuck out: Can/should white people teach students of color in an urban setting?

This question was dynamically the most intriguing that I've heard in a while and it's one that connects extremely well with the book. We discussed how white privilege, white supremacy and white guilt plays a huge role in an educational setting, so this question was a great summation of the conversation as well. Hopefully, we can have a more in depth conversation about this topic in the coming weeks! Below are the other quotes from our sessions.

(Fatim Byrd)

“Gallery Walk”
  • Selection of 5-6 quotes
    • P. 13: “Urban youth who enter schools seeing themselves as smart and capable are confronted by curriculum that is blind to their realities and school rules that seek to erase their culture. These youth, because they do not have the space/opportunity to showcase their worth on their own terms in schools, are only visible when they enact very specific behaviors.”
      • P. 41: “The entire system of urban education is failing youth of color by any number of criteria, the structure of the traditional urban school privileges poor teaching practices, these practices trigger responses from students that reflect ‘poor behavior,’ the poor behavior triggers deeply entrenched biases that teachers hold, and when this triggering of biases is coupled with the cycling in and out of white folks to teach in the hood, former teachers with activated biases leave urban classrooms to become policymakers and education experts who do not believe in young people or their communities.”
      • P. 23: “In schools, urban youth are expected to leave their day-to-day experiences and emotions at the door and assimilate into the culture of schools. This process of personal repression is in itself traumatic and directly impacts what happens in the classroom.”
    • p. 14 “I do not engage in the work of connecting indigenous and neoindigenous to trivialize the indigenous experience or exaggerate that of the neoindigenous. My point is to identify and acknowledge the collective oppression both groups experience and the shared space they inhabit as a result of their authentic selves being deemed invisible.”
    • P. 17: “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and i might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination - indeed, everything and anything except me.” (Ralph Ellison)
    • P. 35: “Years later, when I became a teacher, I learned much about the structure of urban schools and grew to become the embodiment of the very teachers who placed me in the vice that had squeezed all of the fight out of me as a student.”
      • P. 33: “The teachers’ venting sessions reminded me of my experiences in high school and how I was forced to obey rules without an opportunity to question whether they supported the way I learned.”
    • P. 24: “Urban youth are typically well aware of the loss, pain, and injustice they experience, but are ill equipped for helping each other through the work of navigating who they truly are and who they are expected to be in a particular place.”
    • P. 43: “The work for teachers becomes developing the self-reflection necessary to deconstruct the ways that media messages, other teachers’ negative (often exaggerated) stories, and their own need to be the hero affects how they see and teach students. The teacher must work to ensure that the institution does not absolve them of the responsibility to acknowledge the baggage they bring to the classroom and analyze how that might affect student achievement.”
      • P. 15: “In this work, the term white folks is an obvious racial classification, but it also identifies a group that is associated with power and the use of power to disempower others.”
      • P. 20: “I engaged in a Twitter debate with one of these educators recently and was astounded by the fervor with which he defended his school’s practice of “cleaning these kids up and giving them a better life.” With that statement, he described everything that is wrong with the culture of urban education and the biggest hindrance to white folks who teach in the hood.”

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