Need a New Pair of Shoes
This post is part of CT3’s “Dear Walkie” blog series, and this one includes part of a mini-series of podcast episodes that provide a quality place for advice for anti-racist educators. CT3 Associates Chris Cantu and Jackie Surratt, both veteran teachers and school leaders, answer difficult questions about racial equity and empowering all students to succeed.
And please, let us know in the comments if there are questions you would like answered!
I’ve just begun coaching my sixth grade ELA teacher with the walkie-talkie. I just started coaching and noticed that four young men were consistently not completing assignments and were not being redirected to do so. During my post-conference I raised this with the teacher and her response was, “You know how it is with those kids. They just don’t want to learn so I don’t waste my time. I focus on the kids who are ready to learn.”
Walkie, I was taken aback. The four young men who are struggling are all students of color. I was so shocked that she would speak that way and I didn’t know how to respond at that moment. I put my hand up and had to end the meeting because I was so jarred. I let her know that I wanted to finish this conversation but needed some time to collect my thoughts.
It’s been a day and I know I need to have this conversation but I’m not sure how to start. I know I shouldn’t have ended the conversation abruptly, but I needed to collect myself. I’m not really sure how to have this conversation. What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Coach Need a New Pair of Shoes
Dear Coach New Shoes,
First, you have every right to feel angry after hearing a teacher in your school say that, and I understand the need to gather yourself before engaging in the conversation further. I want to affirm that you made the right decision to protect your XXXX when you paused that conversation.
As an antiracist coach, it’s your job to bring awareness to inequities in the classroom. Confront this issue head-on! Name for the teacher what you notice in the classroom and repeat back to her the language she used to describe students of color. Ask her what message she is sending to the students in her class and the other educators in the building when she uses that language. Name for her the racist practices and systems that exist in her classroom — don’t shy away from using direct language! It will be difficult, but speaking the truth isn’t always easy.
It’s clear that your teacher needs to build their cultural competency. Set deliverables that help this teacher put herself in the shoes of her students. Support the teacher in creating concrete next steps that allow them to get to know the students and families outside of the academic experience. Ultimately make it clear that you will continue to bring issues of inequity to her attention and that you won’t stand for language or actions that denigrate students, particularly students of color.