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 just finished my first year as a Middle School Dean of Student Culture. I love my job and the folks I work with, but my favorite part is the kids. I’m working at the neighborhood school I went to, which is predominantly Puerto Rican, as am I.
Things ended kinda bumpy last year with several fights and lots of student referrals in the month of May. I found that kids listened to me, but weren’t listening to their teachers who are predominantly white and new to teaching. Students yell at their teachers or use profane language in Spanish because they know their teacher won’t understand and will send them out, which is exactly what they want.
A lot of my teachers joke around and call me “magical” because the students listen to me. This has resulted in them calling me constantly when misbehavior occurs in the classroom. Honestly, it’s exhausting.
How do I help my teachers manage their rooms without me?
Dear Tired Magician,
I’m so excited for you! You get to serve in the school you attended! That is amazing and it presents a very unique opportunity for you. You went to this school and grew up in this neighborhood. So you know the community very well. It sounds like you have built strong relationships with students and have earned their respect.
You are right. You aren’t magical. You are grounded in the community and know the people you serve. Now, it’s time for your teachers to do the same. Every time the teacher sends the students out they are giving their power to you, and students are missing valuable learning time. If students are using profane language it is up to every adult to be able to identify it and address it. Your teachers need to create ties to the students and families they teach so that they have their own meaningful relationships with the kids.
You are in a unique position to support your teachers. Break down what makes you magical into a concrete list of behaviors and actions you take every day to build the trust and respect of the students. Grab a notebook and jot down your moves for a couple of days. Better yet, invite a teacher to shadow you for a day and have them name the things you do and say that works with students. When you get a better sense of what’s in the secret sauce, work with your leadership team to deliver a professional development experience for your teachers that builds their knowledge and skills around management.
I’d be willing to bet that you are operating from an empowered mindset about the students you serve, and as a result of the understanding and respect you have for them, you are approaching them in both a nurturing and no-nonsense manner.