When I was in 4th grade, an older student came up to me on the playground while I played and for no reason, proceeded to push me down, stomp on my body, and call me a n***er. I went to the hospital, and he faced no consequences. I was questioned on what I did to make him do what he did which was nothing. I didn’t know or had ever interacted with him. I was playing peacefully with my friends.
I went to school with friends who “weren’t allowed,” to play at my house. I went to school and was told I wasn’t good enough in regular education classes, and there was a place for students like me who couldn’t learn the right way. Luckily, I had my parents who advocated on my behalf, had me tested, and proved otherwise.
I’ve been followed while shopping and driving. I’ve been told I don’t “sound black.” I’ve been critiqued/criticized numerous times as an adult; from you need to wear a sign so people actually know who you are, knowledge challenged, the way I speak, when having direct conversations with others accused of being too aggressive/angry, and awkwardly put in positions of sabotage. The list goes on. I encountered most of these experiences before my 12th birthday, and some still continue to this day. However, I move forward, persevere, and unpack in my own way with my tools and support systems.
The recent events that continue to happen in our country have triggered an outpouring of anger, rage, hurt, sadness, and trauma. Initially, when I first heard the news of George Floyd’s murder, I didn’t want to watch the video or see the pictures, due to fear of triggering past traumas. However, I watched and it sickened me to my core to see another image of unnecessary injustice. The video sickened me enough to speak out, something I normally wouldn’t do, due to fear of being viewed by colleagues and friends as aggressive, militant, and/ or judgmental.
However, as Martin Luther King Jr states: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” That betrayal is being able to stay true to myself, who I am as a person, my beliefs, feelings, and all the things that are the makings of me: Roshaunda (Ro) no middle name Henson. So, here I am in an attempt to speak my truth to hopefully inspire others to work together to change a narrative of inequities and biases that all though we state we might not have them, we do regardless of our heritage or skin colour.
We can change the narrative as educators by:
- Teaching Tolerance: As educators we are tasked with shaping the intellectual, social-emotional and moral minds of tomorrow. Let moments like these be teachable moments for our students. It’s okay to have those uncomfortable conversations. It doesn’t have to be framed with harsh images and/or words. Click HERE for a document with resources and a podcast that addresses how to approach this with our students and your own children at home based on their age.
- Culturally Responsive Teaching: Sometimes when we think of culture we immediately think of race. Yes race is part of our culture, however it is deeper than race. Culturally Responsive Teaching is going deeper into understanding our students’ views, beliefs, and values. It not only strengthens relationships with our students but allows us to activate students’ knowledge based on experiences, make learning contextual, and encourage students to leverage their voice while building and strengthening relationships. The experiences mentioned at the beginning of this post may have triggered some experiences of pain, hurt, or injustices that may have occurred to you as well. This is a way in which we can all relate, release, and bond together for a greater good. We can take our experiences and turn it into lessons to change the narrative. At the end of this post is a virtual presentation by myself and a fellow educator friend that goes deeper into Culturally Responsive Teaching.
- Showing Care: It’s easy to say well these issues don’t affect me personally. However, it does regardless of who you are and where you teach. This impacts us all, especially as educators. If we want things to be able change it starts with fixing things in our heart, and addressing the issues we face as a society at home and school. We have to be able to have honest conversations and take action to create meaningful change. This pandemic has forced us all to self-reflect. Hopefully, part of that reflection is realizing that we can not go back to business as usual. Now is the time more than ever for us to be able to change the narrative.
Being the change you want to see in the world starts with introspection, courageous voice, and action. We may be worn out, but we must never give up. Let’s put our pride and egos aside to work together to begin to change the narrative.
PS: This blog was inspired by the recent events and periods of reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also inspired by a recent presentation that myself and a fellow educator friend presented. Check it out below along with other resources that may be of help in understanding how we can begin to change the narrative.
Resources for Children Understanding
- 31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
- Embrace Race
- 100 PICTURE BOOKS INCLUDING BLACK PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES & WHY YOU NEED THEM
Resources for Adult Understanding
- Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Oppression
- Diversity Toolkit: Race and Ethnicity
- Becoming Upended: Teaching and Learning about Race and Racism with Young Children and Their Families
- Resources for Educators Focusing Anti-Racist Learning and Teaching
- Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not
- Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge