For months I've gone back and forth of deciding if I should click the orange publish button on this post. Mainly because this topic is something I am so passionate about, however, it is very sensitive and often not discussed in the classroom....Here goes nothing. With the recent social issues going on in our nation, I've gone through a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions. Being from Columbia, South Carolina, I could not help but weep at the thought of the hate and racism expressed last month due to the removal of the Confederate flag. Now let's be clear, I'm not voicing my opinion of what I believe the flag represents. The images shared by friends via social media hurt me to my core. It was both eye opening and saddening at the same time. Then I saw an image of a child, probably about 8 years old, marching with the Ku Klux Klan. My heart stopped for a moment. Again, my emotions went crazy with tons of questions... Who is this kid? Where are her parents? Why would they teach her to dislike others? Then being a young, black, southern teacher, it hit home for me..... What if this child were in my class? Would she be a problem for me and my students of color? Should I change my natural kinky hairstyle to avoid issues arising in the classroom? How would I know what this child is learning at home that will make its' way into my room? Suddenly, I arrived to my answer. You will never know for sure. Then I thought, there must be a way to combat the issue of racism from ever entering my classroom. No there isn't. As a teacher, your primary job is to teach. A child's character is developed as they grow and mature in life, not just under your watch. Let's face it. Your kids are not with you all the time. You don't know their discussions on the playground, in the cafeteria, on the bus or anywhere outside of your classroom, for that matter. In all of the posts of the police brutality, Charleston 9 and Confederate flag debate, I came across what I think can be a huge help to managing your classroom if the issue or questions of racism occur. As a social experiment, a large African American male began to sing "This Little Light of Mine" in a neighborhood grocery store, and the outcome will bring tears to your eyes. I sang this song in church as a little girl and I never thought it could be so powerful. View the experiment below.
We are with our students for a third of the day for 180 days. We work to the bone to ensure that they are academically prepared for society. Do we care just as much about their social development? Now I'm no guidance counselor by any means, but I'm talking about the simple things, like using manners, handling conflict, and treating others with respect. Of course, we don't have time to teach a lesson specifically on non-verbal social skills, such as looking to see if you should hold the door for another person, -BUT- we can certainly SHOW our students these things during their school day. If anything rubs off on them, let it be something positive. As you prep for your school year, remember that you can have the biggest impact on your students in your classroom when you let your light shine. Good luck and blessings to you!