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Please Leave Assumptions at the Door

qjules's picture

Before the break I overheard two friends discussing some facebook drama surrounding a status about teaching that a student posted. “Wait what happened?” I asked. My friend turned to me, “I didn’t tell you because I know how passionate you can get.” She said, “Just tell me, I wanna know!” She eventually paraphrased the status to me; the gist of the remark was a student said she needed to take martial arts classes before she began teaching at a school in an urban setting. This is not the first time I have heard an ideology like this and I can guarantee it wont be the last.

I believe that if this student enters a urban public school classroom with this attitude she is likely to reap what she sows. I don’t say this to be threatening or cruel, but realistic. I think there are no better detectors of authenticity and intention then children, and they deserve to be led by someone who has only the greatest expectations of them-not someone who expects disobedience, and worse, violence simply because of the location of their school, or the implied the race and class positions of such students.

One cannot foster the growth of a child when they have determined who the child is before even meeting them. I have seen amazing teachers in such environments, and what contributes to their success is knowledge of such assumptions reinforced by society and their desire to resist such a system of oppression. I use the word oppression specifically because when representations of children of color circulate and enter the minds of young teachers, and those same teachers enter urban classroom, the class environment then gets developed from a place of fear of an “imagined” colored student who is more than likely not even present in the class.

If this young woman pursues teaching I hope she leaves her assumptions at the door. I hope that if she has a student who cannot focus in class that she will not attribute his behavior to his race or class, but a number of other possibilities the child may be dealing with. Because of her whiteness and her authority in the classroom, it is possible her students will also assume personality traits, differences and even apprehension to her as well, however, as the head of the classroom she has the power to make any instance of difference into a teachable moment. She is in command of building a strong class environment and collaborative relationship between teacher and student. To let the power of community slip through her hands would be a disservice to both parties.