How can I show you?

Very often, statements of conditions are challenged. For instance, the Atlantic had an article titled How America Outlawed Adolescence. Without finishing the article, my thoughts went to how Black kids suffer disciplinary action to a greater extent than non-White. My concern has been the way expectations of teachers and students often do not match. Why? Because student and teacher may have been raised with different expectations for a teacher, for a student. A few years back the head of L.A. public schools told how he had “willful defiance” removed from the list of disciplinary charges a teacher could bring against a student; the result was a massive fall not only in the drop-out rate (being sent home for a week does not encourage school attendance) but a rise in the number of Black students in AP classes. I believe I have a blog entry somewhere in which I put documentation of that I had found. That sounds almost outlandish but if you look into the expectations teachers and students have of each other, much is revealed.

I’ll go into this more after I finish the article but I have an anecdote I’ve put elsewhere on this blog, too, that illustrates what I mean. At the end of one year, we had make-or-break tests and a new teacher with few classroom management skills needed help so I was asked to step in. About 5 boys, Black, raised absolute hell in that room. I worked with them and got them to go ahead and take the test (I later found out they were all rated as very intelligent by their teachers). My reward next year was that they had all signed up for the same class with me, dragging along a few buddies. So I worked with these amazingly “undisciplined” kids, seeing that underneath it all they were devilishly clever and just screwing with me. Hilarious.

Over time, we reached an equilibrium where they did not disrupt class and worked and I did not send them to the principal (an absolute no-no with Black kids because you are signaling you cannot control them and you’re done). At one point, and here is my big moment, one of them sidled up to me at the lectern when it was quiet and I was working on something and he asked me if I were married to a Black woman. Surprised, I asked him why he asked and how he knew (figuring a teacher had told him or such like) and he responded, “Because of the way you discipline us.”

Boom! There is the cultural difference.

To be continued…..

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