In the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, two of my grandparents died, both of whom were pillars in different branches of my family. On the fourth yahrzeit of my grandfather’s death a couple of months ago, my stepmom shared Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall, in his memory. I had never heard of the poem before but have returned to it many times in the weeks since as I reflect on the losses, silences, and birth in myself, in our educational systems, and in our society over the past few years.
I still remember my first day of work as a fourth grade teacher. My classroom had a green chalkboard, an overhead projector, one large wooden teacher desk and rows of student seats. I entered ready to present my lesson and engage with students. But within the first few minutes I recognized I was prepared to give a lesson but outside of that really had no idea what I was doing. It would be an understatement to say I struggled my first day as a new teacher.
To the new teachers out there, are you: Excited about what this year will bring and courageously making an entrance into the education arena for the purpose of serving today’s youth? Vowing personally to provide the utmost professionalism possible whether your initial, or second profession from a previous career?
Keep our children in school and out of the school-to-prison pipeline: A parent’s concern about COVID-era school discipline
As a parent of two African American boys, I am concerned as we begin to navigate our way back into the school building. I am worried that this new era in education could make my children and other BIPOC children vulnerable to disproportionate school discipline, especially exclusionary discipline. Schools are under increased pressure to keep children and teachers safe, and removing a face mask or breathing on someone could spread sickness; this undoubtedly makes for a more tense learning environment. With new rules in place, it concerns me to think that BIPOC may bear the brunt of these new consequences and be subject to exclusionary discipline practices at higher rates than other students.
The more time we invest in ourselves, as educators, the more we can give to students. The richer our interactions and relationships can become when we get better acquainted with ourselves. At the risk of sounding cliché about self-improvement, it is powerful to spend our time taking care of ourselves. The world of education can be chaotic on a good day and now the chaos has turned up a few thousand notches as we navigate COVID, student mental health, missing assignments, student absences, and ever- changing rules/guidelines.
Often the focus of the concept “Social-Emotional Learning” is geared towards our students. Most educators have acknowledged the fact that students have a challenging time learning to the best of their capacity when their social-emotional needs are not being met. What about the educators themselves? When do the educators get to process the secondary trauma that is often occurring throughout the day?
In the era of initiative fatigue, the last thing most teachers need is another program that promises to improve teacher wellbeing, reduce stress, and benefit classroom management. So let’s not have that conversation. Instead, let’s talk about real, sustainable, systemic change for the better.
I racked my brain on deciding what anecdote I could share that would illustrate what’s been on my mind lately. Like the vivid memory I have as a six year old of waking up in the morning and not understanding why I felt a sudden sensation of desperation. I also thought about the time in high school when...