By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO –
Teachers as role models against racism could have lasting influence on impressionable minds at an early age and the lessons could last for a lifetime. Can it be too much to expect our teachers to model inclusiveness in the classroom, both in action and words? If racism is tolerated or practiced by teachers, what can one expect from the students they teach?
A report this week illustrated how a middle school teacher was put on administrative leave for making an improper remark to one her black pupils in front of the entire class. It is reported that she first called the pupil by the wrong name, and when he pointed it out, she said, “How about black boy. Go sit down, black boy.”
We cannot anticipate the practice of racism, cultural ignorance, wanton disrespect, and insensitivity to quit if parents, teachers, and other caring adults working with children on a daily basis, usually do not make a concerted effort to educate that which we share a common humanity, the color of our skin makes no material difference.
The focus must shift to what we all hold in common as kids, teens, adults as citizens. The emphasis is clear that we each can only be enlightened having an understanding of our differences, and that understanding will lay the foundation to work collectively to solve that which divides us.
If teachers will not be about the business of teaching and modeling respect and comprehension across race and culture before the students in their classrooms, we, as a society, have to be concerned with the very fabric, the glue that holds us together, and going in the right direction.
Sensitivity training is a part of the right course for the middle school in Waterbury. But just a first step that is a minimum. Hopefully, the training will result in positive changes in behavior where needed and function as reinforcement where model behavior exists.
Concerned parents, the school board, and the teachers association expressed their anxiety. The board decided to apply a policy requiring that faculty and staff require sensitivity training. The teacher’s organization issued a statement reiterating their dedication to work for the success of each child or ethnicity. Concerned parents’ outrage was expressed, certainly affirming that such racist behavior is not acceptable, particularly from the teaching profession.
That occurred in a school in Waterbury, Connecticut, and picked up by the evening news. How many such instances happen in classrooms on a daily basis across the nation in an amount that is worse or less?
What are our expectations of those in positions of influence in regards to trying to educate and enlighten others about ethnicity, race, and culture? Regrettably, and too commonly, the behavior wanted isn’t what is modeled. Stereotypical beliefs, envisioned or incorrect, govern our impulsive actions or reactions. Teachers as role models against racism could be powerful.
More importantly, for those schools let us hope that change will happen even if the evening news is not made by events at their school.
Edited and Reprinted with Permission of USAonRace.com