Sunday, November 11, 2007

Will Okun, Black Students and the New York Times


What is it about Will Okun's column that gets white folks so riled up?
I have an idea of what it is. See. He is a white man working with
Black students.

and sees through other peoples sh*t talking about them.

Whenever we read a book by a black author about black culture or the “black experience,” I feel disingenuous leading a class discussion about issues tied so directly to the lives of the students. What do I know of racism? What do I know of systematic poverty? What do I know of hunger? What do I know of a (perceived) limited future? What do I know of struggle? What do I know of gangs and random violence? What do I know of fear?

These are just ideas to me, facts and stories that I have studied in a book or observed from the safety of my own privileged distance. What can I tell them about their own lives? Can I or should I teach what I have never experienced?

I wonder if my students feel like I do when I am at a mandatory teacher training facilitated by a person who is not a teacher. Teachers stare angrily at one another as yet another educational expert pontificates endlessly about how we can better educate our children. How dare these academics or bureaucrats advise us when they themselves are not fighting and struggling in the classrooms on a daily basis?

As anyone who ever attended graduate school knows, the theory and the practice of teaching are worlds apart.

And he speaks, honestly, about what it means to HAVE
Black or White have the courage or
passion to do what he DOES
let alone write about it.

Okun's latest piece on weather Black or White teachers are better
equipped to teach Black students. Some of the students felt that
white teachers had it on lock, while,
"...the other half of the class disagreed vehemently and argued that a teacher’s race plays a crucial role in the classroom. These students wrote about the importance of a “shared experience.” Mildred explained, “Black teachers know better where black students are coming from and so know how to better teach and explain lessons and ideas.” Darrel wrote, “Black teachers want more from us.” Anthony agreed, “Black teachers are harder on you. White teachers give up on you quicker.” Albert opined that “black students feel like they are being judged by white teachers,” and so “we will not ask or answer as many questions in a white class.” Ciarra concluded, “Black teachers just know how to relate better; they make the class more important to what is going-on in your life.”
Man. This dude says things that so many of us feel but
our, ahem,
platform is a little bit different.

Most of my readers, I understand, have some higher ed, OR
are in the process of pursuing it.
Presuming that some of you
are Black and many of you are not
I would like to know what
you think about the distinction between
learning from someone
who "looks like you", and someone who doesn't.


For Black children, especially, Urban Black children, do you think

it matters whether they learn from White teachers or Black
And because statistic show that most teachers in
"urban schools" are
white women what can we do to support
them in teaching our children?

Peace to Yeye and his momma.
Real talk. I wonder what effect this will have have on his desire to
get married and/or procreate.



J!!! said...

they should go through an urban bootcamp ran by people in the community so they can actually know what its like to grow up in the hood. they can go through various controlled tribulations through out the bootcamp to make it all feel real. even after they may not 100% see where theyre coming from, but its a start.

It really depends i guess who i learn from. theyre are 2 types of black teachers. the black teachers from the oldschool and the new school and they both teach entirely different.

All the older teachers i had which had been teaching for 20-30 years all were incredibly hard on all the students. they struck fear in to the students, but still could give off the feeling theyre doing it for you own good. I dont know if all teachers learn how to do that these days, or if its just an acquired skill over time.

For me i guess it just depends on the given situation.

M.Dot. said...

so they can actually know what its like to grow up in the hood.


Capital P said...

The reason I became a teacher was because I didn't have any Black male teachers growing up... Plenty of women, plenty of old white dudes - ZERO Black dudes. The biggest thing that I notice when in the classroom is that many of my students are in awe of having a Black male teacher, almost like I never existed before they met me. I like being able to relate to them, and at the same time holding them accountable. These are things that my non-Black teachers did not do, whether it be because they could not relate, they didn't understand me, a lack of patience, etc. I am hard on all of my students, but even more-so my black students because many of them have never been pushed, to accomplish more than they THINK they can. In the teaching profession, we see white teachers all the time. How often do you remember growing up and having a teacher you could relate to and identify with pushing you to succeed academically. I only had a few myself. There is definitely a huge difference.

M.Z. said...

I think to some degree having black teachers matter. But more importantly, you need teachers who are willing to take intrest in kids and push them. Probably the teacher I had that pushed me the most was an older white lady. I had her for English my freshman and junior year. She'd make me turn in stuff, even if it was two weeks overdue. Just stay on me. She'd give me B's and write notes on my paper, saying she expected more from me. Just made me get up to the level I was capable of.

But I had a Black teacher, whip out her "Zach Morris" cell phone ('96) out when I was in 8th grade to call my mom. So i can agree that strong black teachers are needed in schools. But like the other teacher, she rode me to death, to make me work up to my potential.

M.Dot. said...

is that many of my students are in awe of having a Black male teacher, almost like I never existed before they met me.


M.Dot. said...

Just made me get up to the level I was capable of.


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