Race, Equity and Access : Being a Parent and an Educator: Do I really have to choose?

08 Dec

The burden is heavy for us educators (and I dare say, even heavier for us progressive educators). Traditional, progressive or somewhere between, all of us who are educators and parents have to think about when and how we will interact with teachers and in particular, the ways in which we ask questions; is there a slight lilt in the voice, eyebrows up, fingers on chin, smiling, etc. We have to be mindful of asking authentic questions but sometimes we just want to parents or be educators but most of all, to be blunt.

For me, being a parent and an educator is complex enough without the added issue of race. Perhaps this is just my issue because I am  acutely attuned to issues of race, equity and access. Somehow though, I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s not just my issue.

Issues of race, equity and access come up often as a parent of a school-aged child and in these times, it’s much more difficult to choose between being a parent and an educator. You have to be both.

I remember vividly last year when one of Danielle’s teachers requested that she come in for remedial math support. When I asked the teacher to show me the data which suggested that Danielle needed this support, all she could do was admit that she was incorrect and in fact, Danielle was doing well in math. How does this happen? How does the teacher assume that the student of color in the class needs remedial help without first looking at her data? Why can’t the kid of color be assumed to be amazing in math first and not deficient? How does the teacher’s perception affect how she/he interacts with Danielle and with the other kids of color?  Does the teacher ask the same open-ended, higher order questions to Danielle that she does with Danielle’s white peers?

In another instance, I had to talk with to a principal about why only the white kids in the school received awards at an end-of-the-year celebration. Not one student of color received an academic award. Not one. Surely, there are students of color in the school who fulfilled the requirements of one of these awards. How does this oversight happen? Don’t teachers talk about students and issues of equity? We did at the Westside Community School and at the Muscota New School. This is when it becomes hard to choose between being a parent for one’s own child and being an educator.

All of this stuff is emotionally draining and yet, if unchecked-could mean the difference in your child’s education. Yet, your kid pays the price for this kind of involvement. It’s almost as if they have a target on their back. Danielle, I’m sure, worries about when and where I will unleash the educator parent on the teacher. I don’t want to be THAT parent but I have to advocate for my child because lord knows, it might not happen any other way.


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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in parenting


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