Education throughout time
It’s 2022. Today it’s only been ~200 years ago it was illegal in the United States for African Americans to read; only 66 years since schools were segregated. The fight for equity in the American education system has been a difficult one. We are still fighting for equitable, safe, and inviting school facilities for our children to learn. Today I’m sharing my experience as a Black educator, and the legacy of Black educators from the past.
My Experience at KCTR
The Kansas City Teacher Residency envisions a system where every student regardless of race, socioeconomic status, background, or ability is guaranteed a quality education. KCTR’s pedagogy is rooted in preparing antiracist, culturally responsive teachers. At KCTR we are grounded in the mission to cultivate and develop teachers to go into the urban core of Kansas City and be the teachers that are passionate about shaping and developing confident independent learners. KCTR works diligently to mitigate the factors that could contribute to the reasons why so few African American teachers make it into the classroom.
My first day at KCTR was an unimaginable day. My stomach was bubbling with fear and excitement. My mind wandered curiously while I walked into what seemed like a large, but loud and crowded room. Many new faces as I took the temperature of the space my brain probes for its safety. I thought to myself about the journey my cohort members must have taken to bring us together here for the very first day of summer institute. I finally found my name in a group of warm kind faces welcoming me as their smiles have been masked and left behind for our safety. I find my seat and feel an ease of peace come over me.
The next thing I remember about that day is one of our coaches saying that it is our job not to hijack our students’ minds. She said that it is important for us to go into our respective classrooms to treat each student with kindness and respect. We are to do this by building a community space where kids can be creative expressive freethinkers taking control of their own learning. She also said that not every kid, nor group of students will be the same, and they all deserve an opportunity. KCTR’s message was clear to me that day. The more I get to know my core self, the better teacher I can be for my students.
Carrying on the Legacy of Black Educators
I wanted to connect my AmeriCorps Great Story with the month of February to honor and highlight the Black educators’ before me and to share my own experiences as a Black educator in honor of those from our past. Reading was banned for African Americans under the convention of the Slave Codes of 1740. Let that sink in. It has only been 200 years since African Americans were not allowed to read. Black educators have worked fearfully for years in academia secretly transgressing the messages of people like Carter G Woodson (the Godfather of African American history)/ Black educators endangered their lives to educate the Black mind. For African Americans, then and now, being literate was our ticket to freedom.
The Fugitive Pedagogy is a term coined by Jarvis R Givens. As the author of the book Fugitive Pedagogy, he writes the term is constructed from references of fugitive enslaved individuals and the enslaved Blacks who took the dangerous risk to learn to read. The flight for African Americans and our educational experiences has always been a complicated and difficult history.
Many schools in African American communities across the US today are in need of improvement . Too often, aspects of schools in the Black communities mirror prisons with very little access and opportunity. Crowded classrooms with students out numbering teachers. The numbers of African American educators has dwindled. Teachers who used to live in the neighborhoods, and were connected to their communities, have fled in hopes of giving their own children better opportunities. Black students live in predominantly Black school districts with predominantly white teachers and leadership. Traditionally our education systems focus too heavily on test scores that have little to do with informing them on next steps and more about money. Our school environment was not created with a Black child in mind, more so working on how to police their autonomy and blot out their creativity.
For the past two semesters in the residency program, my experiences have solidified my reasoning for being an educator. Being a teacher is my calling, because I am sure that this is what I was put on this earth to do. I am determined to be like the teachers from our past that endangered their lives to teach what was necessary. I know that I was born to break rules and cause disruption to affect change. I will be like the fugitive slaves that were told reading was illegal that still risked their lives to sneak and read. I will be like the Black educators that taught what was necessary, even if it meant doing it in secret. It is through the Black educators’ lives before me who’s risky yet meaningful lessons created a foundation for me to teach. For those reasons it will be my duty to work in a Title 1 school district to serve in a district that I can be an integral part of what KCTR envisions: A public education system where every student regardless of race, socioeconomic status, background, or ability is guaranteed a quality equitable education.