When I go down the list of things that I have had to endure as a Black woman in the classroom as a teacher as well as in an office as an administrator I think the offenses are fairly common.
Has a parent or teacher called me a racist? Check.
Has a colleague told me my curly hair didn’t look as ‘professional’ as when it was straightened?Check.
Have I been summarily dismissed when I try to bring up race as connected to discipline or lack of representation? Check.
School culture can, however, be far more nefarious than those obvious and jarring examples. It took me a long time to notice that how we talk about work ethics and what makes a ‘good’ educator are actually damaging parts of the cog in the institutionally racist school systems. To tell that story, I have to go back a good decade.
When I began working at a middle school that was mostly white and middle class I was teaching 8th grade Language Arts on a team of teachers who had common planning times and we met regularly to do themed units in order to connect our learning. Our school had two guidance deans in charge of schedules: one was white, and one was Black. Both were lovely women with whom I enjoyed working, but the way the staff discussed the two of them was starkly contrasted.