You’ve now watched the umpteenth version of a person receiving unwarranted capital punishment for their pigmentation. These videos autoplay on your TV screen and your social media timelines. You’re inundated with rage in the form of speeches and blogs. You’ve read up on the latest resource offered by Teaching for Change, Teaching Tolerance, and Facing History, even as America refuses to do any of these three. You’re faced with the perilous task of negotiating the mandates of your districts with your mandates as a human being whose life experiences resonate with the victim in the videos you’ve watched repeatedly.
It’s midway through the year, but you feel like every shooting is another beginning for you.
You work at a private school. Teachers are already leaning on your door, hoping to get a reaction from you because they can sympathize, but not empathize. You’re done explaining and brush them off with “I got work to do. I suggest you do the same.” The kids are looking at you as the pledge of allegiance goes off in the announcements. You put your hand on your heart. You have too many eyeballs big and small on you. Some are genuinely curious, but the adults standing right outside hope you don’t become the outrageous runaway you have every right to be.
No, wait. You work at a charter school. You’re constantly asked to follow company line. Your school’s founder hasn’t said a word about the outrage out there, but has just the right amount of messianic presence in and out of their schools to demand compliance from everyone involved. You get into teacher meetings and suggest the faculty address these issues with open ears. Instead, you’re told to come up with a plan by yourself because every school is mandated to stay in lock step according to the pre-designed curricula. Your school has some faculty of color, but, by any measure, still falls in lockstep with what the plethora of visitors have invested in.
No, wait. You’re at a public school with majority students of color. Your scores aren’t high enough according to a bunch of papers you tossed out weeks ago. You’ve done everything you can to straddle the line between compliance and defiance. Your bulletin boards have the proper assignments and rubrics to deflect critique, and your heroes from yesteryear look at you through posters you’ve printed. You’re evaluated by a framework that only abstractly addresses cultural competence, and your students are already programmed to respond to loud stimuli as a means of attention.