Thursday, August 14, 2014

#MichaelBrown May Be Sitting in Your Classroom...

Demonstrators Aaron Little (R), Gianni Cook (C) and Troy Jones hold signs while protesting against the death of black teenager Michael Brown, outside St Louis County Circuit Clerk building in Clayton, Missouri August 12, 2014.(attribution to Reuters)



So will #trayvonmartin, #renishamcbride, and so many other unarmed  African Americans who have been murdered.

Most of our students have probably been exposed to what has taken place in Ferguson the last few days. The shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black male by a police officer.Some may be experiencing a number of emotions, anger, fear, anxiety, etc...

What do we as educators do? How do we react? Should we pretend it's not happening, and stick to the curriculum? Should we open it up for discussion, making sure not to taint the discussion with our own bias? I imagine middle school and high school students would be more acutely aware of what is going on then elementary students. What do, or should, we say to them?

I read a FB post that was reposted on Twitter, a woman rants against African-Americans.
Notice the word "they." That word "they" makes it easy to treat fellow human beings indecently. When African-Americans are seen  as "they", and  a series of characteristics are attributed to them, they are no longer human. "They" are a series of stereotypes, strung together, easily shot down.

"They" are not hard-working people who have contributed much to society. "They" do not get up every morning, just like everyone else, and go to work. "They" are not doctors, lawyers, scientists, politicians, bus drivers, and teachers!

What can we do with, and for, the #MichaelBrown in our classroom?

We need to make sure that they understand that their life is worth just as much as anyone else's. We need to listen to them, not only to their words, but their actions as well. We need to let them tell us how they are feeling, what they are feeling. We need to understand that maybe, just maybe, analyzing text is just not that pressing a need as it might seem. We need our students to understand that they are not, nor do they have to be, "they." And as educators, if we agree with Catherine's sentiments, even in the privacy of our homes, we should not be in a classroom with #MichaelBrown.

#Michaelbrown may be sitting in your classroom, what are you going to do?