Who would you want teaching your child?

While reading an article on the need for teacher diversity, I am brought back to my first couple years of teaching. Fresh out of college, 21 years old, my first position was at a school in the Bronx, outside of Arthur Avenue, with a crack house on the corner and an assistant principal who although had a similar background as myself ( nice Jewish girl from the ‘burbs) felt I was too “Lilywhite” to handle the students. So as a test before being hired full- time, he put me in as a substitute for all of the roughest classes. After a week of special education patrol, students who jumped up and  gyrated on desks, and a very persistent 3rd grader who told all of his friends that I was ” his woman”, the principal deemed me fit to handle a third grade class. It was quite a year, an initiation into a world far different from the one in which I had grown-up. It was not an easy year but I got through it and managed to find a position in an upscale area of Westchester. For the next two years, I worked with a variety of socioeconomic groups, but the majority of the children were from comfortable homes. Unfortunately being low on the totem pole, budget cuts found me back in another area of the Bronx, this one known as “Fort Apache”.

Yes, Fort Apache. But it was first grade, the children although challenged and challenging made teaching interesting. Everyday brought a new experience with the ability to use creativity and resourcefulness to make the lessons meaningful and effective. It wasn’t until an enraged African American parent stormed into my room one morning interrupting my lesson, finger an inch from my nose  shouting  ” Who are you with your upstate white background to be teachin my child?” that I ever thought of color as being an issue. With his foul alcoholic breath on my face I looked him square in the eye, pointed my finger back at him and said ” You are damn lucky your child has a teacher with an upstate white background because that means he will get an upstate white education”. Confused and surprised at my response, the parent turned and left the room (of course security showed up minutes later). My heart was pumping, my knees were shaking but I thought about the words I had thrown back at him. It was a knee jerk response, but one I was proud of and I never heard from that parent again. But it left me wondering, where did his anger come from? Why would a parent prefer to have a teacher of the same color? Don’t all parents want what is best for their children regardless of race?

Although there have apparently been studies that have shown that students of the same race as the teacher do better academically than when taught by one of a different race, it is hard to believe that unless there is a language barrier,  the teacher would be more effective if they are the same color as their students.




Education Nation:  http://www.educationnation.com/index.cfm?objectid=CB4496C6-1537-11E1-8E80000C296BA163&aka=0


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