Burden of Being a Black Teacher

#bsrealtalk #teacher #drgarcia #highschoolteacher
During my prep period, a break from educating the nation’s youth.

Burden of Being a Black Teacher: As a woman of color, teacher, and social scientist, I wear multiple hats when assessing the implicit and explicit bias that exists in our nation’s schools. As a classroom instructor, I understand that teaching is only one facet of the teaching-learning process, a process which success centers upon effective communication.

But communication is undermined when students sense that they are of little importance to the teacher or the school. What teachers do in the classroom is important because the people who come there to learn are important. This attitude toward students is expressed a number of ways including: the careful design of a course that meets the diverse needs of students, the devotion of energy in preparation for class, the clear expression of one’s involvement in teaching, the respectful treatment of students in the give and take of classroom interaction, and the notion of classroom management.

Teacher expectation is equally important and is exhibited in the attitude of the teachers. Unfortunately some students with darker skin, who are usually tracked in lower level courses, share stories of teachers who have lower expectations for them. To make matters worse, students of color who make up about half of the nation’s public school students are taught by a mere 17% of teachers who identify as minority.

As an educator, I understand how stressful it can be to have what appear to be non-responsive bodies in the class, especially when great care and planning occurred. Early in my teaching career, it was discovered that everyone will not achieve As and Bs, but also evident as an educator, was my obligation to instruct all students fairly and adequately. I also refrained from forming preconceived opinions about students based on a previous teacher’s experience with a student. Every year I have a few students who do not do well in other teachers’ classes, but get As, Bs or even Cs in my class. The former is not known until the student is in the house office receiving reprimands from an administrator.

Similarly to some of the students who have negative experiences with teachers, my first year teaching was quite a challenge, not the notion of teaching itself but the people INSIDE the building made it very difficult for a new teacher to survive. Luckily, the students kept me afloat. My first year having my own classroom was a wonderful experience. I developed excellent relationships with my students and some of my colleagues. I also learned that some of the older, traditional teachers and faculty were not pleased to see my young, brown face. I could tell from the stares and rumors of me doing drugs that often got back to me. Although I had my teaching credentials: I began teaching with my Master of Arts in Teaching, something that some teachers did not have, it did not seem to matter. Usually, a master’s degree is required within five years of teaching. Furthermore, all my evaluations from the administrators went well. Still my colleagues found a way to make my life miserable. By winter of my first year teaching, I found myself in the assistant principal’s office along with a union representative and the social studies chair. The reason I soon came to find out involved me opening a learning center in my hometown, an entirely different city and state.

Upon opening the center, a newspaper article regarding the opening day of the center appeared on the cover of the local section. The former president of the teacher’s union lived in New Fairfield and read the paper. He gave the article to some administrators, a quite ironic thing to do considering the union is supposed to protect its workers. The paper mistakenly stated the learning center opened its doors between 3:00-3:30 pm. In reality, the center opened between 3:15 – 3:30 allowing the allotted time of 30-35 minutes to drive from work. Opening the center at 3 pm was not possible because work did not end until 2:35 pm.

One time the coordinator asked me with conviction, if I had left work early. She said, “Did you leave work early yesterday?” I said, “No.” She said, “Someone said you were seen leaving early yesterday.” I thought about it and remembered that I went to the pharmacy during a break but returned. Fortunately for me my soon to be colleague, who was student teaching at the time, asked me after school if my girls (I was the coordinator for the girls’ step team) could step at the Human Rights Symposium. I remembered this and told the coordinator about the conversation and told her to ask the student teacher. Of course she did and then reluctantly apologized.

The story in the paper raised concerns with me leaving work early, but were unfounded. In addition to teaching at the center, I was also beginning an exam preparation course at the high school and had submitted copies to be made for an exam prep session offered in the after school program. To my surprise, one of the members of the social studies department took the copies from the copy room prior to completion to the social studies chair which landed me back in the assistant principal’s office. When asked about why I had submitted several documents to the copy room, I reminded them that I was also teaching an SAT course in the After School Program. No apologies were received, but the copies were given back.

My first year teaching was MISERABLE and if it weren’t for my mother, I probably would have left the profession long ago. I called home almost every day in tears with stories like the former. I was 21 years old when I started teaching and sometimes wonder if I hadn’t listened to my mom where I would be or what I would be doing. I have found that helping others is my purpose.

This being said, the harsh reception I received my first couple of years should not surprise others when complaints of mistreatment among students surface. The following discussion with a security guard named Jim* confirmed the maltreatment students of color sometimes receive from white teachers. Jim told me during lunch one day, a teacher while walking down the hall bumped into a Hispanic male student. Although it may have been an accident, according to Jim, the teacher then said to the student, “Bump me again and I’ll pour my hot coffee on you.” Jim said that both he and the student were shocked by the teacher’s comments. Jim reported the student had been talking to his friends and had not bumped the teacher. The student looked at the white male teacher and said, “Whatever, I didn’t bump you.”

Afterwards, Jim prompted by what he had just witnessed, approached an administrator to inform him of the event. The administrator’s response was callous according to Jim.  He said the administrator told him that the teacher had threatened to go the union and claimed that Jim had threatened his safety. Receiving this news, Jim told the administrator what he witnessed again and that he hadn’t threatened anyone. The administrator told him, “You didn’t see anything; it was noisy at lunch.” Jim said, “Yes, I did,” and repeated what he witnessed. Again, the administrator said, “You didn’t see anything. It was noisy during lunch.” Jim became irritated as he caught on to the cue. Jim told me afterwards that he just walked away in dismay.

Countless other incidents, according to Jim and other security guards have happened. Students aren’t the only ones to encounter disrespectful treatment, but inconsistent reprimands occur for teachers of color. For example two tenured teachers, one white and the other Hispanic, had gone for a run at the end of the school year during their break time, and when both returned to the school, the Hispanic teacher received an email and was questioned about his whereabouts and why he had gone running. After being requested to come to the office by the principal, he proceeded and once there looked around. He saw the other teacher was not present, and left the office. Upon questioning the other teacher, the Hispanic teacher learned that he was the only one summoned to the office.

Disrespectful encounters continue between white administrators and teachers of color and white administrators and white teachers with students of color. Talking with security guards at the school confirms the race disparities in suspension that exist both in and out of school. Students of color are suspended at higher rates than white students nationally. According to Jim, when Caucasian students are caught with drugs, the response entails no punishment because their parents may be on the Board of Education, employed by the district, or are lawyers.

Again, to draw a parallel to the race inequalities that exist in institutions, it took me three full teaching years before I could teach a law elective, even though I enrolled in a criminal justice doctoral program beginning my third year, and for years there was a struggle to achieve equitable teaching loads. On the other hand, white teachers in my department, who were not in a doctoral program, begin their first year teaching law electives. If I can be treated this way as an educated adult, imagine how the students are treated. In all fairness, there has been improvement but the list of injustices continue due to implicit and explicit bias (to be discussed later). The burden of being a black teacher in America is real.

*Name changed.

Real Talk

 

A day in the life of someone with 10 chronic conditions

A day in the life of someone with 10 chronic conditions

The last 3 years have been HEAVY! I’ve had chronic headaches for at least a decade. I was diagnosed with migraines in 2013. In 2015, I was diagnosed with psoriasiform dermatitis – it’s pretty much just SEVERE eczema – and I had to take a medical leave (which I am still on). I was diagnosed with 4 spinal conditions (scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, bilateral spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis) in one day in June of 2016. And since I was on a role *rolls eyes*, I was diagnosed with anxiety and clinical depression in August of 2016.

I’m a believer in stepping in other people’s shoes. It helps you understand them. You get to know them. Maybe you just want to experience someone else’s life for a day. Maybe you’re curious as to how someone with a chronic condition lives their life. In this case, maybe you just want to see what it’s like living with 10 chronic conditions.
Welcome to a day in the life of a *SAHM with ten chronic conditions:

7:00am – Time to wakey

*insert pretty alarm music here* This is normally the time that my alarm rings. Most of the time I listen to it and get up but I do have days when I just look at my phone, swipe the dismiss button, say “nope” and roll over again. Don’t pretend that you’re not guilty of that too! The moment my alarm rings, Nala hears it from whatever corner of the house she slept at and she’ll be meowing at my door until I get out. I stumble to the washroom to wash my face, brush my teeth, and apply my medicated cream so that my skin doesn’t hurt as much. Sometimes I have to stumble my way around the house in the morning because I am completely exhausted and I have a headache.

Once a week, my alarm is set for 6:00am. Mr. J works 12-hour graveyard shifts, so I like to wake up extra early on his Fridays and welcome him home to his weekend.

Mornings are not right without coffee. Right when I head down, I start the kettle while giving Nala breakfast and waiting for my little guy to come down. I’m a sucker for Tim Horton’s french vanilla. I empty the dishwasher from the night before and get my work area ready for the day. I turn on my laptop and quickly check the what-happenings of the online world before Riley leaves for school.

In all honesty, that’s the only scheduled part of my day that is actually followed. I would love to have a more structured day but each day greatly depends on how I feel each morning. I could wake up and just feel absolutely horrendous. I could wake up cranky because my medications prevented me from sleeping. I find myself constantly apologizing because there are times when I would just snap out of nowhere.

8:00am – 2:40pm

This is a free-for-all block. It totally depends on how I am feeling. Maybe I’ll sleep some more, make breakfast, vacuum or dust. Maybe I’ll actually take out something from the freezer because I’m feeling alright enough that I want to make dinner that night. Lately, ever since I started blogging, this is the time frame when I get most of my work done! I can’t continuously work, though. My back just hurts way too much. If you were over, you would notice that I get up to walk a lot. Sitting for too long hurts my back so I get up to walk every so often or I lay down on the sofa. I try to get a lot of things done here before Riley comes home because when he’s home, I have to switch from blogger mode to mama mode.

2:40 – 6:30pm

These hours pass by so quickly for me. Once Riley comes home, we talk about his day – how it went, whether he has homework or projects or if anything interesting happened in school. I make sure he does his chores before he does anything else like go to his dad’s house or play with his friends. I take a deep breath, and prepare myself for some “house duties”. I go around the house and pick up small things I can easily clean up. I sweep. I prepare Mr. J’s food for work. I load the dishwasher and start it.

6:30pm

*insert annoying alarm music here* Medication time! I have so many alarms on my phone. I take a lot of medications and each of their schedules are different. I need to take a certain medication once a week. Most of my medications I take daily. Some of them can’t be taken together, or I have to eat before taking them. I just can’t keep track of all of them and my phone saves me the worry of missing a dose.

6:30-8:30pm

I may take this time to work some more. But there’s a high chance that all of the things that I’ve done all day will cause me to lay down in bed or on the sofa. I just have to get up around 8:30pm because that is that time that Riley gets home from his dad’s place. I try really hard to get up at that time, but don’t always succeed.

8:30-9:00pm

Time to get ready for tomorrow! I make sure that Riley prepares everything he needs for the next day: Sometimes it’s soccer. Sometimes it’s band practice.

9:00pm

*insert annoying alarm music here* Medication time! ….again. Then an hour of family time binge watching a show… Currently it’s Full House.

10:00pm

This is the time when my house goes to bed. When Riley goes to bed… maybe he plays on his iPad for a little bit – who knows? I try to turn my brain off by taking a long, hot and relaxing shower. I find that it just relaxes me physically and mentally. The hot water relaxes all my tense and painful muscles and gets me ready for bed.

So there’s a little look into my world. There’s so much more that can happen. I’ve got a pile of laundry to do and I still have last week’s pile of clean laundry to put away. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Guest Blogger: Chelle Del Rosario is currently a *Stay at Home Mom (SAHM). She started CoffeeHeartMind to share her story living life with multiple chronic illnesses because she wants to help others realize that no matter the situation, we are never alone. She wants to help others connect with each other.

www.coffeeheartmind.com
Email: coffeeheartmind@hotmail.com
Founder | Editor CoffeeHeartMind

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Dear Daughter- What I Didn’t Get to Say Part II

I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was like a bad nightmare, sometimes I still think it was a dream, a really bad dream. Then I realize it was real.  On October 22, 2009, I loss Charlene to a stillbirth. I was just shy of six months. This is the letter that I wrote to her four days later:

It’s been exactly three months since I’ve written to you (I attempted to keep a journal to give to her when she turned 18 but I had only made three previous entries). I must have known something bad was going to happen. I still can’t believe you are not with me anymore. I miss you tremendously.

Words cannot even explain the pain that I feel. I know everything happens for a reason. I think I kind of figured out this reason, but still prefer to have you with me and deal with the stress of your father than to be without you. He literally drove me crazy the whole pregnancy. One minute he was okay with me being pregnant and the next he was asking me to hide my pregnancy like I was a teenager and fighting with me continuously about it. We went to the Hamptons on Columbus Day Weekend, 10/10-10/11/2009 and he asked if I had a bigger shirt to wear because he had not told his former college roommate’s parents whom we were visiting that I was pregnant. He is always concerned with what others have to say or what they think of him. His roommate’s parents knew he was recently divorced with a son.

I managed to enjoy the trip and a week later I found out you were a little girl. He was ecstatic and I wanted a boy. I must admit only because I have four sisters. But then I also got excited and couldn’t wait to meet my healthy little girl. You were going to be my singer, dancer and you were going to be so smart. You were going to have patience (something mommy is working on). You were going to be a star ’cause you were mommy’s baby.  I would sing this to you while you were with me. I miss feeling you moving inside me. It’s all like a bad dream.

When you came on 10-22-09 at 5:51 p.m., I was in shock. Your father cried and cried. My tears came later and each day I think of you. I had so much medication in me that I didn’t believe that you were no longer with me. You were going to be so beautiful and a minnie me. You had all my features…big hands, long arms, my shape face, and eyebrows. We were supposed to be looking into the mirror together next year, while you say, “I’m so pretty.” I was going to ask you whose baby you were and you were going to say, “Mommy’s.” But I will never hear you say that.

We will meet again in the next life. Hopefully not too soon. I want to give you brothers and sisters. You will be all of our guardian angel. You will watch over us. I know you are watching over me right now. I wish you were still here with me, but I cannot bring you back. I miss you so much. Please help me be strong baby girl. Watch over mommy and your future siblings. I love you forever!

Love,

Mommy

Real Talk

Legacy of Racism in Schools

Legacy of Racism in Schools

Racism in society has been evident since the creation of this nation; it later was extended to institutions such as schools. The legacy of Brown v. Board of Education continues to haunt the country’s schools. It is well documented that children of color are recipients of racism, tracking, and lower teacher expectations. When adding inner city, impoverished students to the equation, the effects are more than doubled. In the research that I conducted in New York City Schools, a team of researchers including myself analyzed data collected from students and staff members to assess the achievement gap and what attributed to a successful vs. unsuccessful student. The following exchange of an all male mixed grade level from an alternative school, discussed the impact of racism on the psyche:

Interviewer: Have you experienced racism?

*Terrance: I had a white teacher call me a nigger.

 Why?

I called him a spic and he called me a nigger. I punched him and got kicked out.

l find this exchange appalling, especially as a high school teacher. As the adult, the teacher could have asked the student to step outside to speak to him privately, sent him to the office, called security, called home, etcetera. But to return a racial slur with another was wrong on so many levels and just escalated the situation. Both the student and the teacher, a White Hispanic according to this exchange, are here as a result of the African diaspora which took millions of people to the Americas and Caribbean resulting in a legacy of racism. A topic some feel is a thing of the past.

With the election of Obama and now Trump, more people than ever seem to be aware of the racial and gender inequalities that exist. I see students and people open to talking about race much more now, although all is not well as we can see with some people’s support of Trump’s Muslim-Majority Immigration Ban. I remember one year teaching one of my classes about the effects of historical racism only to hear a black student told another student that I was being racist. This was pre-Obama and pre-Trump.

Although unsettling, I used it as a teaching moment and created a lesson where the class had to define race, racism, and racist and then use the terms to describe the historical circumstances and legislations such as the Homestead Act, which encouraged Westward Migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of public land. The class had to determine who created the law, why, who benefited and suffered as a result of the act. After the lesson, it was clear people of color were not the beneficiaries of such legislations, a leading cause of the wealth gap of today.

When assessing class, race, and access to resources it is important to note that 75% of poor blacks live amongst poor blacks, while only 25% of poor whites live with other poor whites (see West). If one compares the same income of whites and blacks, whites still have more wealth than blacks because much of that difference in wealth is held in white owned homes. Access to property allows for wealth and opportunity for the next generation with the appreciation of real estate and the ability to pass it along to offspring. African-Americans have a harder time doing this.

Today, the median black family has 1/8 net worth of the median white family, while Hispanics have only 1/12 (see PBS- Race: The Power of an Illusion), illustrating a legacy of racial inequality. African-Americans, Latinos, or Native Americans have not gained equity by paying rent, which stem from the hindrance of mortgages to people of color or the divestment of resources in minority neighborhoods.

Since the election of Obama and now Trump, students today seem to be more receptive to talking about racial injustices. Now when we talk about the legacy of racism and the criminal justice system, the students actively participate: black, Hispanic, and white students. I  told my class this year the story about the girl and they shook their heads in disbelief. Times have definitely changed. I’m glad more people are aware or willing to acknowledge the injustices that exist.

But there is still room for improvement. One student just this morning contended that he supported Trump’s ban on immigration even though the data depicts that the majority of terrorists have been American citizens or legal residents. This student had no idea who Timothy McVeigh was or that the majority of attacks were done by American citizens and legal residents. This student also said Dylann Roof’s murder of nine people in South Carolina was not an act of terror, although the definition of terrorism says otherwise. I further explained to the class that one is entitled to his / her own beliefs but it is necessary to support them with facts, not ALTERNATIVE FACTS (I left the last part out).

Will there ever be true equality? Are we on the verge of another Civil Rights Movement?

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

Real Talk

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Dear Daughter- What I Didn’t Get to Say

#deardaughterwhatididntgettosay #stillbirth #lossofachild #bsrealtalk
“I’m bleeding!” I said to my mother. She frantically runs out of the room, “We need a doctor, a nurse, somebody.” I faintly heard her. I laid there as so many thoughts crossed my mind. The previous day, I knew it was over. I didn’t want it to be, but I knew it. Things had really taken a turn for the worse. I was so sad inside and looked like a sad puppy dog with my big brown eyes. I was just full of sadness. My life was in shambles!
Am I sad, am I angry, how do I feel?
Some days I feel as if life isn’t worth it.
Overwhelmed with pain and grief,
Feelings I wouldn’t bestow on my worst enemy.
“What do I do,” I cry to the Lord?
A testament of my faith, a true statement of my soul.
I still believe, I just wish, oh a sigh of relief.
I’m still alive, still have my family and wits.
Have to be grateful, but oh does my heart ache.
Lord please guide me and help me keep my faith.
I can make it, I know I can.
I feel my strength returning,
Unfortunately, my heart is still yearning.
Please continue to watch over me, help me find myself.
I’m lost Lord,  oh I feel so lost.
Help me find my way Lord and let faith be my sword.
Charlene will always be special to me, you’re my little angel.
I miss you dearly…Mommy’s baby.
You were going to be my singer and my dancer…You were going to be so sweet.
Sweet pea watch over mommy, help me get my strength.
You’ll have younger siblings to keep. I know you’ll be there. I miss you baby.
Mommy loves you always XOXO.
Sleep in Peace 10/22/2009
Real Talk

To be continued…


“Oh Arlene, You’ll Be Okay”

#bsrealtalk #inspirationalblog #drgarcia
“Oh Arlene, You’ll Be Okay”
Oh what I would give to be happy, to feel happy, and to smile again. Happiness how is it defined? What does it feel like, smell like, taste like? With no more breath there’s no more feelings. I have to remind myself if I’m not breathing, I’m not living, but happiness is more than breathing. It’s living, it’s feeling loved, it’s family, and it’s friends. Oh what I would give to be happy, to be normal. Can I be something I’m not? My mother tells me, “Oh Arlene, you’ll be okay.”
The way I am is normal for me, so my mama says. My sullen face, my big sad eyes, my fighting spirit and sharp tongue…I can’t change me. Can I? Can I be something that I’m not? To be normal and not have my mind race 100 mph, be oblivious to the blunders of life—can I just miss a beat? Do I want to? I just want to normalize, to smile, to find love, erase the tears and emptiness, and loneliness. I’ve shut everyone out. I don’t even know where to begin.
Should I talk to myself daily, look in the mirror, smile and say today is going to be a good day! A smile is a start. I hear I have a beautiful one, but it’s hidden many days. I have to smile more. Maybe if I smile, I’ll feel happy. I’ll try it. Tell myself I have things to be grateful for—family love, employment, I’m alive, but I’m missing my love. My true companion. I dream of a love so deep, so real, so honest, so loyal, so fruitful. Happily ever after like the movies, my partner in life, My Clyde, My Ride or Die. Then maybe it will widen my smile, Oh what I would do to be happy. My mother tells me, “Oh Arlene, You’ll Be Okay.”
Real Talk

More Degrees than a Thermometer, Who Knew She Wanted to Die

#whoknewshewantedtodie #moredegreesthanathemometer #bsrealtalk #inspirationalblog
Why do I feel this way? I just feel like dying. Should I shoot myself, stab myself in the heart? How should I do it? I get so sad. I feel so lonely. I shut everybody out. No wonder, I have no friends. I cry waterfalls most days if not externally, internally there’s a monsoon. I don’t do it because I imagine the people who care for me, especially my mom. If I did it, she would be devastated. Other people will care too but my mom would be destroyed. I don’t want to do that to her. I’ve never written anything so real and so raw. I am so overwhelmed with the world. I don’t fit. I don’t know how to fit. I am so sad. The world works in contradiction to my strong emotions. If only I knew, I would have married long ago. Silly old me waiting for the stuff I see in movies. True love. I guess it really is just a fantasy. One I thrived to get. But I’m getting old, 34. Still not married, no prospects or kids. Some may say it’s young but not for child rearing, especially for someone like me who has an autoimmune illness.
Maybe it’s best I have no kids. No one to pass this miserable existence to. I thrive to be a recluse but desire a real friend. I don’t know what to do with myself. I beg for some guidance. Lord please help me. If not for my sake, my family’s. How do I take away the pain? I can indulge but it just masks it, not end it. I want it to end. I am filled with so much emotion. Too much to bare. I can’t go on living like this for much longer. How many tears can I cry? I hear it relieves toxins, but if that were the case my body would be purified by now. My inner self is so deep. Such intense feelings. I’m just realizing the world is not as intense. I’ve always known I was different, but I didn’t know my feelings were so much stronger than others. Something that isn’t a big deal to others is a catastrophe for me. Growing up, people always commented with how enraged I would become at matters that were no a big deal to other people. I would be told to relax. Relax, how do you do that with an inner self that’s always on fire? I’m always ready. Innate, fight or flight response.
Real Talk
Written in 2013