The Second Line Blog

When Intention Isn’t Enough: White Educators’ Casual Racism in the Classroom

This article was first published at www.blkteachergriot.com

By Andrea Fullington

The 2015-2016 school year was easily the most traumatic work year of my adult life. I was a teacher at an alternative high school in New Orleans, a job very similar to one I left in Philadelphia. Alternative schools are intended to address the push-out crisis by creating spaces for students who have not found success in traditional schooling environments. Some of these students may not thrive in large environments; some may have been pushed out of the charters that claim to be educating “all” of our kids. Some are in the criminal justice system, or young parents caring for children of their own. The possibilities are endless, and serving these youth comes with a unique set of struggles and challenges. Having worked in the field for a few years, it’s a population that I am very comfortable with. It is also one that I care deeply about.

Despite my passion for, and comfort with, alternative education, that year led me to question the very foundation that I had built my career on. I cried a lot, vented on Facebook, journaled during professional development meetings and frequented happy hours with other educator-friends while we soaked it all away over margaritas with chips & salsa (yes, we’ll need another pitcher). I worked out for self-care, got a therapist to maintain balance and dug into my yoga practice to begin meditating regularly. I did the usual things one does when they’ve got a stressful job.

What I realized halfway through this school year was that my desire to center Blackness in the classroom, to help my students unlearn most of the things that the media told them about themselves, still had to be done within a deeply racist system.

With teachers, all of the above are done with student stories sprinkled in between. Exasperating, funny, touching and annoying moments with kids that make the job everything that it is. But that school year, kids weren’t the main topic of conversation with my peers and I. We talked about them, sure, but much more of our dialogue was spent on how racism played out in our daily grind. We vented about administrators whose savior complexes were evident in the very way they spoke to and about students. We talked about how meager the expectations were of our low-income, predominantly Black kids. We talked about the inability of our white coworkers to even acknowledge the differences between themselves and their students, so great was their desire to be colorblind. And more than anything, we talked about how these behaviors indicated the same age-old (and, well… racist) idea that these Black students should not be expected to excel.

What I realized halfway through this school year was that my desire to center Blackness in the classroom, to help my students unlearn most of the things that the media told them about themselves, still had to be done within a deeply racist system. Perhaps this isn’t shocking to folks of color who are teachers, but after 9 years in the profession, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

So what exactly did this toxicity look like on a day-to-day basis?

Extreme White Saviorism

Many of the white teachers and administrators reveled in the idea that they were essentially “saving” kids from themselves and their communities. This drove most of them to prioritize befriending kids rather than encouraging any academic or personal development. One particularly infuriating example — let’s call him Mr. Frank — taught special education students who struggled behaviorally and academically. In this setting, it meant that his class was full of the Black boys who could not sit still. Students dubbed it the place you go to “listen to music and eat snacks.”

In meetings, Mr. Frank spoke openly and often about all the academic tasks he felt like students were incapable of even trying. He nodded along when other white coworkers claimed that it was a great thing if students ended up working at local grocery stores after graduating, because at least they weren’t “in the streets shooting each other up.”

These ideas help to explain some of the trash that passed for rigor in his classroom. He let students print Wikipedia pages and paste them to tri-folds for final project work. He excused them from completing assignments and rarely failed kids regardless of what their effort or attendance looked like. He used his classroom time to take kids to the store, buy them food, and hand out money.

Let’s pause here, because many of these things sound incredibly sweet when done by a family member or friend. And yes, relationships are super important when teaching. But building them isn’t the only part of teaching. As educators, we focus on building relationships with kids in order to better teach them. To do this, we have to actually believe in their intellectual capabilities enough to push for their academic growth. Mr. Frank didn’t see the second part of the equation as important. He thought so little of the kids’ intelligence that there was no urgency in actually educating them. He was there to be nice to them. To call them his “boys.” To make friends.

He greeted Black kids as the n-word and jokingly called a young woman a “ratchet ass bitch” in front of a group of males in order to get a laugh from them.

Over the course of my year there, it wasn’t difficult to see how Mr. Frank’s desire to “save” these allegedly broken Black kids prompted him to treat his class as a fun holding cell… it was simply somewhere to put kids that everyone else deemed too incorrigible to learn. Because of this, Mr. Frank could do whatever he pleased. He greeted Black kids as the n-word and jokingly called a young woman a “ratchet ass bitch” in front of a group of males in order to get a laugh from them. His behaviors prompted three Black women (myself included) to push back with administration but we were constantly drowned out. “He means well,” white administrators told us. Which leads me to other ways that white supremacy creates toxicity in educational spaces….

The Privileging of White Voices and Opinions.

Outside of Mr. Frank’s outrageous everyday actions, another obvious indicator of racism in our workplace was the constant approval of white opinions and the subsequent shutting down of voices of color. A white teacher told students that their definition of racism, one that recognizes that all whites receive benefits and privileges from systems of white supremacy, was wrong because it made white people uncomfortable. He justified his assertion by coolly stating that he could speak to the issue because his partner was mixed race.

Over the course of the year, several teachers of color had complained about Mr. Frank’s behavior, specifically about their discomfort with him using the n-word and how his decision to do so made the workplace feel unsafe. They were told several times, “He has his methods.” Early in the year, a young Black woman was hired as his co-teacher but didn’t last in his classroom a month before needing to be placed with another educator. She expressed to me that he often seemed unprepared to teach and when she asked for lesson plans or outlines, she was scolded. He told her, “You don’t ask questions. I’ve been doing this for years. I’m the surgeon, you’re the assistant.” When she went to the principal with complaints of being treated condescendingly, she was reprimanded for causing trouble and made to sign a contract stating that she would never discuss Mr. Frank with other teachers while on the school premises.

If you wanted to address issues of microaggressions that made the workplace toxic, you didn’t discuss it at work in hopes of bringing about change. You went to happy hour with people you trusted and cried.

Later in the year, when I tried to organize a meeting with a few teachers of color to talk about how best to deal with his language and brainstorm coping strategies for the growing list of racial microaggressions at work, I was called into the principal’s office for a meeting with her and the dean. I was asked to apologize for my unprofessional behavior, despite the fact that I had previously addressed the principal with my concerns and was dismissed without any promise of further action.

All these instances taught an easy lesson: if you had issues with how white teachers treated you, you kept your mouth shut. If you questioned how certain practices and behaviors were impacting students of color, you kept your mouth shut. And if you wanted to address issues of microaggressions that made the workplace toxic, you didn’t discuss it at work in hopes of bringing about change. You went to happy hour with people you trusted and cried.

Valuing Intention over Impact

Intention is often the moral compass that guides problematic white teachers in the spaces. It was at this school that I learned how heavily white people leaned on their good intentions. Because these teachers and administrators, Mr. Frank included, meant well… because everyone could couch their behaviors in the altruistic deed of educating Black kids with academic gaps… they could not possibly consider their actions problematic. When I realized this about my boss and coworkers, I began to see how strongly whiteness seeks to protect itself in schools. Everything from Mr. Frank’s “methods,” to teachers doing work for students they didn’t deem capable, to colorblind sentiments that white teachers used to make connections between themselves and the kids, were excused and never questioned because the people who did or said them “meant well.” It didn’t matter what impact this had on the kids and it sure as hell didn’t matter how it made staff members of color in the school feel.

Because everyone could couch their behaviors in the altruistic deed of educating Black kids with academic gaps… they could not possibly consider their actions problematic.

Issues like this that exist in education aren’t often addressed as system-wide problems indicative of attitudes and biases towards people of color. Instead we discuss the few bad apples, which in the education field means the teachers who don’t care at all, the teachers with ill intent.

The problem with this approach is that most all white folks, teachers and otherwise, never see themselves as the bad apples. They know that they mean well so they assume that they couldn’t possibly be a part of the problem. At this alternative school, the white folks who caused a great deal of the microaggressions could barely hear us decrying their actions and language. Our complaints were drowned out by the sound of them patting themselves on the back for their hard work.

Halfway through that year I reflected on nearly a decade in the education field and the experiences it took to get there. I specifically recalled going to grad school with people who made sweeping generalizations about Black and Brown communities. I remember coping with these microaggressions in the same ways I did years later as a teacher: I hung out after classes with fellow students of color. We laughed through our sadness, lamenting the fact that some of the people in our Ivy League program were already in positions of power in schools full of Black children. We scoffed at how proud they were for taking on the work of “fixing“ kids and schools, despite the lack of desire to fix their own racist viewpoints, language, approaches, etc.

I did not consider that fighting for my kids essentially meant fighting against these people, while simultaneously being expected to work with them.

Even back then, I brushed it all off over happy hours. And despite everything, I was still hopeful. I thought that I could teach Black and Brown youth in a way that centered them, their stories, their beauty, and their lives. But I did not see the battles that lay ahead. I did not consider that those grad school classmates who thought so little of us were already running the system and starting the charter schools. I did not consider that fighting for my kids essentially meant fighting against these people, while simultaneously being expected to work with them. It was a hardship I was unprepared for when I first started teaching in 2007 and now, I have enough experience to know that it is a battle I expect to fight for the rest of my career. I’m almost embarrassed by my ever-present optimism, but what drives me to keep going is the hope that one day I’ll be doing this work within an institution void of these issues. This would save me from a career of holding my tongue until I get to half-priced drinks with other teachers of color who have learned that silence is the only way to stay in the ring.

Teaching Children Money & Finance

This article was first published on www.askmissheard.com

“You know the term, ‘woke?’ Yes, that is exactly what it means to be money smart. It means that we are giving our children a solid foundation about the knowledge of money.” This was just one of many explanations Rashaun made relatable to us on last week’s conversation.   

Rashaun Harris, Financial Coach, Marketing Guru, mother of soon to be two, and bonus mom to one visited, Ask Miss Heard’s weekly LIVE show and dropped mega gems on the topic, “Teaching Our Children Money & Finance.” 

Smiling from ear to ear she enlightened us on how she grew into an expert about money for herself.  “When I was young, I thought that my family was rich. I mean we did everything. We always shopped and we always went on vacation. But when I went to school, I was attracted to my friends’ parents – their lifestyles. So I asked, ‘What does your dad do?’ The answer was always, ‘they owned this business and that business.’ I decided then, that I wanted to study business and do the same.” 

Rashaun studied Marketing graduating Cum Laude from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA. Upon graduation she went on to work for two Fortune 500 companies in their marketing and sales departments running circles around corporate America. 

But with feelings that corporate America was only the floor for her, she bet on herself and her abilities when she took on the challenge of owning and operating her own division of a financial service business. She then licensed herself in investments, annuities, and life insurance. Rashaun’s business grew over six figures in revenue within two years. Through developing strong relationships and a grassroots social media approach she is now an expert in all things money. 

Rashaun went on to explain that we don’t realize how our behavior and how we speak about money transfers directly to our children. “If you are in a tight situation with your funds, don’t complain about it out loud. Children begin to have negative attitudes and take on the mindset of deficit and not abundance.” 

When asked about how to get started she gave us the magic word “allowance.” 

“Before we begin to give allowance, it is important that this habit become one that is consistent. Allowance rates can match the child’s age so this should increase every year. Also, allowance should not be taken away as a penalty or punishment. If the child makes a bad grade in school, do not take away their allowance. This can create negative thoughts around money and how money works in real life.” 

The conversation continued with suggestions for teaching kids money through technology, how to practice shopping with your children, and introducing entrepreneurship. Rashaun also gave these tips for what we should be doing at different age levels. 

  1. Ages 3 to 5: Explain what money is. Use cash around preschoolers when you go to the store because plastic is too abstract. Let them collect coins in a clear container so that they may see their money grow. Show them that five pennies equal a nickel. 
  2. Ages 6-10: Start with a weekly allowance at age six! Take your child shopping with you to give them hands-on experience making need versus want decisions.By age nine, children can grasp the basics of budgeting. Open a savings account for them at your bank if you haven’t already. 
  3. Ages 11-14: During middle school children are presented with peer pressure from friends and advertisements. It is important to hammer the idea of saving to pay yourself first and smart shopping of needs versus wants. This is also a good time to introduce them to the stock market and compound interest. 
  4. Age 15-18: At this time you are thinking about college and the possibility of your child moving away from home. You are practicing those foundational skills. If your child has a part time job discuss tax related issues. Also, encourage them to set aside money for college expenses. Reinforce the negative power of compound interest on credit card purchases!

Our talk with Rashaun Harris was nothing short of informative. If you would like more information (she has all these gems in a PDF booklet), or want her to teach you more about money she can be reached at [email protected] or her Instagram @_aboutherbusiness_.

Our Children Need Better Politicians

This article was first published on www.educationpost.org

Can we all agree that the basic care and development of America’s children—yes, every single one of them—is a cardinal virtue that should live unbothered by race, class, geography, ideology and partisanship? And if publicly funded education systems are the single most powerful investments we make as a society to fulfill our responsibility of raising healthy kids into capable adults, shouldn’t politicos of all stripes share a good-faith policy agenda to advance our goals? 

Yes, this is another lamentation about the passing away of the once-beloved bipartisanship in education reform policy. It was beautiful while it lasted. I’m sorry it died. 

Now what?

Leading Democrats running for president have all but said they will outlaw school choice, charter schools and parent power—a promise likely to unjustly trap millions of kids on the margins in education dead zones where their great potential will be lost to poor preparation.

Across the aisle, Republicans have become unlikely supporters of handing over $700 billion annually to public schools with no accountabilitystandards or expectations. It’s a gold medal recipe for an education system that is mostly a jobs program for government workers who fight harder for their own rights than they do for better student outcomes.

The left will say their opponents are hell-bent on “destroying” public education, which causes them to incessantly shout “save our schools” rather than “save our kids who are in schools.” For their part, the right will say liberals will stop at nothing to defend the unionized teachers who act as a solid voting block for the Democrat party. That’s true.

Lost in the volley are parents who only want their children to have a fair shot at succeeding in work and life.

EDUCATION IS DEEPLY PERSONAL, MUST BE DONE WITH THE CONSENT OF THE PUPIL AND THEIR GUARDIAN, AND ISN’T WORTH MUCH IF GRADUATES AREN’T ABLE TO PURSUE MEANINGFUL WORK WHEN THEY EXIT THE K-12 SYSTEM.

In a politically, religiously and ideologically diverse country we’ll always disagree on some fundamentals in education. We may never fully agree on how public schooling should be shaped, what it should offer, who should run it, what it should teach, how its money should reach the children who drive its investments. But these are system-centric concerns that miss the point. While we argue (stupidly, in my opinion) about the education bureaucracy, its budgets and its army of employees, we lose sight of the fact that education is deeply personal, must be done with the consent of the pupil and their guardian, and isn’t worth much if graduates aren’t able to pursue meaningful work when they exit the K-12 system. On that last point, only 3% of Americans believe high schools excel at preparing students for college, and only 5% believe students are prepared for work. 

Political polarization isn’t new. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. In education, however, we may be more frayed than in the past. The need for commonsense policymaking has never been greater. It’s clear we desperately need to return to the question of “how are the children,” and start defining our leaders by their capacity to unite us around solutions.

CAN THOSE LEADERS BUILD A NEW COALITION, A NONPARTISAN ONE THAT LOVES CHILDREN MORE THAN IT HATES ITS OPPONENTS?

Can those leaders build a new coalition, a nonpartisan one that loves children more than it hates its opponents? 

Can they attract people of good faith, high integrity and sharp policy skills—across the spectrum of beliefs—to fight for an education system that is student-centered, results-focused, properly supported and transparently monitored?

Can they put away childish squabbles and be the adults we deserve our leaders to be?

If we love our children as more than props in labor disputes, more than pawns in ideological struggles, and more than nameless, faceless units in classrooms, we will find a way to work with those we differ with politically but agree with on one cardinal truth: the unsurpassable worth of every child.

Precious Children

Children are innocent, blank slates. Clean canvasses. Malleable, movable, and unknowing to what exactly life is all about. It’s hard to look at them and not feel some sort of joy. They carry the ability to bring out our best, most gentle selves. 

I received my gift, my son, at the young age of 20. And while I thought I knew what ALL being a mother would take, I didn’t. I had no idea of what great a responsibility I signed up for. The ability to put this little person before myself became second nature. My old self was being removed. It really is a different kind of love. 

A Mother and an Educator 

I carried this responsibility as I chose to become an educator. The impact that I would have on children and their future was one of the first lessons I learned in the profession. I was now contributing to the outcome of lives. I was a mama to 30 at one time. I often took home much of my workload to grade papers, complete lesson plans, and make phone calls to parents. While my son did his homework, I did mine. Sometimes he went to bed and I stayed up to finish or would wake a few hours early to get a fresh start with whatever was undone. There were so many 

Saturday mornings dedicated to making an anchor chart or creating an exemplar to use for the next week. I worked hard. 

As my son got older, he began to struggle in school. He was now dealing with more than one teacher. Common core had its shifts and they were working on him. Every teacher taught using their own style. Needless to say, all styles did not work for him. Plus he lived in two homes. For a child, it was a recipe for disgust. He grew so frustrated. His grades suffered. 

He needed more of me and my time. So we made some adjustments. One home during the week (I am also a co-parent) so we could practice good habits. I began to spend our time reinforcing whatever he was learning in each class. Reinforcement for him was a new approach. We did videos, we went to the library for changes of scenery, we used my classroom and its Prometheum board, board games, thinking maps (graphic organizers), real field trips, powerpoint presentations created by him, grocery store visits, reading while en route to football practice, flashcards, sticky notes everywhere, you name, we did it. 

Of course, the work I needed to complete for my own classes began to become a second thought. So I hired a tutor for my son. That worked for a while but I found there was nothing like giving him MY time. Plus, it allowed me to see and understand how he learned from a parental perspective. He needed one on one. He needed patience. He needed to be monitored and redirected a bit more than some other students. And he deserved it. I do this. Who was I not to give it to him? 

The Balancing Act I assume that everyone with a full time profession and children have to work hard to keep their lives balanced. I am just not an expert at it (at least not yet). Here is where I struggled so I came up with a plan. Staying organized and prepared has helped me become a lot better and I am proud to say that my son and I are handling it. 

But bigger than anything I learned how much focus, commitment, and discipline it takes to take care of children. Whether you’re an PARENT or a TEACHER, if you have the responsibility to care for a child, the responsibility is not to be taken lightly. The world has enough uncertainties for them. Don’t be the adult that adds to that. 

If you are a teacher, recognize and take responsibility for the POWER you have. Yes, our profession is hard but it is what YOU chose. We all know and feel the injustices of it. Rather than complain, figure out what the solution is for you. The impact on the lives you have inside of your classroom will move beyond that one year you are present. If it is your job to teach a child to read, DO IT, at your best. Reading is too important to their future. If it is your job to teach a 

job mathematical foundations, DO IT, at your best. If it your job to teach a child science or social studies to build knowledge and make connections to the real world and its history, DO IT, at your best. They don’t have YOUR POWER and much of what they need to get to their next level is up to you. 

So to ALL PEOPLE who are responsible for children, take care of them. Eventually, these precious children, will be taking care of you.

Students of Color Deserve Teachers Who Will Work to Truly Connect With Them

They say it only takes one special teacher in a child’s life to make a lasting impact. I have spent my educational career striving to be THAT teacher who is always remembered fondly in the development of my students. 

I have been teaching at the same school in the same grade level working with families in the same community for over a decade. When I get asked, “How can you stay in the same place so long?” or “Why don’t you teach in a more affluent area or even closer to home?” I always answer the same, because these are the children that need a teacher who is passionate, who is invested in their future, who loves them and will nurture them enough to open doors to a world they may otherwise never know.

My experiences as a student were like many I suppose; filled with a mixed bag of teachers whose influences still drive me today. My Kindergarten teacher made me feel like I was special and imaginative, my fourth-grade teacher built my love of reading and writing poetry and short stories, while my sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade teachers helped me to find my voice and encouraged me to be a strong-minded thinker and debater. 

However, my second-grade teacher crushed my confidence in many ways and added to a complex of inadequacy where math is concerned that I carry with me still. That ideology handicapped me for so long, but now as an educator, I use it as fuel to make sure I never impart such feelings upon my students by trying to make math fun, exciting, and useful while always encouraging their efforts (even though I still kind of hate it). 

Some of the teachers I encountered who had the greatest impact on my life though were after I got to college. I entered as an art major because I loved it and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do as a professional career. My art teachers helped me find myself again and my education professors opened the door to my passions.

When I got to the University of Lafayette, my culture and diversity professor said something I’ll never forget. He said that this class was going to be the most important class we would take on the journey to our certification and degrees. It wouldn’t be how to write a lesson plan, or how to research and apply different teaching philosophies, because children will not respect or listen to someone who doesn’t care to know them and meet them on their path while being able to identify with their struggle and make a real connection. 

Then, he asked his class of 90% females and completely mixed ethnicities, to reflect on their own experience with the diversity of their educators. “How many of your teachers have been male or teachers of color?” he said. “How many have been both?” I realized at that moment as he spoke that he was only one of two I’d ever had. Most of the teachers who’d encouraged and influenced me along the way had been Caucasian women. They took the time, however, to know me and make that real connection. 

I grew up in the ’80s in an upper middle class family and attended a private religious school from preschool to the eighth grade and was often the only child of color in my classroom, which I definitely noticed. I also noticed when I was hired at my elementary school in 2008, by a Caucasian female principal on to a mostly older female Caucasian staff servicing a large male population of students that were 99% Black and Hispanic from lower-income families, the obvious unbalance and how it may be feeding a disconnect and adding to a culture of complacency and animosity on both sides. 

I watched the only two younger male teachers there become magnets to these young boys craving male influence and direction with compassion. I also watched the complacent educators and administrators be replaced over the years with a much more diverse group of teachers and staff who wanted to bond, learn new strategies, build bridges with the family and community in order to educate the whole child and turn a failing school into a “B” school. The rating is neither here nor there in regards to what really changed within those walls. Students and teachers went from individuals trying to pass time and get through the days, to arriving with purpose, working together, forming relationships that last year, throughout our growth and development, and matter enough to each other to invest in making a real impact and difference.

Every day, my principal now reminds us (man, woman, Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian) to begin the day with our “why” at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. Our “why” is our purpose. We don’t do this job for the pay. There’d never be enough we could earn, but the gift we give and receive in trying the best we can to be the change for these families and ourselves is truly priceless. 

Diversity matters in the model of what our young people see, because it shows a future with options they may otherwise never know. It allows them to see past their neighborhoods or circumstances, which many of them never travel too far from. It is our charge to introduce them to this world of diversity, options, and cultures through pictures, texts, and by being those diverse and cultured individuals ourselves. 

Sometimes it’s a matter of representation and sometimes it’s just a matter of educating ourselves to the population and community we serve, connecting as people in this world in order to make the most difference for the greater good. Any way you slice it, understanding the importance of diversity and culture for our students is indeed the most important thing as an educator as we continue to remain an ever-evolving student of ourselves.

Live Chat: Public Education Week

Throughout the week of October 21-25th, Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN), along with advocates, educators and parents across the city, will host Public Education Week: the only event series dedicated to bringing the entire public into the public education system, and training citizens to navigate the system, advocate for change, and increase equity and excellence for all students.

Public Education Week is about information, navigation and advocacy, covering topics like: 

  • System navigation (special education laws, OneApp)
  • Sharing data and resources (public records, student rights)
  • Addressing equity matters (education access, differential outcomes by race and wealth) And more!

Tune in today at 12p Andrea Heard educator and host of @_askmissheard_ will chat with Nahliah Webber from @opennola to discuss the details of what’s in store.

Your Hispanic Heritage Is More Than Just a Month

We can all agree that education is important for ourselves and for future generations, even though we can’t seem to agree on much after that part. We argue over school choice, teacher pay, state testing and curriculum, and sometimes it feels like we will never get to a place that actually centers the positive identity development of our youth. So, in honor of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, allow me to explain why positive identity development is so important to me as a Latina. 

I truly believe that if more of our education system was focused on helping us learn about who we are, where we come from, and how to love ourselves that we might be living in a very different world than we are today. For a long time, I moved through life feeling like I was not enough. I felt like I just didn’t fit in many spaces, and school was one of the main places where I often felt like I didn’t fit. When I went to school I didn’t see myself in the teachers or the curriculum. 

It wasn’t until college when I started taking more Latin American history and social history of the United States courses that I began to unlearn so much of the harmful and untrue history that is taught in American schools. 

As I mentioned earlier, its currently Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, which begins on September 15th and ends on October 15th. This month, and all months, I implore you to share positive reinforcement of how people of color have and continue to shape the world. 

Our youth deserve to learn the truth and they deserve to see themselves positively represented in their teachers, principals, school board members, and textbooks. I also want to hear more educated conversations about how my state, Louisiana, is quickly filling up prisons with immigrants who are simply seeking to thrive, work hard, pay taxes (yes, undocumented immigrants pay taxes), and raise their families in a country that has sold the “American Dream” to generations. 

In a conversation about education, I’d be remiss if I didn’t teach something to you in this brief post and so many of my neighbors and friends are unaware of the fact that our state is about to surpass Texas in the number of detainees being held here.

On a brighter side, today and always I am a proud Latina, dedicated to creating spaces for positive identity development, inclusion, and social justice. All that I am is because of where I come from and who I come from, just like all of you.

Moving through School: 3 Facts to Keep Close

This article was first posted on www.askmissheard.com

Every year in education there are changes in policies and procedures that parents aren’t aware of to ask. Below are a few key items that I picked up along the way in my experience as a parent that can be crucial to the academic career of your student. Keep these in mind as you all progress through each grade level and each education institution. 

1. Transferring credits. 

For 8th grade parents, especially parents whose students attend private schools and plan to attend public school next year, you want to be mindful of their current course load. If your student is enrolled in 9th grade courses this means at the end of the course they will take an examination that can give them high school transcript credits. For example, courses like English I, Algebra I, Spanish I, Spanish II, or Journey to Success, are offered to 8th grade students. If students are enrolled in these courses the student must pass the End of Course Exam (EOC) with a basic or above, a passing grade which is considered a D, and also have been taught by a teacher who is certified by the state. 

This last part of the teacher being certified is new information. There are many teachers who are in the classroom who may be in certification programs but are not yet certified. The credits from uncertified teachers will not transfer. Teachers at private schools are the most common uncertified teachers. Remember, private schools do not perform state testing at the end of the school year. Become aware of the requirements you need to earn those credits because your child could possibly have to retake courses they have already taken. 

My advice: Get with your school counselors to check these facts before you enter grade 8. 

2. 504/SPED student records. 

Students who receive 504/SPED accommodations that transfer or progress to other schools must also have those records transferred. Do not assume that this will happen automatically. Again, check with your current school counselor. Even after you check with the counselor, when your student gets to the next school, check with each one of your child’s teachers to ensure they have received the accommodations. If there are any really important points or pieces on your child’s Individual Education Plan or IEP be sure to mention it to their teacher. 

Here is why… 

The beginning of the year is a very busy time. You have new rosters, new schedules, you may be teaching a new course or you may have a brand new teacher or teacher who was just hired and missed professional development where schools discuss policies and procedures. There could be a number of variations as to why your child’s accommodations are not being honored or just plain missed. 

It is not offensive to advocate for your child and their Individualized Education Plan. At this point in the education game, you could be putting your child at a loss if you did not ask.

3. Know the difference between Regular, Honors, Gifted, and Advanced Placement courses. 

Regular education courses: All students enter these courses automatically. Grade weights toward GPA are on a 4.0 scale. Inside of current regular education classes are a mixture of students. There are “regular education students” and also students who receive 504/SPED accommodations. The lead teacher inside of the classroom is responsible for teaching all the students and honoring their personal academic needs. They work and plan alongside the SPED teacher who may sometimes push into the classroom to support student services. 

Honors courses: These are generally higher level courses that proceed at a faster pace and cover more material than regular courses. These courses are usually reserved for students who excel in a certain subject. Course weights at some schools vary and can be higher than a 4.0. Students can enter by way of placement test results or LEAP score results that are Mastery or Advanced scores.   

Gifted and Talented courses: These are students who demonstrate high academic or aptitude or possess extraordinary talent in visual or performing arts. These students also have Individual Education Plans or IEPs. Gifted programs are often included in the school for specific interests. Parents should understand that all schools do not have gifted programs and if you are in search of a specialty, you want to choose schools with that intention in mind. The New Orleans Center of Creative Arts or NOCCA is a pre-professional 

Advanced Placement or AP courses: These courses offer students the opportunity to earn college credit by taking more rigorous classes and then demonstrate mastery of the material on a nationally standardized end-of-course examination with a score on a 3 or higher, you may be eligible for college credit. Students who take these courses also earn more points on the graduation index. 

These are just a few pointers or pieces that parents should keep in mind as we navigate our children’s academic experience. Parents, we are in the times where we cannot afford to ask questions or not inform ourselves more on what should be taking place in the school. 

Please, be encouraged.

Andrea Heard