The Second Line Blog

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

Organization Spotlight: Daughter of the King

We’ve been hearing it everywhere, from the United Nations to The New York Times: When we support the growth and empowerment of women and girls, we raise the quality of life for everyone.

This is because when women lead they not only lead businesses, they lead in their community, they fight for their children, and they give voice to issues that are important to our collective future — like education and health care. Makes sense to me. But how do we get there? I am honored to launch “Daughter Of The King Mentoring Academy & After School Program” an organization going in at the ground level and supporting girls and young women in under-served communities through the practice of mentoring.

The gap in time between the ringing of the last school bell and when parents arrive home from work has long been a concern of families, law enforcement and community members due to the potential dangers and risky behaviors that take place after school.

More than 15 million students— including 3.7 million middle schoolers are alone and unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m., the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. The hours after school when children are on their own are not just a time of risks, it is also a time of lost opportunities to help students grow and develop the skills and competencies to make positive life decisions that can lead to their future success.

Strong support and guidance are critical to high schoolers during a life stage that shapes their trajectory into college, career and beyond. After- school programs are an environment where students can go to feel safe and find staff and mentors who they trust. They also offer a space where students can express their creativity, find their voice, learn how to deal with challenging situations, and better understand how the choices they make will impact their lives and the lives of those around them. Access to after- school programs can help keep high school girls safe, keep them engaged in learning, and help them take advantage of their full potential as they navigate school, peers and their surroundings.


Our DOTK House has been created to enhance the development of young girls and provide a forum to expose them to the benefits and the importance of positive self love, value, image, responsible personal conduct, respect for self and others via educational achievement, cultural enrichment and mentoring. The girls will receive snacks daily & a hot meal. The young girls have access to free hygiene, a food pantry & gently used clothing from our DOTK Closet. For more info please visit 

www.101daughteroftheking.com

How to Communicate Effectively with Your Childs Teacher

This blog was first posted on northshoreparent.com

By Tiffany King

We don’t have the easiest starts to the school year in our family. I have one child who is very reluctant to change and he struggles each year when the school year begins. A lot of times his frustration manifests in behavioral issues. Because of this I have come up with some tips on how to effectively communicate with your child’s teacher.

In my experience teachers really want to be a team with a family. No matter the type of challenges you are having (behavioral or learning or other), teachers want their students to succeed. They also want you to feel a part of the process so having an open line of communication with them will always help.

Introduction Email

Each year I send a little intro email to our new teacher. We get our assignments on Meet the Teacher night, so I will usually just tell them that I am going to follow up with an email that night. In the email I introduce myself and my child. I give her my email address and cell number. I usually tell her several strengths my son has and then a few issues we have encountered. I try to keep it brief but also help her to know what to expect. The most important thing I like to tell them is that they are welcome to call me at any time especially in that first week. I want them to know that they can reach out to me at any point to just talk to me about what is happening or to see if I have any insight.

Lend a Hand

I really try to help our teachers when I can. This is definitely not something I got to do as much as I wanted last year because of still having a child at home but this year I am working to be more present. However, if you aren’t able to get to the school I always offer to cut out items or print things. You can always collect a list of items that are needed in the classroom and see if other parents will help you fulfill it There are lots of areas that teachers can use extra hands so just ask. Sometimes it can be really simple and amazingly helpful to your teacher.

Keep Up the Communication (Conferences)

Within the first few weeks, if I start to see a trend with behavior, or if I get a few calls from the teacher I will ask to come in and have a conference. With anything, sitting face to face is sometimes the best way to communicate. I feel like it’s a better use of the teacher’s time because we can discuss multiple issues at once and I can also get a better understanding of when and where issues are happening in the classroom. 

Ask for Resources

Schools usually have amazing resources for their students, but sometimes you need to be the one to ask for them. When we have had struggles in the past I have asked what next steps were before they were even offered. I think it is always better to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later in a lot of circumstances. We have used this practice with speech issues, behavioral issues, or anything we have encountered at school. I have been impressed with the school’s therapist and how quickly she is to answer questions or meet with you in person. Bringing in another person to help with the issue can also really help your teacher too. 

Backing Your Teacher

I cannot stress this one enough. It is so important for your child to know that you are backing their teacher and for the teacher to know that you are backing them too. I want my child to know that we are all a team. It’s not ever me and him against the teacher or the teacher and I against him. It’s a team and together we are going to have an amazing year. In the instances where my child has told me that something the teacher said was incorrect I always say, “ok well if you are telling me the teacher doesn’t have this story correct than you and I are going to go in tomorrow and the three of us are going to talk about it. Are you sure what you are saying is correct?”

I know every situation is different and I am sure that people have encountered teachers that these things wouldn’t matter to. We have been beyond blessed to have had several amazing teachers in a row. This has made all the difference in my son’s experience at school and I am incredibly grateful to the school for this.

Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T)

NOLA.COM just recently posted an article about Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T), a program that recruits African American teachers, particularly men, to work in schools in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. As I read the article I realized Lamont Douglas wrote a story on that same program a few years ago.

Because Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T) intentionally makes it a point to spark conversation with young men who may not particularly see themselves in the classroom teaching or think that they would excel at a career pouring into the lives of our kids.

Read Lamonts article here

A Strong Parent-Teacher Relationship Is Crucial to a Child’s Educational Success

As a teacher, here is my message to parents: “I hear you!” I’m finally in that space where I totally get your frustrations. You’ve worked a long and exhausting day knowing that your children, household and spouse are already a laundry list of “needs, wants and to-do’s” waiting for you at quitting time. Now, to add to it all, there are the weekly and lengthy homework assignments, a school calendar of events and the inevitable forms from the school or teacher that must be completed and returned (some with cash attached) ASAP! Aaaaaah…enough right?!

But here’s the unavoidable and unpleasant truth; adulting is hard! With everything in life, we seek to find a balance that doesn’t make us completely nuts and we try to find a way to make time for the things that count. There is simply no replacement, no substitute, and no APP that can perform the important role you play in the parent-teacher relationship for your child.

Parents and teachers essentially share the responsibilities in the lives of what become “our children” during the months of August to May. From 8am to 3:30pm, I am trusted to nurture, guide, challenge, entertain, protect, and educate almost 30 little ones until returned to sender. I have learned in over a decade of teaching that this relationship between all three of us is most beneficial when it is a cooperative between the parent and the teacher specifically. Why is it so crucial? And what are the benefits you might ask?

Behavior and Character Development

The parent and teacher are the first models for kindness, responsibility, respect, and integrity that any child has. They watch what we do, and only listen to a very small portion of what we say to do. Understanding as well as observing that the teacher and parent are a team rooting for and supporting them towards being and giving their best is key!

Academic Achievement

The more time you spend involved in the actual requirements grade-by-grade of your child, the better you can connect with their strengths and areas that may be in need of growth. When the teacher also has the ability to connect with you as the parent in this way be it by homework practice, phone calls, parent-teacher conference, or online communication, we can better serve and support these needs and facilitate the student’s success more swiftly together! This can also cut down on your child’s frustration and anxiety by having multiple, cooperative, involved adults to provide informed assistance.

Safety First!

Teachers, coaches, and mentors are all trusted adults that we expect to give to our children in a similar way to what we would and honestly the way they should. However, we’ve sadly all heard the TV or online news and neighborhood stories of isolated service volunteers and educational professionals that bully, manipulate, assault, and neglect the children in their care. As a parent, these individuals need to see your face and know you are involved. You need to see their face as well and get a sense of them before releasing or committing your children to them and assuming they will uphold the standards you’d expect! All children have the right to feel safe in their learning environment and this is one way that as a parent we can assist that goal being met!

The parent-teacher relationship won’t always be perfect, but it will always be crucial, and the cooperation modeled by both parties will absolutely be reflected in multiple ways by the child. Get involved now to reduce stress in the long term, to support your child’s achievement on a cooperative team, and to show them how important they are by taking on just a little of the shared responsibility and experience of the place they spend most of their days, weeks, and months in those first 18 years. They’ll thank you later and you will thank yourself!