I’m a substitute teacher and while I am make a constant effort to check my privilege, I know that I do not always catch instances where I am viewing things from my own lens. A few days ago, however, I had an opportunity that really opened my mind on another level. The school I was at for the day serves students who are, according to the school, “at-risk” in different ways than are typically discussed, and that was something I should have really truly reflected on before I entered the classroom.
I expected the classroom to be a little rowdy – I am the sub after all and from my experience, students think they can get away with anything when they have a substitute teacher. However, I took their behavior as the norm and it felt as though nobody was pushing them the way I had been pushed. That may be true – I was very privileged in terms of education and I have to make sure to check myself. This does not mean that we should not be trying to encourage students to learn, nor should we discourage teachers from educating, but I think my expectations were held to an expectation build out of privilege and education is much more than what is learned in a textbook. With that said, while I discuss the necessity for dialogical education, this really hit that home and helped me check how easy it is to lose track of that.
It’s important for teachers to check their privilege, understand that their own personal experience is not representative of everybody, and to connect with their students. This is why reflection is so vital as well. On that note, with my reflection, I’ve thought about privilege in education, especially in our current state.
… expecting students to study in a uniform manner. … forgetting that students may not all speak the same language or have the same level of proficiency of the same language. … forgetting how scared students may be that ICE will storm the rooms of their homes and take their family … dismissing the fact that some students may not see their parents because they work multiple jobs … simply excusing “bad behavior” as a desire to be obnoxious rather than a safeguard and protection … not reflecting on potentially oppressive behavior when being in a position of assumed “authority” … not recognizing that some children do not have computers, books, or clean clothes at home … and failing to see that even then, some children do not have homes and stay in a shelter or have many people living under the same roof … assuming students all have developed dreams and desires, especially since they may not see it as feasible due to their environment … believing that goals of “Harvard” or “Stanford” is simply wishful thinking, rather than it being a way for them to see a way out of their situation … overlooking that there are students out there who do not have meals at home, and sometimes the only food they eat are the breakfasts and lunches they eat at school … forcing students to respect you without respecting the students … treating your students as if they are beneath you because they are “simply” students … neglecting to connect with your students to truly understand why they may be on their phone, can’t finish the test, or find solace in a YouTube video … thinking they “know better” … punishing students for discussions of sex or drugs, rather than establishing a relationship with the student, which in turns appears you are only aiming to punish them rather than care … being able to point blame for their mistakes rather than addressing your “climb” up the ladder of success. … pushing students to college without recognizing family or monetary requirements … not encouraging students to go to college because of their background … raising your voice to an English language learner … being overly critical of grammar … not understanding the racist and oppressive history of many educational practices, such as standardized testing
This is obviously not exhaustive and there are plenty of other occurrences of privilege, but this is what comes to my mind. Reflect on your own experiences. Is there anything you could add to this list?