I had a fantastic time facilitating the "Teaching Privilege and Power to Students" webinars with my colleague, Darlene Reyes. We had a blast connecting with the audience in our sessions. If you were not able to make it, we are sorry that we missed you. Don't worry, I plan to offer more free webinars in the weeks to come. Stay tuned.
I also want to give a shoutout to the organizations that the Leading Equity Center worked with this week: Burlington Public Schools, Colonial School District, CalState Teach, and Delran Public Schools. We would love to work with your organization; check out what the Leading Equity Center offers, or connect with me for a free 30-minute consultation.
Let's get into this week's topic.
This week, I read “Why Black Boys’ Sneakers Should Matter to Educators” by Phelton Cortez Moss and couldn’t agree more. How many of us have missed opportunities to build relationships with our students because we don’t take the time to understand the importance of why our students are behaving the way they are?
Moss details his experience with one of his former middle school students, Jaylin, and how “...I (Moss) did not make [an] effort to understand or respect why Jaylin coveted his Nike Air Force 1s so much. Instead, I fussed at him because he was taking his time getting to class.” Moss did not realize that he had missed an opportunity to see “how sneakers can be an engagement tool in educators’ pursuit of justice for Black boys.”
Sneakers are more than just shoes; they are a form of Black cultural expression. Additionally, there is research to prove how academic spaces do not foster “intentional cultures of care for Black male students” and how Black boys and girls are seen as “problematic” and “deficient” and disproportionately make-up school discipline statistics.
So as educators, what can we do to see our students holistically? As Moss puts it, “to recognize the importance of Jaylin’s sneakers is to recognize - and encourage - his connection to his culture, history, and how he is choosing to express those connections.”
Educators must see their Black boys for who they are to “ensure they can see themselves in their learning and that their education includes tools and resources that affirm their humanity.” Here are three ways Moss offers to start doing the work.
- The first step for teachers and school leaders to do this work is to be vulnerable to accept the humanity of their students. They must “reject every stereotype and bias they’ve normalized and accept the full humanity of Black boys.”
- Dialogue is essential to cultivate authentic relationships with Black male students (and other students).
- Lastly, “teachers and school leaders must reject the deficit mentality that has persisted in classrooms across America.”
Systemic racism is embedded and normalized into society. Therefore, acknowledging and appreciating how our students manifest their culture and express themselves, although a small step, is consequential and significant in dismantling racism. In this case, “appreciating Black boys’ pride in their sneakers” is working towards “rejecting the normative view about how one lives and looks. It’s about restoring the dignity of Black people who, for far too many years, have been asked to assimilate into white dominant culture.”
Small steps forward are still steps forward. This article hit home because I am an avid Jordan 1s collector.