Why do teachers do it? From South Africa, we get this story: Teacher suspended over class ‘split by race.’
Everyone makes mistakes. This post is about how we can stop making mistakes.
Executive summary: Don’t be stupid.
As in, we teachers must always be aware of the effects of the decisions that we make. We can have all the right reasons free of discriminatory effect, all the right data blind to demographic breakdowns, and the best of intentions.
But when the result is discriminatory? Then we need to pull back and realize we should go another way.
In this case, the teacher grouped her class according to language ability and knowledge. Apparently, she wound up grouping her class into groups that were white only and black only.
She had a non-discriminatory basis for what she did. But the effect was discriminatory and a photo shared on the school’s social media account provoked an outcry.
Now the teacher is suspended pending an investigation.
This problem crops up in the United States. It’s not only the cosplay gone awry; other problems also take place.
Always, always, we teachers have to be aware of the effects our decisions and interactions have on the children who are our students. I’m not without sin myself, but I always reflect on what took place each and every school day and, if something didn’t go well, how I could do it better.
It goes beyond race. Sometimes, teachers allow their personal convictions to affect their words.
Regardless of how you feel about LGBTQ teenagers, you have to remember that this is a vulnerable time of their lives. The adolescent agenda for development is one of identity. Teenagers are working out who they are, which is why they may do something out of character at times. They are trying out a way of understanding themselves. Most of the time, it doesn’t work (peer feedback can be savage) and they move on.
We teachers are not to judge them. We should support them because our jobs go far beyond that of imparting knowledge. We guide children along their path to develop into adults and we recognize that it is they who have the right to determine who they will be.
Regardless of how a teacher feels about a transgender student, if the child says this is my name and I identify male or female, go with it. Use the name they want and use the pronouns that match.
If you can’t understand why, then don’t be stupid. Don’t insist on doing what you want and getting into trouble. Respect the child.
As for those groupings, every wise teacher knows that after the groups are made according to the data, common sense must prevail. No matter the data, two kids who will fight if they sit next to one another cannot be in the same group. Two lovebirds who only need one desk because sharing a chair is happiness cannot be in the same group. Two chatterboxes who will socialize cannot be in the same group.
Have a mind about what’s taking place in the classroom.
Remember that data has its place, but its place is not primary. It informs and supports teacher decisions, but it does not control. There are other things more important and one of those things is diversity.
If the groupings are not diverse, throw them, the data, and the theoretical framework upon which it is based into the trash can.
Students will thank you for it.
Get off the road to hell.