Today My Students Decided to Walk Out of School to Protest Police Brutality
I’m a Math Fellow, not necessarily your typical teacher. As a Math Fellow I don’t have a full class of 30 kids, I have 4 kids every 45 minutes. During the day I have 6 periods, therefore I have 24 kids in total. My job is simply to get kids who are below grade level on grade level. To be honest, my job is to put myself out of a job(let that sink in).
Today, I walked into my room at the typical time around 7:30 am. As soon as I dropped all my belonging in my room, I quickly walked over to the water fountain with my water bottle to fill it up. This is what I do every morning, water is an essential during this time of the day. On my way to the water fountain, the intercom turned on and our principal started talking. “Can I have all staff meet up in the community room” , said the principal. I switched my fast walk from the direction to the water fountain to the community room.
During the meeting our principal talked about how some kids have decided to walk out of school today in support of Ferguson and against police brutality. The principal didn't care for anybody’s stance on the case, which it was for the best. Most of the staff was uneasy, and others really didn't care at all. The principal had decided to let kids go to the streets and let their voices be heard. I respected his decision, there was no need to hold kids inside of the school and get their rage all built up. I have never really thought of the principal as a leader, until today. Every teacher had a role during the walk out, which happened around 10:30 am, some teachers were upstairs others downstairs. I was appointed to be upstairs in the 6th grade hallway, my job was to steer kids to their class or to the door if they chose to walk out.
The meeting was over and now I was back in my room waiting for 8th graders to come learn math. Then I start hearing a sound getting gradually louder and louder, 8th graders began making their way through the doors. Most of them were talking about the protest and began to get all fired up. Once they took their seat I started to ask them questions about the walk out.
I had four kids. I began to talk to Yerida which was the most fired up.
I asked clueless, “What is this walk out you guys are planning to do?”
Yeridia, “what, you haven’t heard about it, we are walking out on the streets to fight for Human rights”
I asked clueless again, “What do you mean, civil right?”
Yeridia, “You haven’t heard on the news?”
Yeridia begins telling me about Michael Brown.
Edin, another student I have, jumps into the conversation and asked, “Mr. Estrada, could we make a poster for the protest?”
I responded, “That’s a great idea. Yes, of course”
While making the poster we began to start talking about Ferguson and police brutality. My other student Edin brought up Tamir Rice into the conversation, 12 year old in Cleveland who got shot. Another student named Edgar, had some understanding of the subject but didn't fully value the protest. Last but not least you had Ty, he was furious about the whole situation and keep blurting “man, I hate the police”. He didn't care for anybody’s view but himself. That’s when I began to teach my lesson, not in math, but a lesson on how to debate.
1. Do your research.
Research is the most important part about debating, without research you can’t form a good basis. Prior to arguing you probably think you know everything about the topic, not because you have researched it, but because what you have heard and in part because you have assumed.
“Research is creating new knowledge.”-Neil Armstrong
You need to research your topic before coming to a set of conclusion. Most importantly Look at both sides of the story.
2. Put yourself in their shoes.
While doing your research, try to look at it from different perspectives. For example in the case of Michael brown. Look at it from the officer’s perspective and Michael brown’s perspective. Pretend you were the officer, ask yourself, How would I react if I was in that position? Do the same for Michael brown.
3. Once you read all the facts, then its okay to make assumptions.
Once you have read all the facts, then you can start making educated assumptions. You can begin to make your own conclusion, but once you do, you got to make sure you are backing them up by pure facts.
I was sitting at my desk when I heard the intercom again, asking for any available staff to help pass out water to kids coming back from the protest. When I got outside I saw an image I have never seen before, kids were running back to the school. You could see in every kids faces their tiredness and their dehydration. I started asking the kids how they felt. Some of them were happy and showed a sense of relief.
I asked Yeridia how she felt, she began by saying, “I feel accomplished, I know this is not going to bring Michael brown nor all those other kids back, but seeing all my friends and classmates stand up together for a cause made me happy”.
I asked this other kid who I didn't know, “Do you feel happy going out there?”, he said to me, “my feet hurt, and I am thirsty. I honestly didn't know why I was there”.
At the end of the day I was happy students followed their own voice and took action by themselves. For some of them, they would look at today as the day they made a difference in other people’s life. Others, will remember the day and they would finally realize their contribution.
I’m happy students finally realized their voices had powers all along. As small as they thought of themselves, after today I’m sure that's not a concern any more.