No, I’m Not Decorating My Classroom Like A Circus.
This past year has a been a whirlwind. From being canned at my last school 4 days before the year is to begin, to finding another job with new content, kids, and environment, I’ve been seriously frazzled. But, for me, the content has always been my solace. Knowing that as a class we dive into rigorous and challenging material, makes all the dizziness of planning lessons worthwhile. Until *suspense building music*, I was told instead of spending a day or two establishing community with students, we would be going over drills and order for *wait for it* TWO FUCKING WEEKS. Now, once I settled and took a long cleansing exhale (what up asanas), I tried to see the rationale for such an extended time for going over how students should raise their hands in class. Is it because A)last year was a shitshow where students had no structure? Is is B) because educators feel that Black students need more structure because you know, they don’t have it at home ( insert broad, general assumption about needing to control Black youth). Is it because, C) teachers struggle across the board with classroom management? Nah, I’ll take B for $500, Alex. So, in midst of preparing for the school year mentally (i.e., not lounging around until 10am drinking cold brew and exploring Chicago daily), I’ll also have to make a major shift professionally to this insane tyrannical new school, I’ll have to call home.
- long sigh*
So, what I’m thinking logically is how am I to prepare my students to write effectively for both English and Social Studies content and also as creative artists. My energy is centered on creating engaging and relevant material for my students to connect with, feel proud of, and master. Yet, few in my school seem to be on the same page with this. The priority is, yep, you guessed it — how am I decorating my classroom? While, I’m scrambling to research new pedagogy, honing in on my pedagogy, and aligning (or not aligning) my lessons to the standards, my peers insist that we must instead decorate our classrooms with colorful boards, and focus on the procedures and routines of the classroom. Completely baffled, I mistakenly asked my co-team leader, how he envisioned TWO HOURS of classtime to practice hand signals, bathroom breaks, and ‘noise levels’. He couldn’t answer flat out, but all the rhetoric has been ‘these kids need this-or else this year will be a wreck.’ Now, I’m not saying classroom expectations and routines are not important, I fully understand their importance. My frustration comes from the rhetoric that Black kids need more structure, routine, and procedures than their White counterparts. As a product of racially mixed K-12 schools, I know the first few days of school was not centered on learning how to march through the halls for hours. I know we were given the freedom to mess up, try again, and the space to be children.
What pisses me off as an educator and a Black womyn is that our Black youth have such few spaces of true, unadulterated freedom and solace. The classroom, now serves as an overbearing mechanism of completely mental and physical control. With policies that say, students must not leave their seat without permission, you will be monitored in the BATHROOM of all places, and DO NOT speak out of turn. Where the hell are Black kids supposed to be carefree, loud, and creative? Not schools, with tyrants and power-crazed Black and White educators- not outside with mandatory curfews aimed at sweeping kids inside- and sure as hell not in the few community spaces allowed for the youth.
I say all this to say, my goal as an educator is not to control and dominate my students. My goal and purpose is to create spaces where Black youth can be free, breathe easy, create, discuss, cry, laugh, play — and above all survive. So, hell no, I’m not decorating my classroom with Pinterest themed streamers and balloons mimicking a circus. Instead, I’m plotting on how to resist the draconical policies of a new charter school seeking to control Black bodies — how are you starting your new year?