However, I was also a young woman who had parents who would effectively advocate for me even when I was not working to my fullest potential.No one was going to allow me to fail, and so, I did not.
However, for many of the other students, whose ideas of African-Americans are based on stereotypical archetypes, it has been a struggle. Last year while teaching an argument unit on speeches, my students read Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. This speech is so much more powerful than what you think.” As we read the speech, my students–of all races–began to embrace its power.
Initially, students were resistant–”we know this speech, already,” they told me. As one Russian student said during a class discussion, “King is essentially saying that African-Americans have been cheated out of the American Dream.
Finally, I developed a curriculum on the history of hip-hop culture to prepare students for college–they learned to navigate through lengthy news and feature articles and opinion pieces.
They analyzed music videos as well as documentaries.
One of my greatest concerns as an educator is students understand the importance of knowing history.
Without knowledge of history, how can our students understand themselves?
Instead, African-American should be taught throughout English Language Arts and History curricula so that all students—regardless of race—can understand the important contributions that have been made to the United States by people of color.
We live in a time when images of African-American women are simply headrolling twerkers or powerbrokers in the public sphere yet must serve as mistresses in their private lives.
As I present this argument concerning the act of teaching being public and the thoughts and actions of an educator being personal, I can’t help but think of the first two decisions that I made when I decided to become a high school educator: my first decision was to teach Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the most violent and impoverished areas of New York City in a transfer high school for students between the ages of 16 and 21.
My second decision would be to consistently integrate African-American literature and history in my curricula. Yet, it was important for me to work with students who were struggling to finish high school because of my own experiences as a student: I was the student with tons of potential who decided to cut school more often than not.