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What Happened at Success Academy: Race, Poverty, and the Shame Spotlight

I'm sure you've all seen viral video posted by the NY Times. The one with the first grade teacher from The Success Academy, erupting at her tiny peanut of a student who had demonstrated the wrong procedures to solve a math problem.

When I watched it and then read the accompanying piece this morning, I must admit I got sick to my stomach. So many thoughts swirled through my head; so many questions. But there was one issue I just can't let go.

The most important thing--perhaps overlooked in the article--is that the conversation is about the individual and not on the larger issue. The video--which blurs the student faces for anonymity but clearly identifies the teacher--is personal, and not something that transfers as clearly to the issue at hand. This is a tiny snapshot of something much larger, a small slice of a bigger and more complex problem.

So let's stop talking about the teacher's actions, poor choices, and bad pedagogy.

The real conversation that we must have is about the education of our children of color. The relationships we have as teachers with our students. The role of race and poverty in education. And the type of schools that many of our students attend.

We need to have a conversation about the larger scale issues, not just about the individual. I can't help but wonder what blurring out the teacher's face on the video could have done to help spur this. Could this have made the issue about systemic issues, instead of one teacher's bad behavior?

So here's my call to action: Instead of focusing on one educator's horrible pedagogical moves, let's stop shaming her. Put the shame spotlight on the larger system. Use this as fodder to have a deeper and more important conversation. One about the role of race in our education system. Let's talk about how our children of color are treated in some of our schools and what we can do as a collective body to make sure things start to change.

In the words of Nikki Giovanni, "If now isn't a good time for the the truth, I don't know when we'll get to it." 

hopscotch.jpgPhoto by Pink Sherbet Photography

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