Raven Bailey

Raven Bailey is a 12th grade student and member of Let’s Innovate Through Education working to empower students to develop their own businesses or nonprofits for their communities. Hardy Farrow is a Social Studies teacher at Power Center Academy in Memphis, TN. He is also the creator of Let’s Innovate Through Education, and a 2013 Teach For America-Memphis corps member.

When I was in the 11th grade, I was plagued with a rare affliction that attacked my work ethic, corrupted my judgment, and induced a state of severe lack of interest and focus: I had a bad case of Junioritis. As a result of this truly devastating condition, I began to suffer fits of procrastination, which often led me to neglect most of my academic responsibilities. In some classes I was able to conceal my problem and get by without the slightest effort. Unfortunately, it was in my most important classes in which I had begun to submit to the condition and fall through the cracks.

I became a teacher in 2010, the same year that California declared Fred Korematsu Day, marking the first day in U.S. history to be named after an Asian American. 

Fred Korematsu was a Japanese-American living on in California during World War II. When Executive Order 9066 was handed down, mandating the relocation of all individuals of Japanese ancestry from designated "military areas" to internment camps, Korematsu exercised his human rights and refused to go to the internment camps, instead going into hiding in the Oakland area. He was eventually arrested after being recognized as a “Jap” and was convicted, placed on 5-years’ probation, and moved to a war relocation center in Utah.

Korematsu appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled against him, arguing that the incarceration was justified due to military necessity. It took over 40 years before Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in a federal court, marking a pivotal moment in our civil rights history. 

The Friday Five is Teach For America's weekly roundup of education news, stories, and links that made us think. 

A young student's kind words about his school principal helped one school raise almost 1 million dollars after the student was photographed for the popular Humans of New York photoblog.

Shayla Yellowhair

This week thousands of educators from across the country have gathered in Dallas for the Teacher Leadership Development (TLD) Summit. Among the many lively discussions include sessions dedicated to Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and how it impacts our students. Please join @OneDayAllKids for a Twitter chat tonight, Wednesday, January 28, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET to learn more about CRT. Follow #CRTchat to join the conversation.

In my experience, when new teachers hear the words Culturally Responsive Teaching, they want to know what it is then immediately jump into how they should do it.  While this eagerness is not inherently bad, teachers often overlook the fundamental step of asking themselves, “Why culturally responsive teachers? What implications does it have for my own background?”

As a special educator for six years, I aimed not only to provide access to the curriculum, but also to meet my kids where they were and build skills through meaningful learning experiences.  I was in no way a perfect teacher, and it seemed like I was constantly self-reflecting (self-guessing?). Was I the teacher they needed me to be? Were they learning?  One thing I was sure of: when my lessons and planning started and ended with my students in mind, I knew I was on the right track. 

This week thousands of educators from across the country have gathered in Dallas for the Teacher Leadership Development (TLD) Summit. Among the many lively discussions include sessions dedicated to Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and how it impacts our students. Please join @OneDayAllKids for a Twitter chat tonight, Wednesday, January 28, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET to learn more about CRT. Follow #CRTchat to join the conversation. Below Dr. Adrienne Dixson, TFA alum (GNO '91), staff member, and associate professor of critical race theory and education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examines Culturally Relevant Pedagogy through the lens of recent events.

The tragic deaths of Black men and boys over the last several months in Ferguson, Missouri (Michael Brown), Staten Island, NY (Eric Garner), Cleveland, OH (Tamir Rice), and Dayton, OH (John Crawford), have brought into stark relief the challenges we face as a nation as it relates to not only men and boys of color, but also communities of color writ large, particularly communities of color that are under-resourced and politically under-represented.

This week thousands of educators from across the country have gathered in Dallas for the Teacher Leadership Development (TLD) Summit. Among the many lively discussions include sessions dedicated to Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and how it impacts our students. Please join @OneDayAllKids for a Twitter chat tonight, Wednesday, January 28, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET to learn more about CRT. Follow #CRTchat to join the conversation.

Last year, I asked an educator friend of mine how many Black men had been victims of interracial violence in recent years. He immediately rattled off a list of names: Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Amadou Diallo, Jonathan Ferrell, Kendrick McDade, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin. In more recent months, a parent shared that when she had asked her son what excited him most about turning 16, his response was, “That I made it to the age of 16.” 

Conversations like these have heightened my awareness about the lived experience of some Black men in America and have deepened my curiosity about the responsibility schools hold in service to Black male youth specifically and to youth of color in general. Gloria Ladson-Billings speaks of culturally relevant pedagogy encompassing three areas: academic success, cultural competence and critical consciousness and posed the question, “If school is about preparing students for active citizenship, what better citizenship tool than the ability to critically analyze the society?”[1]

One way in which we can understand the relationship of critical consciousness and active citizenship would be to consider how Black males understand potential injustices in their own lives and in the lives of Black men collectively. To explore this theme, I conducted a survey with a group of African American men and African American male high school students. Based on responses to the following survey questions[2], I wanted to know to what degree is this sample of Black male high school students, all who are at least 18 and in the 12th grade, prepared for what it means to be an African American adult male who is an active citizen in this country?

This week thousands of educators from across the country have gathered in Dallas for the Teacher Leadership Development (TLD) Summit. Among the many lively discussions include sessions dedicated to Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and how it impacts our students. Please join @OneDayAllKids for a Twitter chat on Wednesday, January 28, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET to learn more about CRT. Follow #CRTchat to join the conversation.

21 years old. I was scared to death. I had no idea what I was doing.

And when I received my school placement I was terrified: 6th grade. Henderson Elementary School.

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. But not in Englewood.

At the time, what I knew about Englewood was limited to the negative media coverage I’d seen. Someone always seemed to be getting shot, robbed or arrested for drugs. 

Dirty broken desks, engraved with expletives were piled in the center of my room. Raggedy textbooks stacked along the wall. An American flag hung in the corner.

I couldn't breathe.

I stepped back into the hall and looked at my roster. 33 kids. All subjects.

My heart ached. I had to be better and do better.

But my room was a disaster and I didn't have any books.

I went to my principal and he calmly replied, "I don't care what you do with them, just don't send them down here."

It turns out having no curricular resources coupled with full autonomy from my principal was the best thing that could have ever happen to us. After meeting my students, I began to see that what they needed could not be found in a textbook or curriculum. At the time, I didn't know anything about culturally responsive teaching (CRT).

I was simply learning from and about my kids, and trying to give them experiences that would lift them up (validate, affirm), enlighten them (empower, transform) and expose them to the possibilities that existed outside of Englewood. I believe that education is the great equalizer and key to social mobility. I quickly recognized my kids didn't know who they truly were or from where they came, so they didn't understand how great they could be.

Shayla Yellowhair

As the daughter of a Law Enforcement Officer who has served for almost 30 years, I have always been keenly aware of the issues that affect the families of police officers. Growing up hearing the stories of my people and the difficulties of living in rural Native communities, as well as feeling the pain of loss, has colored the way I view the world around me and how I raise my two children.

But here’s the problem that I’ve encountered all my life:  despite the stories that are told in the media about poverty and alcoholism on Native lands, the vast majority of them are not ours. The truth is, as Native people, the fight for recognition as living, breathing, human beings in 2015 is real. We constantly fight against stereotypes created to erase individuality inherent in a Native person, created by those in power, and perpetuated by mass media. We have to fight to remind everyone that we aren’t ancient relics (though we strive to protect our traditions), that we haven’t died off (though we know death too well), and that we know the sides of history that are not told in textbooks. Our truth is often justified away, along with our rights as dual citizens, the original inhabitants and stewards of our land and languages, in the name of manifest destiny, assimilation, natural resources, and the economy.

So when Michael Brown was killed unarmed, in broad daylight, and left in the middle of the street to die, I wasn’t surprised by the hurt that I felt because I have known loss; or by any of the facts of his death necessarily. This is the experience of so many of our Native people, whether they die from the crippling effects of alcoholism, exposure during the winter, homelessness, overzealous officers, or simply being out numbered in cities that depend on the alcohol sales and the institutional racism to thrive. 

The Friday Five is Teach For America's weekly roundup of education news, stories, and links that made us think. 

With teacher tenure coming under attack in some of the country’s most populous states, researchers polled teachers to get their opinion on if and how the tenure process should change.

One of America’s most elite yet least economically diverse higher education institutions announced ambitious plans to get more students from less affluent backgrounds on campus.

Student testing is once again taking the floor in Congress as the Senate's education committee tries to decide whether students are being tested too much. The Associated Press breaks downs the five key things the public should know about standardized testing. 

Speaking of tests, months before nervous high school students get a first go at the new 2016 SAT test, unimpressed educators are worried that the new test is even more biased against students from low-income backgrounds than previous and current versions of the SAT.

Check out these stories from TFA that got us talking this week.

Nemer Tello

A 2015 TFA corps member, Nemer Tello will begin teaching in Dallas-Fort Worth in fall 2015.

This May, I will complete my dual bachelor's degree in Spanish and global politics. However, the odds were against me to achieve this degree in four years. As a first-generation immigrant with a low socioeconomic status and an agricultural background, it was unlikely that I would even graduate from high school.

I share Teach For America’s vision of schools in which classrooms are led by high-quality, versed, and committed teachers. I want to be a corps member because I feel responsible and passionate about helping close the gap in quality of education between privileged and disadvantaged students. My parents waited ten years for our family to come to the States so their children could pursue the careers of their dreams. My dream is to dedicate my knowledge and experience to students who need it the most.

I currently work 30 hours every week, take 19 credits as a senior in college, lead a group of ambassadors in my college as their elected president, and volunteer. When I visit my parents, I feel a deep appreciation because my 55-year-old father, who works 14 hours/day, is so generous. Many children do not have the fortune to have parents who are as supportive or involved; many don’t have figures in their lives who foster that potential to dream, work hard, and achieve their goals.

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