As a Black leader, I questioned why we were not developing deep relationships, bonds, and connections with our Black students. Since they were entering and exiting my office at such a high rate, I had an opportunity to meet their families, learn about their joys, their fears, what excites them, and even learn about their dreams. I then observed that disproportionate discipline was impacting African-American students all throughout our district, region, state, and nation, impacting their sense of belonging, sense of self, and sense of academic identity. This hurt me, and I needed to do something about it.
William Jackson shares the story of generational impact of the Black male experience. Journey with William as he reflects on the relationship with his father and nephew. William shares his navigation of Blackness in America, the current purpose and impact of the US schooling system, and the possible #futurity of learning for Black students and future generations.
The author shares her narrative of helping a Black family navigate the public school she leads, and the conflicts that arise between system and family.
I don’t remember January 8th, 2002 – like many of my childhood memories, they are hard to remember for a reason. From what I can recall of my formative days, I was fortunate to have spent most of it with my nose in book, which provided me with some semblance of protection. After all, if not reading, I had to face the very real monsters that lived inside my own head. I knew that for those looking in, the only monster they could see was me, and I guess that books helped ease that pain too. Eventually my teachers, who were ill equipped to meet my needs, utilized my love of reading as behavior management tool: Hand me a book and my ability to completely derail your lesson, disappeared. Thus, I spent most of time in school reading; in the back of the classroom, in the hall, in the opportunity room, on the couch outside of the principal’s office…I was doing socially distant, youth led learning before it was it cool. I read instead of going to math class, playing at recess, or engaging in class discussions. I didn’t make friends easy, but I didn’t need them when I had books.
I do remember, however, when the consequences of January 8th, 2002, first showed up. It was the end of high school, and I had to take my summative state assessments. I had never taken state sanctioned tests seriously -- I was the first generation of NCLB; our teachers often framed exams as low-stakes trial runs and I framed it as an opportunity hurry up and read. It wasn’t until that year, where the girl who had a perfect recall of nearly any book she had ever read, was placed into remedial reading based on test scores. It took a while for the teacher to catch on, make a case to the school that I did, in fact, know how to read; eventually I reassessed and scored out, like it was no big deal.