I have been very negative lately. My life has been a revolving cycle of work, school, research, grade, repeat. Because of that, I let myself get caught up in the drama of my cohort, and really let five horrible women almost drive me from the program. While I am still not sold on staying, I am learning to let what goes on in that room once a week stay there. That room does not represent the real world, and does not represent the people I will be working with, and the students I hope to help.
Today I felt vindicated. I am in the process of completing a basic skills certification for my job. For the last few months I have been attending workshops that range from how to help students read their textbook to how to reduce stress in the classroom. The workshop this morning was entitled: How to Overcome the Institutional Alienation of At-risk African American and Hispanic Students. At first I wasn’t going to go. I get enough of this from my cohort, and I did not think I could sit for two hours and listen to how horrible I am because I am white. I need the hours, and I feel that helping at-risk students regardless of race is important, so I decided I would give it a shot. When I left the house this morning, I decided that I was going to sit in the back of the room and not say anything. I can not afford to make anymore waves in my bubble, and pissing off people where I work is not something that I want to do.
I could not have been more shocked about the workshop I participated in today. While the statistics presented demonstrated that people of color are the most at-risk when they enter college, the discussion that we had was about how to help at-risk students. The only time race was mentioned was when the presenters mentioned that at the conference they went to, the presenter was the number one thing a teacher can do to alienate a student in their classroom is see them as a monolith for their race, and treat them based on the color of their skin. The discussion revolved around barriers that any at-risk student would have entering college, and what the institution can do to help break down these barriers and help promote student success.
It was the discussion that I wish I could have every Tuesday night. The presenters kept saying “What can WE as an institution do to help students?” The room was full of men, women, old, young, humanities teachers, math teachers, and science teachers. There were Asians, African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and White people. No one was singled out by their race, and the blame was placed on the institution as a whole, not on the race of the people involved. I left that workshop finally understanding what it meant to grow and learn as a educator, and finally learning what it would be like for me working in the real world. This is how educators behave. This is how open and honest conversation brings about change. When I discussed a bit of what the conversations are like in my class, one of the presenters told me that was a retrograde way of thinking, and that was not how progressive educators worked.
So while the program is still awful, and I am far from being a proud Titan, it feels good to know that I have now been snapped out of the Twilight Zone, and when I make it into the working world as a professional, my ideas about change, and my strategies for helping students are valuable, and have merit. Why it took me so long to figure out, I have no idea, but I am happy that my eyes are open now.