Sunday, January 10, 2010

A plea for racial sensitivity training in District 150


There is just way too much pearl clutching going on in District 150 these days. As I have previously posted, it is my belief that many District 150 teachers have some problems understanding "black culture" and are sorely in need of racial sensitivity training.

It saddens me that in 2010 the word diversity is still relevant in Peoria. However, racial sensitivity training could be instrumental in closing the achievement gap between students of different races.

It is unfortunate that the discrimination lawsuit that the teachers have brought against District 150 did not request racial sensitivity training as part of their settlement. The lawsuit indicates that such training is needed. When Benassi handled the Mitsubishi lawsuit, on going racial sensitivity training was a part of the settlement. I am curuious as to why training was not requested in this instance?

Many teachers come from communities where there is very little diversity or interaction with people of different backgrounds. I have seen some student teachers who appear to be left speechless, as if they have never spoken with a black parent before. Their only conversation is for you to question them, at which time, you find out they are from some little town called Avon or whatever.

The Board of Education can and should be proactive in this matter. They don't have to wait until racial sensitivity training is demanded in a lawsuit - they could and should institute such training within District 150 NOW. We all know we need it.
Critical Issue - Educating Teachers for Diversity
As the student population in American schools becomes increasingly diverse, educators must respond with school reform efforts that meet the needs of all students. They must develop culturally sensitive curricula that integrate multicultural viewpoints and histories, apply instructional strategies that encourage all students to achieve, and review school and district policies related to educational equity. Teacher education programs in particular are responsible for preparing future teachers to promote meaningful, engaged learning for all students, regardless of their race, gender, ethnic heritage, or cultural background.


Read the entire article here.

14 comments:

Frustrated said...

I understand your position on the need for sensitivity training.

What are some of the District's policy that you see as inequitable and how would you change them?

Brooke said...

I think this is an interesting idea. I don't think universities do an adequate job of diversity education, which is a shame. I'm in my third year of my doctorate and have had 1 required diversity class and will be taking another this summer because it was one of the classes that did not transfer from my masters degree. I'm not a teacher, but I do work in a school. I think this class requirement falls very short of a critical need.

On the other side, I think that it would be interesting to have something similar for students as well. In junior high, a classmate called me an "stupid f'ing dego". He was required to write a paper on Italian history. I thought it was a fabulous response to such an offensive comment. A sure sign of a good teacher is one who can take an inappropriate remark and turn it into a learning opportunity :)

Emerge Peoria said...

Frustrated: Equality in suspensions, expulsions and parent involvement are some of the things the District must get a handle on immediately. I don't profess to having the answers, but I am working within the District, giving direct input to help find the solutions; I am not just sitting on the side lines complaining.

I understand that there is a report coming out (or out) wherein District 150 is called "a pipeline to prison". In my opinion, District 150 is just short of being toxic for black boys - this has got to change - NOW.

The President of the Illinois NAACP lives in Peoria. Unfortunately, this has not been a positive for the black community as a whole.

Brooke: You gave a perfect example of how teachers can make a negative a learning situation.

The situation in East Peoria, where they are making a new rule about purses, instead of disciplining the individuals who leave their purses lying in the aisles, is a perfect example of teachers being to lazy to discipline and schools going overboard with zero tolerance.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge, there is a good chance that teachers may need sensitivity training. When we had the training in the 60s, I found it necessary and worthwhile, especially at the high school level because there was an immediate influx of black students into our high schools in greater numbers. For instance, Manual had been a three-year high school; only a relatively few black students made it to 10th grade at Manual. My black students at Roosevelt (with help from just a few black teachers and a dean—Adrian Hinton) had immersed me in sensitivity training. It was the best kind; the kind that happens naturally when human beings interact with each other. When I arrived at Manual with both a new freshman and a sophomore class of black students, we (including me) didn’t feel all that welcome. The Roosevelt and Trewyn faculties and students merged with Manual’s faculty and students. There were some tough times, but I believe that within a few years the Manual faculty as a whole was racially sensitive (certainly not perfect) but enough so that many black students became attached to their white teachers—many of those relationships for some of us have lasted a lifetime. This issue was the topic of conversation in my Sunday School class (and after) today mainly between a black 150 teacher (also Manual graduate and former Manual teacher) and I. We have never too much difficulty in solving the problems of the world. :) (What no smiley face! I firmly believe that teachers have to love the kids they teach and that they need to understand and appreciate the culture from which those children come. Here is my problem right now. Emerge, to what aspects of black culture do teachers need to be sensitive? One 150 black administrator, I am told, presented his/her faculty with a list of words usually considered to be unacceptable for the classroom. The principal told the faculty that these words are accepted by the black community and that no student was to be sent to the dean’s office for using one of these words. (I don’t know what the words were). Now I don’t believe that “bad” words of any kind are acceptable in the classroom—and I believe that there are plenty of black parents that would agree. Also, I don’t believe that “bad” words are part of black culture. I don’t believe that gangs or drugs are a part of black culture to which anybody needs to be sensitive. I think we should all do everything in our power to steer young people away from these lifestyles—that’s what they are; they are not culture. Before I can agree with you (and I might--I usually do) please tell me to what aspects of black culture would you train teachers to be sensitive. What behaviors in a classroom do you believe should be tolerated in an effort to be sensitive to black culture? What do white teachers need to know about black children. I am only asking these questions so that we can continue this discussion (and I very much want to continue it until we come up with some viable answers—the success of District 150 depends on solving these problems—and we might as well start on this blog).

Sharon Crews said...

The rest of my long-winded response:
I have been told that one 150 black administrator told her faculty that her skin is mahogany and that no white teacher could understand her. That might be true, but it is my contention that none of us (regardless of color) can understand someone who doesn’t want to be understood. My extreme good fortune was that both black students and black adults were willing to open their lives to me; that’s why I understand them-- because they let me.
Also, today things have changed--there are black administrators and they do have power; anyone in power can discriminate against those without power. I don't think this reverse discrimination suit has much to do with children (maybe not even race)--I believe it's about harrassment in the workplace. And, of course, there are always two sides to any story. I'm sorry that this story will be aired in a courtroom. I do need to add that I have heard how some black administrators speak to children. I have heard them scream at kids--get in their faces, etc., tell them they are acting like special ed. I didn't want the "privilege" of speaking to children in that way, but I also knew that as a white teacher I would have been in big trouble if I behaved in that way--and it is unacceptable behavior for an adult in authority. I think that is, also, what some of this is about.

Anonymous said...

How about some sensitivity training for the students too! I hear the word MF'er on an average of 5 times a day at a high school in Peoria. Now, what part of that do "I" need sensitivity training on? Is it just a "cultural thing" that I have been told by numerous Af-Am principals? Respect is what is needed in schools. I come from "one of those small downs" you obviously detest Emerge and I have spent my entire career on the south end and east bluff of D150. Students/Parents need to be respectful in return......I rarely get that. How is it that I am to treat a parent like a saint when their child is NEVER prepared for school,comes in hungry, in dirty clothes, and mama is 3 sheets to the wind at 9 in the morning? Yet, in return, I get you MF bitch...yes, this is very true and happens OFTEN in D150 schools.....

Anonymous said...

How about admitting JUST ONCE that there are children and parents that treat teachers badly.....PLEASE. Get some sensitivity training, or better yet, parenting training for these parents...

Sharon Crews said...

I have to admit that in all my years at Manual I was never called an MF--bitch a few times. Quite honestly I never had anything but complete respect from parents. However, I was an "established fixture" in the lives of many people in the Manual area. Not all teachers get to enjoy the kind of longlasting career in one place that I had (and I have heard such longlasting careers undermined by those on blogs--that we stagnant, etc.) I do believe that students tend to treat new teachers badly--while they are testing them out, etc. That is no way to start a career--especially, when administrators openly criticize the new teachers and the kids sense all of that. Of course, there were times such as in summer school when kids didn't know me as well. I remember one time when McKiinley Moton (summer school principal and my former student) came to my class and gave my class a stern lecture about respect for teachers (and me, in particular). Today's administrators need to give those lectures to students often--and need to follow the advice, also. I found that my "white" administrators didn't do a very good job of that either--teachers need to be treated with respect, also--not just by kids.

Sharon Crews said...

I do have to add--to avoid any thought that I was being arrogant. Toward the end of my career, things started to change--much more disrespect (just not the MF word directed at me), but I truly believed the students picked up on the disrespect coming from administratorss who openly criticized teachers (especially deans when students were present) and administrators who walked into classrooms to reprimand teachers in front of students. The administrators set the tone--students pick up on it. I had students tell me that they were going to report me to this administrator or that one--most of the times kids would just laugh; so would I.

Michelle Anderson said...

As a teacher I often see white teachers get into power struggles over dumb things with black students. For example, I'm not sure why some of my co-workers go crazy over sagging pants. Yes, it is tacky and looks horrible, but if a 16 year old boy wants to walk around looking like a fool, let him. Don't waste class time getting into an argument over his pants. He has done essentially what he accomplished..getting you angry and wasting class time. Teachers need to remember you can't control others, but you can control your reaction to them.

Sharon Crews said...

Michelle--I agree. These issues are administrative issues--if the administration does not have a dress code that they agree to enforce, then teachers are wasting time. I ran into this problem about coats in the classroom at Manual. The administration told us at teachers' meetings that absolutely no coats were allowed in classrooms. Kids would wear the coats. We were told never to send kids to their lockers (no passes whatsoever out of classrooms--and I certainly agreed with that policy). So I would have several kids with coats--now what? I would send them on referrals because they were violating the administrators' rules--and the kids were sent back and we were told not to send referrals about coats. OK--but don't blame teachers when the rules aren't obeyed (and we were blamed). All this sounds petty, but this kind of nonsense goes on every day because rules are not enforced by administrators. The rules need to be clear cut. Our administrators had difficulty deciding what was and wasn't a coat--one time one told me he would get back to me after he decided whether or not the article of clothing was a coat.
Emerge, you mentioned the purses at East Peoria High. An argument over book bags was the only one I ever had with Taunya Jenkins when she was a dean. She had just come to Manual and announced at teachers' meetings that no students were to bring bookbags to class. I pled the case for my students who had to bring two textbooks and books and materials for term papers to class every day. Taunya screamed at me that I wasn't to question the rule--just obey it. Well, that was a battle every day with kids who brought bookbags to class. And there was no punishment for bring the bookbagsp--rules without consequences are of no use.

Sharon Crews said...

Anonymous: My mistake--I misread your post. Yes, I heard the MF term all the time--just not directed at me.

Frustrated said...

Emerge - I hope you understand I was being sincere in my question, not antagonistic. After reading the Trewyn teachers’ complaint, I realize I am na├»ve about what goes on in District schools, other than the ones my children have attended.

I hope that an acceptable District MS option presents itself to you. I know you are down in the trenches, asking the tough questions, and working towards change. It would be a shame for the District if your family left.

Emerge Peoria said...

I agree, there are parents who need sensitivity training as well. Not just the ones who come in to the school being unruly with teachers, but also the parents who think they run the schools because they clique with the Principal.

Frustrated: I don't doubt that your motivation is any less than mine. If I implied otherwise, that was my mistake. I appreciate the dialogue you bring to the District 150 dilemma. As a matter of fact, we share so many of the same views, because of you I don't have to post as often. Right now, I am dealing with the exact 4th grade dilemma you spoke of on Peoria Chronicle. Staying with the District is work, even for the most knowledgeable parent, we’ll see…