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A White Teacher’s Suggestions for Doing Right by Students of Color

By Kim Marshall, TIE columnist

The article: “How Can White Teachers Do Right by Students of Color?” by Justin Minkel in Education Week Teacher, August 15, 2018,
In this article in Education Week Teacher, Arkansas teacher Justin Minkel notes an
important “disconnect” in U.S. schools: 80 percent of K-12 teachers are white, while 51 percent of students are children of color. “White teachers like me have to love our students of color enough to learn how to teach them well,” says Minkel. His suggestions:
• Small daily actions – “Our students of color are often starved for anything and anyone relevant to their identities and experiences,” he says. His first graders were enraptured when he showed a YouTube clip of the Hamilton cast performing at the White House.
• Literature – “Children of color need books to be mirrors as well as windows,” says Minkel. There’s no shortage of material, starting with Scholastic’s We Need Diverse Books catalog High-quality books and magazines need to be prominent in guided reading groups, readalouds, and classroom libraries for independent reading. Texts about people of color shouldn’t shy away from issues of oppression, but there should be a balance. One mother reported that her children had this to say about the books they were reading in school: “It’s always about slavery and racism. Once in a while, can’t we read about black kids just chillin’?”
• Guest speakers – There are all too many negative images of African Americans and Latinos in the media, says Minkel: “We have to provide our students a constant stream of writers, artists, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and other competent and caring men and women of color to counter that poisonous programming.”
• Upstanding – “When you hear other white people – including fellow teachers – make racist comments, speak up,” says Minkel. “It’s OK if your face turns red, you blurt out something that doesn’t quite line up as a sentence, or it takes you 12 hours to come up with the line you wish you had said. The important thing is to make a little gash in that conversation so the comment does not go unnoticed or unchallenged. Part of white privilege is the ability to speak against racism without being quickly discounted by white people in power as people of color often are.”
• Listening – “I continue to marvel at the patience, kindness, and generosity of spirit shown to me by African-American and Latino friends and colleagues,” says Minkel. “To learn from them, I have to remind myself to stop talking and instead listen deeply to their experiences, perspectives, and advice… We can’t be afraid to ask a question of a colleague of color for fear we’ll look foolish or clueless.”

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09/01/2018 - Miss Donni
This is a tidy article. Thank you for sharing. I quite enjoyed the vivid inclusion of the selection of literature “needing to mirrors as well as windows.” As the connection to our students dominates whether they feel safe to learn with us, I’d like to add to take a look at the photos we post around our desks. Do the people we surround ourselves with, enjoying our lives outside of work, depict that we have a connection with people who look like our students, also? This attention to detail is important.
09/01/2018 - Emily Meadows
Important suggestions - thank you for this, Kim.

Many of us international educators welcome plenty of black and brown faces to our schools, and of course it is valuable to follow these suggestions for them. I'd add that it is also important to do so even in predominantly white schools; it is our responsibility to make sure that people of colour are positively represented even when they are not in the room.


Emily Meadows