So the other day I was having a conversation with my home girl Ms.Jones, a childhood friend of mine who has been teaching in NYC public schools for about 3 years.
Now I gots to let you know that she is a “Professional Black Girl.” She has attended NYC Public Schools her whole life and so it ain’t nothing new to her. Central to this this story I’m about to tell y’all is that this year she has transitioned from teaching her middle school babies, to teaching high schoolers, many of whom are bigger than her and her 5’4 petite frame.
Let me just tell you: she’s scared as hell y’all.
And her fear actualized itself last week when her first teenage student tried to come for her in front of the rest of the class.
The following is my memory of her story but I must warn you, when the Henny’s in the system ain’t no telling…if I’m accurate enough. But I got the gist.
Let me tell y’all how this all played out. SO BOOM (because hood dudes always start a story with boom.)
So she’s taking roll and says “Patience Jones……Patience Jones……for a third time….Patience Jones.”
She gets no reply.
She’s confused because she’s heard the kids referring to a young lady in the back of the room by that name. So she decides to walks over to the back to engage the young lady. She completes roll call and then decides to confront, who she believes to be Patience.
She goes to the group in the back and asks, “isn’t your name Patience?”
Patience ignores her at first.
Ms. Jones continues, excuse me…Patience Jones?
Now, y’all know this is when all HELL BREAKS LOOSE.
In Ms. Jones own words, “Patience loses her damn mind.”
“Don’t you see me talking?”
“Teachers always wanna be in your face on the first day.”
So I’m like “Nah homie. What happened next?”
Ms. Jones tells me she was shocked, “Sis got heated and started coming for me,”
“She saw that I was a new teacher in the joint, which meant I was fresh meat.”
She went on to explain, “Bruh, I was ready to snap, even though you know I ain’t the type to be getting all thuggish.”
Instead of throwing hands, Ms. Jones, in her most “Professional” of “Black girl ways,” calmly asked Patience into the hallway.
Luckily, Patience obliged.
Outside, Ms. Jones calmly asked Patience, “What was up?”
Patience just stared at her at first.
But Ms. Jones continued to talk with her.
I don’t remember exactly what she said but she basically let her know that she wasn’t “gon let all this go down.” She G checked her on all the unnecessary yelling, cursing, and screaming.
Ok Ms. Jones!
My homie even attempted to break the ice and connect with Patience by inviting her to have lunch with her and chat further.
I think Ms. Jones may have seen something in Patience that reminded her of herself.
Needless to say, her and Patience didn’t become instantaneously friendly after that. But the hope is that as they get more comfortable and familiar with each other that things will change for the better.
Now if you’ve been in education for a while then experiences like this aren’t unfamiliar at all. It’s natural to have students flex their muscles with new teachers in new spaces like this. Because like it or not, kids always try the new teacher.
I love the way Ms. Jones didn’t just send her to the Dean’s Office under the guise of Patience being another angry and disrespectful Black girl, which we know happens more times then not.
After the conversation, I sat wondering what the upcoming year would look like for Ms. Jones and Patience. Would they become archrivals and get into a physical altercation? Or would they actually have a successful year of teaching and learning? Maybe they would even become besties.
Instantly, I was brought back to Khalilah’s post, Is this CRE? Cardi B and Geography. She raised the point of exactly how much control and agency are we actually offering our kids in these spaces and how does that in turn help to mold them into socially conscious antiracist citizens?
In many of our classroom spaces, there is this tendency for us to walk around like dictators. We become like tyrants walking around G checking every damn student for every little thing.
Hell, we go so far as to double down on the G checking of students before actual attitudes and tensions are even presented, all in hopes of ruling over the classroom with an iron fist. The moment a student even thinks to challenge our authority we lose it and be ready to regulate in such a way that present and future generations of students know not to fuck around with present and future generations of pedagogues. LOL!!
I wonder what life would be like if it was more like Wild N Out.
Wild n Out is an improv sketch comedy show, that ends ups becoming an open forum to joke on Nick Cannon and his personal life; everything from his divorce from Mariah Carey, to his questionable music and film career.
It’s CLEAR that Nick can take a JOKE.
TAKEAWAY: When kids go left, just remember the s**t Nick Cannon has to put up with.
But instead of us being able to take a joke like Nick and not being threatened by every little thing, we live in a constant power struggle that takes place in spaces where one party is positioned as the subordinate and the other as the dominant…places like:
- The Police station (especially if you’re Black.)
- Public Assistance, Welfare, or any other government agency (especially if you’re Black.)
- The Golden Crust, where when I ask the seemingly angry matron for extra oxtail gravy on my chicken, which obviously is me going too far. She be sucking her teeth and rolling her damn eyes back and forth (Only Black folks do this.)
So what does all of this this mean to me, you, and Ms. Jones?
Well let’s start by taking a look at Dr. Christopher Emdin and his masterfully written book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too- Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education where he introduces this interesting concept of cogens which are, “simple conversations between the teacher and their students with a goal of co-creating/generating plans of action for improving the classroom.”
Emdin introduces this idea through the established norms and nuances of a rap cypher and by analyzing the way in which culturally diverse groups come together and collectively form understanding about how to properly engage in this space.
Now I’m not sure if hip hop pedagogy will be the vehicle by which you engage all of your students or get them all to like you and not want to come for you. I don’t even know if that’s what inspired Ms. Jones but what I do know is that creating space for students to have agency and their voices to be heard, while enlisting them to help co-develop what their learning experience can look and feel like, helps to empower them in ways that we aren’t often thinking about.
Emdin goes on to state, “my work with cogens has shown that they allow teachers to more effectively deliver complex subject matter to students from different cultures, because they allow teachers and students to bridge their cultural divides before addressing content.”
As educators, one of our many goals should be to respond to the ethnic and cultural differences of every child in the classroom and bring them into the learning experience in a way that unlocks their best self. When we challenge our kids to share the cognitive load and actively participate in the learning process then we can do away with classrooms and other educative spaces that inadvertently impede on real progress.
If we are to prepare 21st century diasporic students for a global society then we have to shift our practices and beliefs, so that we do not further marginalize and silence them.
So, the next time a student comes for you, take a breath, know that it isn’t personal….ok ok it may be personal but know you don’t have to take it personally and figure out how to restore versus how to punish.
Hold it down good people!