It’s Awards season and we’re all still buggin over the BET Hip Hop Awards where Eminem’s freestyle snatched all of our wigs. He shitted all over 45 and Black America let that shit stink up their newsfeeds, posts and conversations at school, work and church. Eminem might have earned a spot in the Smithsonian National African American History Museum too… Maybe he don’t have that much cred but you get what I’m saying.
We saw Issa Rae at The Emmy’s tell White America that she’s “rooting for everybody Black” and we couldn’t print a t-shirt fast enough (by the way, mine was just delivered along with my Auntie Maxine, “Reclaiming My Time” sweatshirt.)
With all of the award show craze, I decided that there were some awards that prime time television hasn’t acknowledged yet so allow me.
Today, I will be your MC, presenter, commentator and roaster of the:
“You Tried It Awards: Education Special.”
Before we get into it, let’s define the phrase, “You tried it.” I will use my working definition: Any action, comment, behavior or stank-face that could get you side-eyed, cussed out or the piss slapped out of you. This phrase was made popular by Mrs. Tamar Braxton, who is known for her catchphrases.
This awards show recognizes some of the moments in education that made me understand how Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education, that made me really want there to be a reality show like Undercover Boss and expose some of these crazy ass educators and that made me wish everyone just home-schooled their children.
Just sit back, relax and feel free to leave comments below.
Our first You Tried It Award for “Educators in the News who Need Their Ass Whooped” goes to the male gym teacher at Rochester Exploration Elementary Charter School for Science and Technology in Rochester, N.Y. The story was released in The New York Daily News in early October. A 6 year-old-Black boy, Marlon K’Harii Williams (you know where this story is going) was supposedly having some behavior issues so the teacher slammed the child to the floor knocking out one of his teeth and he had to have his other tooth taken out in the emergency room because it was a hazard.
So you, gym teacher, definitely tried it. The most troubling thing about this is the fact that the physical assault was most likely preceded by smaller offenses. Most people don’t just go from 0 to 100 like this. These types of things are allowed when lesser offenses go unchecked. I’m curious to know what types of things this teacher had said to Marlon and students like him before this incident.
Of course, this teacher is on administrative leave because we’re seeing that the education system is basically the police department with Smart Boards. There is no shock that this Black boy was painted as a threat as the article noted that teachers saw the incident and came in to restrain Marlon.
Hold the fuck up!
This grown man slammed a 6 year old on the floor and the backup comes in to protect the perpetrator? I’m gonna say this whole school tried it and as a result, y’all can all be on permanent administrative leave.
I posted this on my social media and I don’t know how rational I would have been if my son had been violated like this. This is the reason why I feared having a Black son because I know he’ll be treated like a man/thug/criminal before he’s able to remember his address. This child has already learned that the adults around him are not there to protect him and if anything, he needs someone to protect him from them. I’m hoping to hear a follow up with this story, although the skeptic in me says this gym teacher will be back in that school doing lazy ass jumping jacks and assaulting kids in no time.
Our next category is, “What Did You Just Call Me?” The You Tried It Award goes to School Secretaries.
For those of you who read my blogs, you know I’m an Administrator and I visit a lot of schools. I visit many of the same schools on a regular basis so why is it when I come to the front office I am constantly asked if I am a parent or a Paraprofessional? For real, you didn’t just see me here last week in a meeting with the Principal discussing instructional strategies?
While I understand that many of the schools that I visit consist of Black children, that does not mean that I’m one of their mothers. When I politely say that I am not a parent at this school and let the secretary know that I’m from the Department of Education, the next response is “Oh, are you the substitute Para? We need you in room 314.”
Damn, are these my only options? As a Black woman, I can’t even get four choices like a multiple-choice test. I guess they see my big fro and my long nails and rule out lunch lady. I have to be one of these two things or else why would I have entered their institution of learning? This is beyond insulting. I went into a classroom to observe two teachers and when I began to introduce myself, the teacher asked if I was a Crisis Paraprofessional. Girl bye!
This is no shade to Paraprofessionals at all. They are necessary and I know some amazing ones who should take some of these teachers’ jobs. Many of them have amazing relationships with their students and are eager to learn and be utilized more in the classroom. However, there is a lower status associated with that title and to believe that a Black woman who walks in to see the Principal or a teacher is doing so because they are waiting to be assigned to stand in for a Paraprofessional is problematic. The bias is just seeping out your pores is all I’m saying.
The appropriate way to address people is to ask who they are and who did they come to see. Simple. Why the assumptions? Better yet, why the spoken assumptions?
Simple rule: You don’t have to say everything you’re thinking because y’all tried it.
Lastly, this is a shout out to the Wackest School Safety Agent on the Planet. This You Tried It Award goes to a security guard I encountered in a high school last year.
My colleague and I (another Black woman) went to support a school and this school has metal detectors. There was a line of students waiting to go through scanning and we were about to be late for a meeting with the Principal. We decided to take our identifications out because many times if you have a Department of Education ID, you can either move ahead of the line or bypass scanning altogether. When we attempted to approach the safety agent at the desk, the agent at the scanner began yelling, “Ay, ay who you? Who you came to see?” My colleague and I stated that we came to the see the Principal and we were from the Department of Education.
He continues to yell at us in front of the students and says we need to go through scanning. Needless to say, this dude had already tried it but he wasn’t finished. When I went through the scanner, I forgot to remove an item and he (a Black man) says to me, “Come on, I know you’ve been through scanning before.”
Me: What is that supposed to mean? No, I’m not used to going through scanning. I’m not used to being treated like a criminal.
SSA: Where you from, Brooklyn?
Me: No, The Bronx.
SSA: Oh well, I know you definitely used to going through scanning.
Now I was the one making a scene. I pretty much told him not to presume to know anything about me and I felt sorry for everyone who has to deal with him on a daily basis.
If this is how he speaks to a visitor in the school, how does he speak to parents or the students for that matter? Dr. Monique Morris discusses this exact disrespect in her book Pushout where young girls talk about the role that School Safety Agents play in escalating conflict and treating the students like inmates and even being amused by students fighting. Again, not to say that all safety agents are like this dude but this isn’t uncommon.
I’m rarely shocked by anything these days but I learned in that moment that I had to be the angry Black woman because this dude really tried it. I try to be composed even when I’m provoked but that just gives people the idea that the crazy shit they say is permissible. When I told this story to my colleagues, some were shocked that he was a Black man but as Angela Rye says, “All skin folk ain’t kin folk” and the only time I want to see that dude again is to bestow his You Tried It Award upon him.
On a lighter and brighter note, we here at CREAD want to acknowledge Black Educator Excellence when we see it. Sometimes, you tried it means that you tried something dope and culturally responsive and you bring out the dope-ness in our kids.
I’m going to call this educator out by name and hope that she reads this. Cassandra Baptiste who teaches at a middle school in the Bronx and she tried it with a group of students with disabilities in a special class setting by teaching them about Henrietta Lacks in a culturally responsive way.
So what did she do?
- For one thing, she introduced them to Henrietta Lacks and the importance of cell research and its impact in the field of medicine. I’ve been in many classrooms where students are doing worksheets, coloring or just acting a fool because the curriculum has no relevance.
- The kids were asking all kinds of questions without being prompted and were allowed the space to engage in real inquiry. They asked each other questions like, how long do cells live if the person dies? How were her cells used to treat diseases? Is she really dead if her cells are still alive? These were really profound questions and the students really wanted answers. This goes beyond memorizing the definition of a cell but gets at the Why? Why are cells important? How does this affect my life? This is how we engage our kids.
It was wonderful to watch.
- Finally, you thought BET’s Hip Hop Cypha was lit? You haven’t seen these kids. They got into a circle and started spittin’ about Henrietta, the importance of cells and her contributions to science. One particular young man should’ve gotten a deal on the spot. This is what Dr. Christopher Emdin meant when he said our kids are dope and brilliant.
- Cassandra paid homage to Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, whose cells revolutionized medicine. She got kids excited about the topic and more important, she built community in her classroom. Even if a student didn’t want to rhyme, they could clap, affirm and encourage a student who did. The class always chimed in during the chorus:
- Learning is always the intended outcome in school and I believe the students learned about more than cells that day. They learned that their teacher wanted them to shine and she honored their way of demonstrating what they learned. They learned to support one another and it’s just as important to ask questions as it is to have answers.
On that note, I want to thank all of you for participating in this year’s You Tried It Awards. All of our winners get a bag of side eyes wrapped in Cheeto Dust. To our Black Educator Excellence winner, Cassandra, you get a Issa Rae shirt too girl cause I’m rooting for you as a Black woman, educator and creator. Keep doing what you’re doing and producing winners in the classroom.
Please leave comments of people who you believe have tried it, both good and bad. If we want our schools to be culturally responsive, we need to define what CRE is and what it is not.