#equityineducation The Control Issue

The person that decided it was a good idea to do standardized testing the week of a full moon obviously never visits weather.com to check for moon phases.

some random teacher

We had standardized testing this week. During a full moon cycle, on a short week because of a national holiday. A week after coming back from remote learning. Visualize that a moment. Great way to set students up for failure, right?

I had the pleasure of proctoring the one class on my roster that is nearly impossible to control. My AP looked out for me though: he sent in some help in the form of another teacher. Turns out, I could have done bad all by myself.

Now, mind you, I can be a hard ass when it comes to this group, but I give them grace, I have established relationships with them and I like them overall. She has a few a them in her specials class (PE) and I would have assumed seeing her come in would bring them joy. Everyone loves the gym teacher, right?

I had my back turned when she came in; we were just getting started. A few people were still talking, trying to get computers to boot up and what not. She said hello to me as I opened the door and then immediately yelled at the students working on the computers. I admit, I jumped about 2 feet back. The room went silent. I quietly informed her that we were just getting started and a few people were having trouble with their computers. “Well they need to stop talking.” I simply looked at her, nodded at the students still struggling and started to walk around the room.

Several times during the 2 hour testing period, she would walk around, then bellow out at someone I swear I didn’t hear and they’d mutter at her. I was fascinated by this. They would raise their hand to get my attention, I’d acknowledge them, we’d resolve the issue, and she’d bellow again. “Now be quiet.” They always looked at me and I’d just blink. I’d never seen such behavior before.

The second day of testing, the students begged me not to let her stay with us. I told them I had no control over it (I’d checked in with the AP and he said she needed to help me. She didn’t, but ok.) On that day, she ended up calling for security, twice, for the most minor of things. One student ended up in ISS because of it. The class was furious. I was shocked. When testing was over, and they all jumped and complained, I tried to use the experience as a teachable moment.

When whites (she was… white) are giving authority of supervision over black and brown people (there were 2 white students in the class also, one of whom, kept getting away with things), they control those people by using the threat of incarceration. My student ending up in ISS for his minor infraction (he tipped over his bottle of water and ruined some papers, etc. and when she started yelling at him about it, he, naturally, freaked out and started yelling back) was a form of incarceration.

I talked to the students about how, unfortunately, they had to conduct themselves differently in order to not end up in trouble. Some of them understood, they talked about it among themselves and I sat, vaguely irritated at my desk.

The last day of testing, this same teacher was put in the room next door. My students were finished testing and talking quietly as I gave them time to decompress. Security tapped on my door and I was greeted with, “Ms. B would appreciate it if you would quiet your class.” One, I could have sworn I was told that class was finished testing, two, my class wasn’t loud, three, what, she can’t walk 20 feet to ask me herself? The security officer smothered a giggle as I complained, I asked the students to move to the other side of the room and keep the noise down. (they were watching a movie on one of the laptops… NOT TALKING AT ALL) and the security officer acknowledged that.

What she did to my students that week was frustrating and I didn’t speak up mainly because it wouldn’t have looked particular professional, I didn’t want her to go running to admin to complain that I attacked her about it, and I was stressed enough and wasn’t sure I could be polite about it. She never smiled, never said hello to any of them although she apparently knew every single one of them. She barked orders, never acknowledged me or my authority over them. She just controlled the room, in a very negative manner. I asked my AP to never send her to me again.

I have talked about nurturing relationships with students in order to build trust and respect with them. Some see that as a weakness to do that. Ms. B probably thought I was the weakest teacher she’d ever encountered. That’s ok. My soft demeanor and obvious non verbal cues to behave a certain way seemed to bother her. I know my kids. She, although she teaches/taught them, apparently doesn’t. Testing is stressful enough without the “long arm of control” choking the life out the situation.

It’s an issue. A really bad issue. White teachers barking orders and calling security on black and brown students for the simplest of matters teaches those students that they aren’t worthy of respect or understanding. They must lockstep or be punished. This behavior spills over into their personal lives as they move through the world outside of the school. Talking too loudly, moving through a space with the assumption of “bad outcome”, simply being black or brown and breathing… its frustrating to them. It’s very frustrating to me.

I’ll talk to them some more about it next week. The controlling issues must stop however. They simply must. The following podcast is long; listen to the parts of it that move you.

Let’s do better, shall we?

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