What my kids need is to know you see them, and you are safe. It takes time to build trust, but it does happen.
Have you ever heard of Connected Parenting? It’s when the parent works to empathically connect with their children and see their perspective — in every situation — before guiding them. Connected Teaching would be ideal for kids from hard places, though I realize sometimes it seems exhausting and time-consuming. It seems that way because it is that way. But it is worth it.
When my kid, who is in constant survival mode, feels seen and empathized with…their brains have space and capacity to learn, to be taught by you, and just maybe retain information.
There is more.
Let’s switch it up.
I am a white mom. Most of my kids have brown skin and textured hair.
With a quick google search I see that 80% of teachers in America are white. There is so much we could unpack here…but instead I’d love to stick with some basics.
First and foremost, understanding that representation matters is huge: if you have posters or art hanging up in your classroom, can you make sure there is some diversity? Asian, Latino, African, etc. Asians are more than computer experts, Latinos are more than automobile technicians, and African/Black people do more than sports. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a Black doctor, a Latino CEO, and/or an Asian attorney? We have black Santa at Christmas as another example. Our kids need to see themselves as more than the stereotypes the world feeds them.
I know this seems silly, and maybe it is! But could you have some band-aids that match my kids’ skin color? They sell them at Target, but also: Tru Color Bandages.
Being colorblind is not helpful. Shades of skin are beautiful and plenty, created to be celebrated. Our kids need crayons or markers that represent their skin tones, just as the white kids get their yellow or white crayons.
Also their hair…it is textured and a major part of the black culture. Please don’t touch it and don’t let other people touch it without his permission. Racial slurs and jokes are a thing and they aren’t funny; if our kids are laughing at the joke, that means they likely feel awkward and don’t know how else to respond. Please take these seriously and use these moments as a time to educate our kids’ peers.
I guess above all, I want you to take this away: we are super proud of who we are. We celebrate the melanin in my kids’ skin, and I hope you will be proud of it, too.
As a teacher, you will affect how kids see themselves, you get to help shape our kids, and what a beautiful space to hold.
Thank you for all you do, I am grateful for the time and love you give to our kids.
Me… a mom doing her best to advocate for her beloved kids.