So the thing is, I always find myself at a loss when someone perceives something I’ve done or said as racist or from their own inherent bias. I try, as a high school teacher especially, to make sure that I am always seeing things from as many angles and sides as I possibly can. Now I will never assume to be able to see things from a different color, that is not even possible. I do know when you come into my classroom though that you will be treated equally to everyone else.
With that said, when I have to send an email home based on an observed behavior (say sleeping in class), which was preceded by a statement regarding the class (I won’t be taking the AP Exam), and the work for the day was taking notes on how to best write an essay for the exam, it is not based on race, it is based on observation. When I have had conversations with you that don’t match what you know about your child, that doesn’t mean I am perceiving them by their color, but again on actual obsversation of their behavior in my classroom.
So when the reply is all about race, and how concerned you are about how I see your child, I promise, I am doing the best I can to make sure that all of our interactions are based around what I am observing in the classroom. I am not making any sort of judgements based on the race of your child. I have all cultures, races, and ethnicities through my room. I have been teaching for over 20 years, yours is not the first child to go through my classroom. Everything I say is based on what I am seeing, have heard from your child, or have witnessed as they go through their day.
So now I am finding I have to create space within myself to deal with this issue that feels like a personal attack. I also have to create an even safer space then I already have in my classroom, although I am not sure how to do that. I took the time to write an apology, to explain that the email was sent on observation, that you were not the only parent to get a similar email, and that at no time was this based on your student’s race, and in fact express how very saddened I am that this was your perception. I can only hope you are willing to see what I am saying.
In addition though I have to create space within my heart, and my new found sadness that you feel this from me, to not let it drown me, to make sure that I know where I was coming from, and to make sure that I do not take upon me that which is not mine to own. I also have to take the time to breathe. To recenter, reground, and remember who I am, and why I am here. In 20+ years this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, especially as the climate is ever changing around people. However, it will always throw me for a loop, and leave me ready to cry. I try so hard, and work daily at making sure all of my students know they are loved, along with pushing them hard.
Create space within yourself, within your emotions, within your environment to be able to deal with the unepxected. Then create the time to be able to process and deal with what was just thrown at you.