Teachers and school administrators have to understand and be sensitive to the attitudes and ideas parents of color have toward the education system. Until the 1960’s, this country’s education system was not inclusive of African Americans. Parents and grandparents of students in our schools right now have had past negative experiences in the educational system and tend to bring those memories with them in dealing with current administration. I feel it is the school’s responsibility to develop opportunities to partner with parents, helping them set family education goals for the student. When the family, school, and community nurture and support a child who wants to succeed, it’s very difficult for him to fail.
Several years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of teachers on ways they could communicate and work with African American parents. I was made aware of the teachers continued efforts to work with parents who “cursed them out” “threatened” and just did not show any signs of wanting to be involved with their student. After thinking about the negative attitudes of some African American parents, when dealing with our schools, I remembered my own personal experiences growing up in our education system in the 60’s and 70’s.
In my elementary school back in Missouri, before integration, Black kids didn’t know they were being treated differently than their White counterparts in schools outside their neighborhoods. We thought everyone sat in “new” second-hand desks, and were made to clean off gum, pencil marks and assist with minor repairs at the beginning of each school year. We didn’t think twice, that our brand new elementary school with the shiny tile walls and floors, and beautiful glass-bricked rotunda, didn’t house a cafeteria with hot lunches, as we still had to bring a sack lunch or walk home and return within 45 minutes.
We didn’t know that those “new” books we received, where we had to erase and tape page-by-page, were already outdated and being thrown out by the other schools – until we were bussed to the White schools during my middle school years.
In elementary school, I had been a straight A student. In the new school, I started out in the accelerated group, by the end of first quarter, I was moved to the regular group. I could not keep up. My past education had proved inferior.
My children’s school experiences could have mirrored my own, if I had let it. I was determined to stay on top of everything and not let my past rule their futures. Although our education system has many flaws, with parent engagement and involvement every step of the way, our children can still receive the education they so rightly deserve.