We made it through 2018, perhaps a little bruised but as energized as ever to tackle the challenges in education in the year to come. But before we do that, let’s look back at how our network of contributors responded to all the craziness that went down in the United States this year.
It Was… A Lot
Just last week, 2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year Brett Bigham opened up about being physically assaulted by more than 20 students—that’s “where I stopped counting,” he wrote.
Yet, despite all the agony he’s endured, he still disagrees with Betsy Devos’ decision to rescind school discipline guidance. For Brett, suspensions and expulsions are just not the answer—those guidelines protect the students he works with, who have special needs.
Remember when a Philadelphia Starbucks had two Black men arrested for hanging out in its shop? Teacher Zachary Wright jumped on the case and reminded us all that it isn’t just a Starbucks problem but that teachers could use a little ati-bias training, too. Zach gets real about his own bias as a teacher working with students of color, “As a White man in America, I may not be a racist, but I am racist. I may not be a bigot, but I am biased.”
Laura Waters has been covering all the twists and turns in Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ yearlong assault on anything and everything the Obama administration put in place to protect students’ civil rights. Right here at the end of 2018, DeVos has indeed decided to end the Obama-era discipline guidance under the guise of “school safety.”
Marc Anthony Robinson, a Bay Area youth mentor, wrote one of the most powerful pieces we published all year. “While his face didn’t show it, I knew he was burying deep pain,” he wrote about a teen he’d mentored named Chris, who rarely verbalized his thoughts (and pain) over his brother’s murder. Robinson reminded us all about the essentialness of digging past the surface.
5. To Future White Teachers, Here’s a Resource Guide So You Don’t Have to Ask Your Co-Workers to Explain Racism
Minnesota teacher Tom Rademacher’s had the radical idea that White teachers could just do some research and reading before they ask their coworker to explain racism to them. “You shouldn’t be burdening the people of color around you with the job of teaching you,” he wrote. So he wrote a whole resource guide so you wouldn’t have to ask the teacher of color at your school.
When Serena Williams was competing for her 24th Grand Slam tournament win she was charged with three penalty code violations. Parent and writer ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson called it for what it is: What happened to Serena happens to Black girls every day in school. “Black girls are punished, victimized and unsupported more than almost any other demographic in the United States.”
7. I Traveled Across 14 States and Every Student Told Me the Same Story About Why They’re Not Motivated in the Classroom
Missouri teacher Chris Holmes is worried about the motivation of the nation’s youth. It’s not students’ fault that their teachers don’t excite them, so Holmes set out on a road trip to learn from students what teachers and schools can do to keep them engaged in learning. The results showed how this country fails young people by refusing to teach them in the ways that they learn, not caring about their home lives and simply not believing in them. But we can fix this problem. “Listen to them,” Holmes wrote. “They know what they’re talking about.”
We got the year off to an exciting start when we released our video series, “Getting Real About Education: A Conversation With Black Parents, Teachers and Students.” Imagine being told, “your kind won’t amount to anything.” A teacher in our series was told exactly this when she was a student. If you haven’t already, check out the series where we invite Black parents, students and teachers to share the joys and frustrations of being Black in America’s public schools.
For pop culture watchers, 2018 may go down in history as “the year that Kanye West broke.” Before appearing at the White House in a MAGA hat and saying President Trump’s unorthodox style made him feel like a superhero, Mr. West was spouting nonsense on Twitter about slavery being a “choice.” Teacher Monica Washington didn’t have time for that. “You have simplified an institution of brutality in such a way that blames those who were victimized,” she wrote.
In the worst year on record for U.S. school shootings, the best “solution” the president came up with was saying that teachers should have guns to protect themselves and their students from would-be school shooters. 2011 Colorado State Teacher of the Year Michelle Pearson said nah. “I am trained to care about and teach children,” she wrote. “Maybe that is what you and other leaders should look at before you suggest another gun arrives on school grounds, lawfully or not.”
Imagine going to school every day wondering if your parents will still be home when you get out of school. For some of 2017 Tennessee State Teacher of the Year Derek Voiles’ students, that’s their daily reality. Their parents have been detained by ICE, the president’s undocumented immigrant-hunting police force, with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads. “They are scared of being ‘sent away,’ or worse, left behind,” Voiles wrote.
At this point, we don’t know what 2019 will entail. But you can count on us to be here every day championing a better education for all students.