It’s the last day of school. I sent my students videos as a goodbye, making sure to place my bi pride flag and women of Wakanda poster in the background. Even though I won’t be going back to that school, I wanted to remind my students what I stand for–inside and outside of the classroom.
At this moment, I don’t have much positive to say about the education system. I’ve felt isolated and crushed over the past year as a teacher trying to connect my students to the land they live on, the places they come from, and what the world could be. I’ve been fighting a system of erasure at every step, and I’ve felt it. I believe in education as a tool now more than ever. But my hope in reform for education–as low as it was before–has all but vanished.
Education is a tool of white supremacy as much as the police are. The violence in erasure and distorted stories is the same violence that channels Black and Brown children through the school-to-prison pipeline. I did what I could as a teacher to work against that, but what good I actually did I may never know. At the same time my kids were growing in this system, I had to survive it as a Black queer woman. And surviving is NOT thriving.
For me, the silver lining in how the year ended is the possibility for change. We’re being forced to rethink how education works. But for those of us who want something different from what we grew up with, we’re already 2 steps behind those revamping the system in their twisted image. But revolution, time and again has proven itself very possible. I don’t know where I go from here, exactly. I’ll always be in education and fighting for its betterment. There are so many people doing great work to change things, and I want to be one of them. I never envisioned myself as an educator waiting to be liberated. My intention this entire year has been on taking up space in my classroom and at my school. I wanted to be a reminder of the things that scare the people who create and uphold the system.
If nothing else, I hope that my students remember me as the tall Black teacher with big hair and a pride flag in her room who made them yell at the top of their lungs. I hope they never forget the presence of Black queer women.
On a final positive note, some highlights from the year:
- When prompted to write down a cultural holiday, my Black students asked what I would write. I then got to teach them a little bit about Juneteenth.
- Getting my 8th graders to low-key hate Canada for how they’ve treated First Nation peoples.
- A conversation about definitions of race in northern Africa versus in the U.S. and how that plays out in the American African diaspora. Telling them about racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism in France.
- Encouraging students to translanguage and seeing them empowered when they did.
- Talking to students about my queerness, their queerness, their parents’ queerness. Teaching them by questioning their perceptions of gender and sexuality.
- Student: “I don’t have an accent!”Me: “Everyone has an accent.”