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Reflect on One’s Cultural Lens

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Lesson 2, Topic 62
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Competency #5 Episode Copy

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Let me tell you a story…

A young, idyllic teacher came to a school and she was assigned, unbeknownst to her, one of the most challenging and underperforming classes in the school. This young teacher was handed a class list that had numbers next to it. She saw it and was amazed and got to work. She started researching, and teaching…getting feedback, polishing her lesson plans, going back in…she had an amazing year. At the end of the year, the principal came to her and said, 

“How are you so successful with that group of students? No one has ever been able to teach them.”

She said, “What do you mean? These are the smartest students in the school?”

He said, “What in the world made you think that?”

She showed the principal the class list with all the numbers next to it and said, “Look at these IQ scores, these kids are brilliant.”

The principal looks at it and says, “Those aren’t IQ scored, those are locker numbers.”

That captures expectations that this teacher had for these students and how she performed to ensure she met the bar because she believed that’s what they deserved as brilliant students. The principal had given her a class that he thought were throw aways and had low expectations, not only for the students but for what the teacher could accomplish with them as well.

Research from countless studies show that Black children are afforded low expectations than their counterparts. It plays out in classrooms in what you have access to…

“No, you can’t come to this honors class, we don’t believe you can do it.”

“You’re in the eighth grade, I’m going to give you fourth grade work because I don’t believe that you can do the eighth grade work.” 

“You’re not able to go to the mentally gifted class.”

Malcolm X, the valedictorian of his class was told by a teacher, not a KKK member, by a teacher, “You cannot be a lawyer, you need to work with your hands and become a carpenter.” Low expectations. 

That plays itself out in classrooms…

  • The books that are chosen
  • The questions that are asked
  • How we push a student

If a student gives me a sub par answer and I say, “You probably can’t answer it anyway.”

When you have that year after year, day after day, that ends up arresting the development of our Black youth.