Disclaimer: This post is for the administrators, however, teachers can gain something from it. Use this knowledge well.
Thanksgiving is about three things. First, it is about teaching children the truth; that White settlers gave thanks for the slaughtering of the indigenous. Second, it is a time to actually be thankful for those things that are special in your lives i.e. family, friends, employment, healthcare and etc. Third, it is about the food. Different cultures put a different spin on the menu and food preparation. No matter those differences, folks are sure to season their food. You can rest assured that the food at the Thanksgiving table in a Black household is seasoned. Seasoning is everything. Some families actually choose to leave their food unseasoned; salt and pepper (only) may be applied but only when the food comes to their plate. You have to brine the turkey, whether you fry it, roast it or smoke it. You must take some garlic, herbs and dry seasonings i.e. smoked paprika, turmeric, ginger, old bay, some Lowry’s… you need to season that food. The food is good to eat, but you want the taste to be right. Chicken stock, butter, olive oil, coconut oil… you want that food to soak up those flavors also. We eat food every day, however, eating on Thanksgiving is an experience.
Too often, schools work like Thanksgiving… one day a year filling and seasoned experiences. We should attempt to make a filling and seasoned experiences for children every day. We feed children information every day, but they’ll accept it and digest it better if seasoned. The problem is, we have a lot of unseasoned people working in education, particularly in the classroom. Unseasoned folks come in different types but they all do the same thing, derail the education of children with their tasteless brand of feeding kids knowledge. Beware of these folks. They can be hazardous to your health, in addition to the health of children. Identify these individuals when you see them. When you’ve identified them, make sure you handle them properly and with care: that means to season them with your flavor. Direct them to other individuals who can “season them.” Sometimes, just let them stew in their own juices while in the classroom – the students will season them just right.
When we think of seasoned versus unseasoned teachers, traditionally we mean teachers with experiences versus those without experience. However, I mean teachers who are teachers and teachers in title only. Here are some examples of the unseasoned followed by a brief description and an antidotal approach to providing those folks with some seasoning.
- The Newbies
Description – These are new teachers. They may be fresh out of college or from a different industry altogether. They know nothing. One bad experience in the classroom will ruin them, taking years of training and therapy to fix. They are needy, too idealistic at times and need constant reassurance.
How to Season – Provide an in-depth and detailed teacher induction with practical knowledge (not just theory) that they can use to be better deliverers of instruction, more culturally competent, better assessors of knowledge and better classroom managers. Classroom induction should be year round. Also, provide them with seasoned mentors. Lastly, send them to the Urban Education Mixtape.
- The Foreigners:
Description – These folks are new to urban schools. These individuals have different experiences they try to equate to what is going on in the urban school environment. Their prior experiences inform their habits, rituals, and behaviors – which may do more harm than good. When it gets too hot, they may just faint in the kitchen rather than run out of it.
How to Season – Same as with the newbies, provides an in-depth and detailed urban school induction for these folks. Provide them with year-round training and seasoned urban educators as mentors. Like Newbies, you cannot leave these people on an island to fend for themselves. Also… Be sure to send them to the Urban Education Mixtape for that good knowledge on all things urban education.
- The Colorblinders:
Description – These are the folks who tend to believe in a one size fits all brand of education where children of color are concerned. They buy into the Europeanized way of educating children. They’ve taught very few children of color but believe that race rarely plays a factor in how kids are educated. These may be very good teachers, but their lack of cultural competency plays a role in how their students are taught and disciplined by them.
How to Season – Make these individuals confront White Supremacy and how people of color are impacted systematically. Continuous professional development will help i.e. training on racism, implicit bias, and cultural competency. However, you must walk the walk. Start a book club where you read critical books on race. Here are some books you should read:
- The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
- The Half Has Never Been Told – Edward Baptist
- The Color of Law – Richard Rothstein
- We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates
- A Colony in a Nation – Chris Hayes
In addition to the book club, you will have to walk in that individual’s classroom and teach a culturally competent and culturally engaging lesson that uses race and culture to help kids learn in culturally relevant ways. Lastly, your discipline policy must be culturally responsive and not one that looks to penalize students of color, particularly Black boys, just because a piss poor classroom manager cannot handle them.
- The Robbers:
Description – These individuals only taught students long enough to meet the minimum requirements to become an administrator or guidance counselor. They may or may not have been particularly good as a teacher. Nevertheless, these folks are about the next career move. Every job is a stepping stone to a higher position and more money. They stole years in the classroom only to get where they are and of course, they can never give the years they’ve stolen back to the students who had to pay for it.
How to Season – You will have to mentor these folks personally. They may or may not know what good teaching is. They may be only concerned with doing their job in a way that sets them up for the next job; they may be thinking years down the line. Remind these individuals to be in the moment. They may want to be a school administrator, however, these folks need guidance and experiences with the training to really get them to understand their role and what it is they must bring to the table. Whether a VP, curriculum director, athletic director or whatever… train them, mentor them, and give them experiences that expose their ignorance so that you can mold them into the administrator children of color need.
- Procedural without Substance:
Description – These folks have all the procedures in the world for doing things, but have no good reason or practical purpose for doing those procedures. They have little to no substance to what procedures they put in place. More times than not, procedures are in place because “this is how we've always done it.”
How to Season – Teach them or model for them installing procedures with intention and mindfulness. This will help them see that procedures must be intentional and with respect to student, parent and staff needs.
- Sowers of Student Rebellion:
Description – These are folks who are all rules in the classroom with no relationship with students. All rules and no relationship leads to rebellion. A rebellious classroom may not be one where kids are disrespectful, but it certainly is a classroom where the teacher is ineffective: no matter how “good” they are.
How to Season – Specifically deal with these teachers on how to build meaningful and lasting relationships with students. There may be training you can conduct or send them to. Also, there are practical strategies that you can provide them. You can find some attached here. Link this person with a sower of anarchy to get strategies on how to develop these relationships.
- Sowers of Student Anarchy:
Description – These are folks who are all relationships with students but no rules. This tends to be the “cool” teacher. Kids love going to their room, talking to them and just hanging out with this teacher and their friends. However, relationships without rules lead to anarchy. They rarely have control of their classroom and situations. The disorder is their order of sorts.
How to Season – Specifically deal with these teachers on how to institute rules, procedures and rituals that don’t detract from the relationships they have, yet they institute order in the classroom necessary to offer instruction and achieve the desired behaviors from students. Link this person with a sower of rebellion to get strategies on how to make these rules.
- The Experts/Elitists:
Description – These folks believe they know everything. There doesn’t appear to be a humble bone in their bodies.
How to Season – These are the folks you may have to let stew in their own juices… it may mean allowing to deal with a tough classroom or deal with a parent on their own for a few minutes before rescuing them. Training and mentoring will not work with these folks. Humility will. Crack their elitist philosophy with humbling experiences.
- The Traditionalists:
Description – These folks believe that school has to be a certain way because it harkens back to the good old days or the golden age when they went to school. These folks cannot go along with change – even when change makes the most sense. Whenever these folks make a suggestion or lead an initiative, they lead with nostalgia in mind. Tradition has its place. But these folks are not for making new traditions.
How to Season – The only way to really break these folks from their past is to institute new traditions yourself (if you are their boss), go over their heads when necessary (if you are not their boss), or build on an old tradition with an enhancement. One good way to break these folks away is to use data to argue for change – these folks will be exposed by data to the point where they will go along with the change to not look silly. Debate alone won’t sway them.
- The Woes:
Description – These are the folks who blame bad parenting on “bad” students. These folks believe that kids cannot be “fixed” because you cannot change bad parenting and bad parenting habits. Thus, children are flawed and incapable because they come from broken homes with little to no structure.
How to Season – If cultural competency and implicit bias or racism training don’t work for these folks… fire them.
- *Honorable Mention* Data/Analytics People:
Description – These folks use data for everything and nothing else.
How to Season – Show them that everything cannot be measured… also, use date against them.
If years of seasoning these folks don't change their flavor, well… like bad meat has to get thrown out, you’ve got to let these folks go. Seasoning doesn’t always work when food is already in the process of cooking. It certainly doesn’t work after the food has been cooked. If possible, try to catch these folks at the beginning of the school year and early in their careers. Introduce them to professional development that is unseasoned and then show them a professional development that is well seasoned. After that, discuss the differences and explain that their classrooms, classroom lessons, student discipline, student interactions and teacher mentoring must be seasoned. A seasoned group of educators makes for a school or district that smells savory; inviting to parents and students who are curious about the scent. As an administrator, always remember that your speech is always seasoned that you know how to address your staff and superiors. Seasoned speech makes for children to teach and staff to reach.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!