This manifestation of bias is not unique to teachers, very few of whom ever set out to intentionally hold students back. Teachers enter the profession to help students-not hurt them- which begs the question of why these subtle instances of unintentional harm are so prevalent in our classrooms.
Our society has this message of control woven into its very fabric. It is the subtle smog of racism and classism that we all breathe so deeply each day; it only makes tragic yet logical sense that it rears its ugly head in the urban education system. With this ethos all around us, well meaning educators are told that the best classroom is the one where the teacher is firmly in command of her students. Armed with this belief, hard working and deeply caring teachers try their best to create a classroom where all of their students are “under control.” Think about it: how many times have you heard someone say, “He is such a great teacher. His classroom is under control”? If you work in a school where most students are low-income students of color, you probably lost count a long time ago.
This ever-present, nicely packaged control over students in our schools points to the deepest damage that needs to be repaired in our students, the real harm that needs to be healed.
We need to restore our students’ sense of academic identity. We need to restore the belief that they are valuable intellectual contributors worthy of respect. We need to restore the knowledge that our students grow when they are in control, not when they are under control. It is time to restore what is really lost. It is time to restore the power of the leaders sitting right in front of us every day.