Volunteering at my service learning site opened my eyes and allowed me to see real-life struggles and disparities in education. With all the kids at my service learning site being either Hispanic or African American, I was able to witness the struggles of minority children compared to white children. Being white and growing up middle class, I never had to face some of the challenges these kids were facing in their every-day lives. Despite these differences, I felt it was my job to successfully build relationships with them.
Even though I was not directly teaching a class, I reflected on points made by Lisa Delpit in her chapter ‘Warm Demanders’ from her book Multiplication is for White People. Delpit went into detail about how the ‘warm’ part of warm demanders is based on the premise of ‘social support.’
In other words, Delpit concluded that the most successful relationships in and out of the classroom between teachers and students were founded on understood notions of trust, physiological safety, and confidence.
In turn, creating a healthy, equal, teacher-student relationship that increased the rate of learning and taking risks (Delpit, 2012). I saw this first hand as after I established relationships with my kids at the service-learning site, they were more open with me and trusted me enough to talk to me personally about things going on in there lives. My service learning site provided me a beyond rewarding experience as these kids learned to see me as someone to confide in and ask for advice.
Next, although I believe that though schools are trying to take steps forward to promote acceptance, I believe schools are still falling short. Under the current educational system being implemented, minority students are facing disadvantages compared to their white peers. Specifically, in African American communities, reform for equal education has been prominent for decades, with 1964 being an influential time in the history of American education. Despite the fact they had little money and scarce supplies, Freedom Schools in America, led by black female teachers began their main mission of empowering African Americans (Moore Clemons, 2014).
Achieving various success in multiple states and leaving a long-lasting impact on African American education as a whole, the organizers behind Freedom Schools and the schools themselves have continued to act as proof that equal education is achievable. Yet, despite these past success’s we currently see high expulsion and drop out rates specifically within African American girls and boys in New York City and Boston. ‘…African American girls in New York City for the 2011-2012 school year, ninety percent of all girls subject to expulsion were black’ (Crenshaw, Ocen, & Nanda, pg. 21, 2015). Correspondingly, African American boys in New York City were ten times as likely to be expelled than white boys. Similar statistics can be seen in Boston as African American girls made up sixty-three percent of expulsions, and African American boys were six times as likely to be expelled compared to their white, male classmates (Crenshaw, Ocen, & Nanda, pg. 21, 2015).
In addition to systemic problems found in African American girls and boys, Hispanic students show higher rates of school drop out, living in poverty, becoming teenage parents, and higher levels of incarceration that go hand in hand with increased risk to gang exposure and involvement (Darder & Torres, 2014). These statistics can also be explained by the lack of representation of minority educators in public schools. According to Darder and Torres (2014), in a National Center for Education Statistics, eighty-three percent of all United States educators are white (pg. 2).
In addition to the under-representation of minority educators, intersectionality has an immense impact on how individuals with complex identities that belong to multiple groups receive equal opportunities and experience bias. Overall, it is clear the voices of struggling minority students who are underserved, discriminated against, and favored disproportionately to their white classmates are being silenced. It is up to everyone who believes in equal social policies and justices to make sure their voices are being heard.
Furthermore, I believe solutions to fighting discrimination in classrooms should come in the form of implementations and reforms of new and current school policies. Changes are necessary in order to make school a welcoming learning environment for all students regardless of their possible identities. Particular examples of change can be introducing ethnic studies courses into the curriculum, requiring teachers to take part in minority training, creating safe spaces for their students, and teaching culturally relevant pedagogies. Safe spaces are a vital necessity in schools in order for all children, and promote authentic expression.
In particular, minority children, to feel safe and express their authentic selves. As stated in Julissa Ventura’s article in the Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, community-based safe spaces can provide not only a sense of fellowship and togetherness but also give students access to the materials and support that can help lead them to be academically successful (Ventura, 2017). Not only supplying students with motivation to work hard to receive a proper education, but also giving students an area to celebrate their culture.