To the editors:
As a Philadelphia teacher working on her second Master’s degree, I’ve always considered my reading comprehension pretty high, but I found myself re-reading your Winter 2008-09 editorial repeatedly, convinced I had to be misinterpreting it.
Are you actually suggesting the struggles of Latino and African-American boys in our schools are because of White racist teachers?
I have spent most of my teaching career in predominantly African-American and Latino schools and in every case, the staff - which is always multicultural – has tried to create an aura of respect and safety.
Never have I heard a colleague express fear of any student – although often we express concern on behalf of students, who step out of the schoolyard and into an environment that is often quite dangerous. On my second day at my current school, there was a drive-by with an AK-47 on the other side of our playground fence. It is this environment that creates the circumstances that cause boys to struggle.
My own children, who have come up through the Philadelphia public schools, are African-American. You can’t imagine the grief I would have given a teacher who treated them with anything short of full respect. I asked my son, now in high school, if any of his teachers had seemed hostile toward him or afraid of him. His response: “Not a single one.”
I have occasionally seen Caucasian, Latino, and African-American teachers from middle-class neighborhoods express jaded remarks about the socioeconomic conditions that have led to the difficulty some of these children have had. But to suggest that White teachers’ racism is responsible for the struggles of non-White male students is abhorrent.
The writer teaches at Phillip Sheridan Elementary School.