An Autism Connection

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin aftermath

This is a departure from what I will normally be discussing in this blog, but my heart has been heavy for the last 24 hours after hearing the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. I have run the gamut of emotions. My thoughts keep going back to the class I have been teaching for the last 5 years, which is a self-contained moderate needs classroom. Most of the students have severe learning disabilities. In the last 3 years, I have shared 27 students with two other teachers.  Most of the students are males (we had only 4 girls), and a good number of them are African American. When Trayvon was killed, we didn't get much of our curriculum in as we had to spend the day calming the students down. There was a lot of open and frank discussion about racism and students shared their personal experiences.

I can't help but wonder how my students have taken this news. I would imagine with a lot of anger. I wonder how I would have handled this. Would there have been a meeting ahead of time with our school administration to discuss the issues and come up with a plan? Would there have been a crisis team in place as we had earlier in the year after one of our students died in a car crash? We had counselors available all day so that students who were overcome with grief could talk to someone about their feelings. This obviously is not the same thing, but the emotions would have been just as strong.

In many respects, I feel inadequate talking with students about these issues. What do I, a middle-aged white woman know about being a young black boy? On the other hand, my ex-husband was African and my own children are bi-racial. I have first-hand experience with racism and have seen multiple incidents regarding my children, so I am not totally clueless. Still, it's not the same.

As a school, we also have our share of behavioral issues and the equity issues that come with that. We are a very diverse school, with roughly 1/4 each of our population being African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and white. We have high poverty and transiency. We have high numbers of ELL  and Special Education students. As a result of some of these factors, many of our students struggle. In order to help us understand better, we had a speaker come in and talk about trauma and how it affects students, and how we as teachers need to understand this in order to help. I thought it was excellent professional development, and there will be more coming in the fall. Here is a link to an article that explains it in more detail, with a focus on the Trayvon case.
 http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/07/trayvon_martin_verdict_renews_.html

Teaching is more than just reading, writing, and math instruction, and the other things we teach. Our students come to us with all kinds of baggage and we need to be able to deal with it  in order for our curriculum  to sink in.



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