Keeping All Of Our Children Safe In Schools.. All Of Our Children!

I once had a teacher ask me, me being, pretty much, the only Black Boy in the room, if I thought it was a good idea that the local TV channel had a News Program that was dedicated solely to what it called, Black News.  I was about 12 at the time and didn’t even know that there was such a thing as white news and black news.  This was not because I was not a conscious, revolutionary 12 year old, though in fact I really wasn’t, but because the only news spoken about in my house at the time was Jamaican news.  I was a child of immigrants who had one foot in the States and one foot still in the island home they left behind, so when an Irish-American teacher singled me out to talk about an issue dealing with media and race, I was truly not ready to provide her with an adequate response.

Before that incident with that teacher, I never felt uncomfortable in her classroom, but after that day, I never felt comfortable in her room again.  It took only one moment of an adult whose job it was to not only teach me, but also to keep me safe, of that adult breaking this sacred trust, to make me feel unsafe.

People are not perfect and the best of us will have lapses in judgement that may negatively impact a child.  This is understandable and it is also okay to a degree.  After all, children are resilient beyond belief.  The problem arises when people who are supposedly trained to protect, teach and inspire our children are the ones who are constantly doing things that make children feel unsafe.  Add this to the fact that there are many children who come from unsafe homes and also unsafe neighborhoods, then you have a recipe for disaster.

So what can one do to help a child feel safe in their classroom?  First, you have to recognize that you are not only responsible for teaching the child the academic subjects, but that you are, first and foremost, responsible for creating a learning environment where the child can feel safe.  This seems like a pretty obvious thing to know and in some ways it is, while in other ways it isn’t.  When a child is being teased in a classroom, while the teacher has their back turned and is writing something on the board, is that child being kept safe?  What about when a child is being called to answer a question that the teacher knows the child does not know the answer to?  Or when a student is being punished with the rest of the class because of the actions of a few “bad apples”?  What about when adults ignore children being bullied in the hallway during passing?  How safe is any child in an environment where adults, for all intents and purposes, let children rule themselves?

What if you had a child and you could create a space for them to be in during the day when you are not around?  What would you want that space to look like?  Would it look like some of the classrooms we see in movies, classrooms where children are just trying to survive before they can even think about preparing for the state test?  Would it look like a classroom where teachers single out students because of their race, gender and or religion so as to make some social commentary about the state of our society?  I am pretty sure it also wouldn’t look like what schools looked like to most of us growing up.  We would probably all completely rethink what schools should look like across the board.  

Better yet, if all of our children, children of the rich and the poor, had to attend the same schools, I am sure that we would do everything in our power to ensure that schools were the safest spaces in the country.  We would finance them appropriately, train the best teachers we could and design buildings that let in light and offered open and clean spaces to learn in.

But of course, the first thing we would have to do is agree that all children are our children, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, black or white, Christian or Muslim or anything else other than you what believe yourself to be…….

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Also, I would love to hear your thoughts about this post.  Please feel free to leave a comment. You can leave your comment below.

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