This is the latest in a series of blogs from the teacher cohort.
By Donna L. Ervin
Eliminating racial disparities is one of our district goals in Pittsburgh Public Schools. For as long as I can remember, there has been a racial achievement gap in our schools and our students of color are still waiting for us to stop perpetuating their intellectual demise. It is a known fact that there is no intellectual hierarchy between white people and people of color, however, research states that there is indeed a racial achievement gap because of the variance in performance that exists between students of different skin colors. Many frustrated educators often blame social, economic, or political issues for this academic gap while over looking the obvious data that unveils the real story about race.
There are many ways to address this achievement gap through culturally relevant teaching, promoting student voice, equity trainings, readings on the subject, just to name a few. But where do we begin? I’m glad you asked! The work begins when we look in the mirror and discover our own racial narratives, beginning with recalling our very first encounter with race—when did race first enter our thinking? Here’s a quick test to find out how much race may impact your life. Answer this question personally before reading the next sentence. Choose a number from zero to one hundred: To what degree does Race impact my life (0-100%)? In other words, determine the percentage of your life, from 0 to 100% that is impacted by race. (Remember not to read the next sentence until you have selected a percentage) If your answer was less than 100, you have more work ahead of you than you probably thought.
Consider how race impacts our beliefs and behaviors related to our teaching practice and how students learn. What are our lived experiences, beliefs and values that might be offensive to others? Knowing who we are as racial beings will help us to focus our thinking on the impact of race in our life. When we are aware of the impact of race in our life, then we can fully comprehend the way that our behaviors perpetuate racism.