People don’t want to talk about this, but schools, even good ones, reek of white privilege. That’s because something like 80 percent of teachers are white. As a result, schools are chock full of white teacher problems. The best way to illustrate this is to highlight some of the “problems” I’ve seen brought up at staff meetings.
We were at staff meeting and working through an issue. At the time, our detention system was like the American prison system: always the same ten kids in trouble and no rehabilitation to help them break the pattern. Teachers suggested fixes. It ended up being quite a productive conversation, one that left you hopeful about the merits of democracy.
We created a smarter detention system. Instead of rotting in seats for 30 minutes after school, kids would read about life skills. But the system worked two ways. Punishment escalated if a student continued receiving detentions. First, community service. Then a phone call home. I suggested Chinese water torture for step three, but in-school suspension won, narrowly. Finally we arrived at a place where teachers felt their voices were heard.
“All in favor?”, our boss said.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t feel good about the punishment part of the system,” a teacher said from the back table. “But that’s probably because I’m an empath.”
There’s a perfect example of a white teacher problem. Briefly mentioning the actual problem, things inevitably take a hard left turn. Whatever follows is about them, only made palatable by an infusion of graduate-level psychology words.
What’s an empath? I just looked it up, and basically, it means you can feel what other people feel. To me, it’s a shame my colleague beat around the bush. If you’re going to make a productive collaboration about you, say what you really mean. You feel what other people feel! Next time, stand on the table and shout, “I want you all to know I am NOT a sociopath!”.
Thanks for the memo. And by all means, if there’s anything else we can do to make this about you, don’t hesitate to interrupt again.
It’s not just white people, you see. People go to great measures to feel special. It’s part of the human condition. But in schools, where a million problems remain unsolved at any given time, your feelings are the last thing anyone should be worried about.
Here’s another example. At another meeting, a colleague interrupted similar circumstances by saying, “Can we write this information on the board? I’m not understanding any of it because I’m a “visual learner”.”
Labels cause problems. Most people can handle labels just fine, but certain people can’t. Tell certain people they have anxiety, and they’re more likely to pull that card anytime shit hits the fan. Tell certain people they’re visual learners, and they’ll forget they have two healthy ears and a notebook in front of their face.
A “visual learner”, you see, is someone who learns best by, well, seeing stuff. They say each person is either a visual, auditory, or hands-on learner. And by ‘they’, I of course mean other white teachers with PhDs.
And before going any further, it needs to be said that I know doctors are smarter than me. I happily defer to doctors when it comes to the human body, neurochemistry, and well, most things. I’m a hypochondriac and see a doctor about once a week (thanks, WebMD). Just know I’m not poking fun at actual disabilities here. I’m poking fun at people who called themselves visual learners because gluten allergies weren’t invented yet.
By the way, the answer to that question is no. We can’t write it on the board. Why not? Because you have two master’s degrees and make $80,000 a year. It’s not our problem you need a flow chart to figure out when you have recess duty.
Anyway, I should wrap this up. I have this big red bump on my finger, and WebMD says it’s either a bug bite, type II diabetes, or that I’ll be Spiderman by midnight. I’m going to use the next few hours to practice. Spiderman’s probably more of a hands-on learner than I am.
(See? I’m an empath, too.)