An alert elementary school principal knows how to recognize racism, no matter how subtle. She is making war on racism.
A teacher in her school used the sinister phrase, “peanut butter sandwich” last year. Can you imagine this? The teacher actually said this. In front of students. Impressionable students.
Well, this has got to stop. The principal is going to stop it. As she told a local reporter, “What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?”
I had not thought of this.
“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
Maybe they do. No, surely they do. Sometimes. And that makes all the difference.
The principal has been trained to spot these subtle signs of racism. She has also been certified. When you are in the tax-funded school system, you need to be certified by something or other.
Like many if not all of PPS’ leaders, Gutierrez has gone through California-based consultant Glenn Singleton’s “Coaching for Educational Equity,” a weeklong seminar on race and how it affects life; she’s also become an “affiliate,” certified to teach the equity curriculum; and she serves on the district’s administrative committee to address systematic racism, a group that meets every other week.
There is a new program in the Portland, Oregon public schools. It is called Courageous Conversations. It promotes something called equity training.
I know what you are thinking, you white racist pig. You are thinking “political correctness.”
And some of you filthy racist pigs are even thinking this: “Oh, boy, another loony fad in the public schools.” Well, we have ways of dealing with people like you.
Through intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives, the premise is that if educators can understand their own “white privilege,” then they can change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance.
You must give up some of your privilege.
There is a solution to this. More meetings. The principal sent this memo.
Our focus school and our Superintendent’s mandate that we improve education for students of color, particularly Black and Brown boys, will provide us with many opportunities to use the protocols of Courageous Conversations in data teams, team meetings, staff meetings, and conversations amongst one another.
This is a time-tested solution in every bureaucracy. Time and time again, time spent in meetings changes the world for the better.
Then there is the question of academic performance.
“My first year as principal, I looked at the data and found that the eighth-graders that year, a third of them were going to Madison (High School) at about a third-grade level,” she told the Tribune. “I said, ‘This is completely unacceptable.’ “
That led to her adopting what she calls the school’s “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”: that every student will make two years’ growth in one year’s time in reading, writing and math.
What is the goal? “We want to teach them to be critical thinkers.” Yes. Third graders, second graders: they must become critical thinkers.
Maybe they can also learn how to read. “See Dick think. Think, Dick, think.”
The results, by the end of the year, were promising, she says. The biggest achievement was among the kindergarteners: All but three of the 63 students met their benchmarks at the end of the year.
The kindergarteners are learning to think critically.
Among the other grades, there was “tremendous growth in pockets,” she says. Ah, yes: pockets. They grew. As evidence of this growth, she offered . . . nothing specific.
The reporter did not press her on this. After all, the reporter has not taken the course on Courageous Conversations. Also, she suffers from white privilege. I know this, because her name is Jennifer.