I drafted this post in September of 2018 at the start of my younger son Caleb’s freshman year of high school. It is so relevant. I am not sure why I never posted it. After recent conversations within my organization about culturally responsive practices, I believe this post should be set free from the “draft zone”. There will be more to say and think about but for now, this is my start.
Students can find themselves in situations, classes and tracks as a result of the hopes, dreams and perceptions of their parents, caregivers or the greater community at large.
My son Caleb is a freshman in high school. At an open house, we learned about the STEM Academy within the high school. When the advisor for the academy spoke to us about the program, my husband and I looked at each other and thought “we have to make sure he is a part of this.” If you know ANYTHING about raising teens or even being a teen, you know that the best way to turn your teen off to an idea is to LOVE it.
Caleb told me that the STEM academy “was not aligned with the goals” he has for himself. There is something to be said for hearing our children when they share their hearts, values, and interests. All too often we push our children in a given direction without listening to listening to them. I find this to be an epidemic in school these days.
When we are not careful, we actually advocate for the tracking that holds so many children back. This recent trip to open house has me revisiting the different times my husband and I blindly supported the very practice that limits access to so many children and particularly children of color.
Caleb wants to be a professional athlete. Basketball is his sport of choice. As a mom raising African American males it feels necessary and important that my boys see themselves as possible in non-stereotypical spaces. I struggle to balance supporting the dreams of my boys and encouraging them to consider ideas outside of their current trend on Instagram and Snapchat. I imagine we all do.
A few questions are sitting with me as I continue to reflect on the ideas in this post:
- When I think of my boys, I think about how few young men end up playing professional sports and how much more important the arts, literacy, math and science are to their futures. How many other parents feel obligated to usher their children into spaces of no interest in the name of considering societal barriers and education? (I already have thoughts on this)
- What do the conversations between parents and school staff sound like that point out these tracking practices? Particularly parents of the children who are “benefitting” from the tracking.
- As a parent how do I balance support of who they want to be (Pokemon Master – no lie, my oldest son wanted to be this for the longest time) and the realities of being black males in the USA?
I believe we cannot educate outside of community. With this, I welcome your thoughts and reactions.