Dear Black Parents: We See You, We Hear You, We Are You
A Love Letter from Black Teachers During Distance Learning
Look… we get it. We really, truly get it. You are not a teacher. You didn’t sign up for this. What the world is throwing at you right now is insane. You have to raise your kids during a pandemic already, and now you have to help teach them, too. That’s crazy! What’s worse is that you have to deal with teachers and school systems who have historically disenfranchised you. With teachers who will openly disrespect you and your child in your own house in a video chat. We’ve seen the unrealistic demands. We have heard the horror stories of folx who are so addicted to abusing little black and brown bodies and murdering little black and brown spirits, that they are trying to reach into our very homes, on our wifi plans, to continue it.
The News is Not Helping–We Know
We also understand that our babies are being inundated with the hunting down and murder of our people at all times. Then they are being greeted by faces every morning who refuse to even acknowledge our culture. Let alone our anguish. Mom, Dad, this is a lot. Having to deal with our own pain and grief and somehow pretend to be okay in a few minutes to do our jobs and half of our kid’s classwork is killing us. We know. It hurts. We know that you feel the pain all day and try to numb it as best you can just to get the 4th email in a row from your kids’ teacher about some silly app with a cheesy, happy name that makes you want to through your laptop through a window. Not yours, because you don’t have room for any more problems.
We know that for a lot of us, the school was a place of mental, physical, and spiritual violence. So, we aren’t all excited to go do it all over again and watch our babies struggle the way we did or even to watch them excel because it opens up old wounds. For those of us who excelled, we don’t have the time or energy to do Pre-K and the 2nd and 4th grades again. We are TOO DAMNED BUSY to do more than what we already have on our plates.
It’s More Than Anyone Should Have to Bear
Above all, we know that you are just tired. We know. We are you too. We know that managing three different grade levels on laptops with all of their programs and passwords is unnerving and nearly impossible. Double that for those of us who are doing it while trying to do our own jobs from home as well. Your anger, sadness, frustration, and grief are very real and very valid. You have every right to feel the way that you feel.
We see you, essential workers who don’t even have the luxury of that level of exhaustion. You can’t stay home or your kids won’t eat, so they have to manage this dumpster fire alone or with daycare, babysitting, or a grandma who still doesn’t know how to do anything more than like things on Facebook on a computer. We know that there are some teachers and schools out there–a lot of them–who will judge you for not being there to make sure your babies were logged in on time and who will try and make you feel like a bad parent. You are not a bad parent.
You are not bad for needing a break. You are not bad for not understanding. You are not bad for being overwhelmed. You are allowed to cry. In fact, please do! We (the teachers) are. You are allowed to get angry, just try not to take it out on our babies, this is hard on them too. If you need to put the baby in a playpen in the bathroom so you can take a long shower and breathe… DO IT. Go ahead and steal a few minutes after bedtime and pour a glass of wine! If wifi just went out, and two of the kids’ work got deleted, knowing that you’ve got a work deadline in 45 minutes–pour an extra sip for us. We feel you. Grades are due on Friday, attendance is due by 3 pm. We now have to take synchronous and asynchronous attendance SEPARATELY. We update all of our lessons to be digital and literally reinvent the whole of education while doing it from our own computers, running our own air, and using our own internet–in record weather–wearing work clothes and makeup in our own house. WE. FEEL. YOU. In fact, pour us a whole glass.
Remember that They are Just Kids
You got played today by a 13-year-old who had you fooled into thinking they were doing the work, however, they were really playing Fortnight? Yeah, me too. I just opened 15 blank “turned in” assignments from them and wasted a lot of my time and energy too. It is okay. Breathe deep, set some boundaries and guidelines, and start again. They are a little faster than us, but we’ve got the experience. We can handle this. Our wifi is going out with yours. We see our folks posting work they know kids can’t do on their own and giving garbage instructions. We see how expensive this is and know the fear that if we can’t afford to pay the electricity bill and our kids can’t get online, that the school will call cps on us. We also know that it is really, really hard to do your job with kids running around who need your help or a snack or to play every few minutes, and we know that a lot of us are trying to do it all by ourselves. We see you. We are you.
Teachers are Parents Too, We Empathize with You
I say we because we are parents too. Black teachers are fighting on both fronts, and we are fighting hard. We are weary from calling out racism in staff meetings. For pointing out disparities in how our babies are being treated versus everyone else. They are OUR babies. We are a village. We are fighting for us. You are doing so much more than you signed up for. We are too. Trust me, we aren’t sitting at home watching Netflix after dropping off some ridiculous busy work assignment to drive you and your kid crazy. We aren’t the teachers who could ever get away with that. We are fighting hard to maintain our sanity, protect our families, and to protect yours.
You and Your Child Have Rights: Exercise Them
Fight with us. Use your voice. Stay on that principal’s NERVES with your issues. Call that teacher out for violating your space and your home. Go to digital board meetings and speak up in public comments. These are the simplest and most powerful things you can do, the school board meeting especially. Board members are elected officials. Gather your folks and let them know that you are watching. Demand that your teachers are trained in anti-racism, and that it’s not as an option. Demand that schools use research-based practices in implementing distance learning. Demand that there are places and spaces for black families and black teachers to interact, co-conspire, and share with one another to protect all of us. We may not be able to share that wine, but we sure could spill some tea that might get you and your babies through all of this.
We see you.
We feel you.
We are you.
Talk to us.