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Working in a school, I’ve learned that there is so much more that happens during the day time than just actual instruction. The instruction of children in the center of what we do as educators, yet everything else going on that surrounds instruction sometimes gains more attention than it should. More often than not, the budget gains more attention than our educating students. Meeting benchmarks and state standards gains more attention than educating students; standardized test scores are not the answer, but I digress.


Maintaining law and order within the school and district gains more attention than educating our students. If any of these things manifest themselves into any sort of scandal or “juicy gossip,” you can best believe that the faculty, staff and even the students are talking about that more than the latest math or history lesson that is being taught. One of the more difficult things for us teachers to do is to filter the information that comes into our classrooms. If you let them, your students will have an open forum about everything under the sun. We have to guard them just as much as we should encourage their exploration of various subjects and topics by facilitating specific lessons and discussions. And then there are some occasions when we are inadvertently thrust in a discussion about something that may be uncomfortable.


Moment of the Week

Last week I gave my one of my classes a group assignment that involved them researching the most important news story of the year (2013) so far. I had students looking up stories happening abroad, stories concerning the city of Camden, where our school is located, and one group of students even talked about Beyonce’s alleged lip-singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Presidential Inauguration. On my way back to my desk after traveling from group to group, one of my students called me to her desk to look at a story she found about our school. It was the first time I had seen or heard the story. It involved our school’s founder and a former employee who has filed a lawsuit against the school and the founder, alleging misappropriations of school and scholarship money. When I saw the article, my jaw dropped. Of course, the student who found the article directed everyone to the link, after which the comments came rolling in from my students, many of whom automatically believed that our founder was guilty of the allegations and were afraid that if she was found guilty that the school would shut down. There is nothing like misguided assumptions to drive popular opinion and so I immediate shut down what we were doing and we discussed the story so that those misguided assumptions could be put down.


Lesson of the Week

As teachers, our job is one with a major responsibility attached to it. We are the gatekeepers of truth – regarding any and every piece of information that flows inside our classrooms. We each may come from different backgrounds with various different opinions, yet we must remember that our job is to teach, cultivate and encourage our students in an objective manner. The only thing that we should be subjective about is learning, becoming mature, becoming civically engaged and asserting the ideal of helping one’s fellow man. All of the teachers in my building have an opinion regarding this story as do I and I am sure that I was not the only adult asked about the alleged charges levied on our founder. However, it is not my right, nor is it my place to judge, and neither is it the right or place of my students to judge.

Many of the students who’ve been in our district over the years have come to believe that the image of the school is first priority and not the well being of the students.  They believe that is due in part to the decisions made and actions taken by our founder, who is also the chairwoman of the Board of Trustees. Whether or not that is true, I informed my students that one of the amazing things about living in the United States is that we have an opportunity to prove our innocence and defend ourselves and as Americans, and we are obligated to allow the truth to be told before we make a decision. Decision making is about being informed and having clarity, not about being led by one’s emotions upon the immediate revelation of information. Once we had this conversation, at the end of class many of my students were singing a different tune. Rather than saying that our founder was guilty, many began saying that they hope she isn’t found guilty or they’ll wait until the court makes its ruling or that they think she may or may not be guilty but are am not sure. I was satisfied that they understood that making rash judgments off speculation is an injustice in our society – an injustice many of them have faced as Blacks and Latinos in America. We need not replicate injustice. We are to only promote truth and justice. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”

Rann Miller is an educator and freelance writer based in Southern New Jersey. His Urban Education...

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