Why I Teach Where I Teach: I Practice What I Preach
Whitnee Garrett, a third-year educator, teaches Advanced Placement U.S. history at Madison Park Business and Art Academy, a Title I school in east Oakland, Calif.
When I was in community college, it never occurred to me that I would find myself in a classroom, teaching history. I always thought I’d be a politician or a lawyer — you know, someone who fights systemic oppression. But I soon realized two things: No one can save the world, and everyone needs to do their share to fight systemic oppression. As an LGBT woman of color, I still believe in those two things. I’ve had the pleasure of working in affluent schools and have noticed that their desire to promote social change and “be the change” isn’t as prominent as in Title I schools. I’ve chosen to work in Title I schools because often these students are forgotten, aren’t given the adequate resources needed to achieve success, and experience high teacher turnover. They look like me, and they need me, which is both fulfilling and exciting. I’ve come to realize that we have the power to shape our future through practicing what we preach. Instead of maintaining my anger with the system, I teach about the issues our country faces, such as race, class, and freedom. As a history teacher, I am blessed to have the freedom to connect current events to major historical themes and concepts — and this is what I preach. I believe that every person in this country who wants to see systemic transformation has got to do their part. Working to change the educational outcomes for youth is what I can contribute.[/spb_text_block]
Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection cast light on the shameful fact that students of color get less than their fair share of the in-school resources that matter for achievement. They also make clear just how important it is that we ask the right questions as we work to understand — and act on — patterns of inequity in our schools.
This post is a part of an ongoing series, called “Why I Teach Where I Teach,” which asks educators in high-need schools to share what has attracted (and kept) them in the challenging environments they’re in. They share important stories and experiences that should remind us all of the power of strong school leadership, a network of supportive colleagues, and the genuine opportunity to have a say in schoolwide decisions. Listen up! They’re teaching us.