Years in Education: 7-10
African-American + Native-American
Chemistry and Forensic Science Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: My students are from different backgrounds, and we have gone through some of the same things when it comes to racism in an America.
I have taught predominately at low-income schools with immigrant students. My students judge me the first day meeting me. They called me an Oreo, white girl, rich girl, etc. Once the students hear the stories of what I have gone through, then they realize that we are not different at all.
I tell the students that I grew up in a rural town that was predominately Caucasian. In elementary school, students would not be my friend because I was black and they thought they would become dirty like me.
I had teachers call me the n-word. Police followed me because they didn't believe my family lived in a particular place in town. Police stopped me because they didn't think I could afford the car I have. They've followed me in stores.
Once the students hear my story, they talk to my about their stories. They understand that we have more in common and relate to each other. Though I didn't grow up in a low-income area, we have experienced the same things in life.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: Yes, it does so we can relate to each other in the classroom. My students and I have been able to relate to each other on many things. Not just on racism but on life.
Students that relate to teachers will open up to teachers and work harder in the classroom than students that don't. Most students that don't have things in common with their teacher will not work for them. I have noticed that when I tell my stories to my students and let them know about my life, they tell me about theirs. Some of my students have gone to my university and pursued chemistry just like I did. You end up helping the students in the long run and start to see them succeeding in life.
Aletha is a 2017 TED-Ed Innovative Educator. She is currently working with English Language Learners to create resources for teachers inspired by project-based learning. Follow her on Twitter @alwillia.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.