My Problem with the Teacher Education Program at SNC

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” -Sydney J. Harris

Hello family and friends!

I’m currently in “sophomore block,” which is when 2nd-year education majors dedicate an entire semester to learning how to teach (and eventually spend five weeks in the classroom!). I am learning A LOT about teaching from these classes, and thankfully, I love it too! However, there has been one thing that has been bothering me so far.

It is no secret that SNC is predominately white– but what’s new? My entire education has been like this, so it’s not something new to me. But since SNC is predominately white, that means that a majority of education majors are too. A large part of our class is dedicated to cultivating culturally sensitive teachers. Don’t get me wrong because that’s great!

But sometimes I feel forgotten.

In almost all the classes, we have read, discussed, gotten lectured on how not to let our “whiteness” affect our teaching– to put it bluntly. But one important thing; I’m not white! I understand that this is a beneficial conversation for others in my class, but I always feel weird when the topic comes up. I can’t engage in the conversation because it doesn’t pertain to me, and honestly, I zone out when it’s brought up in class.

I will note that just because I’m not white does not automatically make me the most culturally sensitive teacher. However, my experience as a person of color in the classroom has given me a unique perspective on education.

What motivated me to write this article is a discussion we had in “Children’s Literature.” We talked about the importance of diverse children’s’ literature and how important it is for students to see strong characters like them in stories. And I never had that growing up! In fact, our professor mentioned that finding children’s books about Native Americans is very difficult 🙁

At the beginning of this blog, I used a quote about a topic we are exploring in some classes, which are “windows” and “mirrors.” As the quote mentions, the goal of education is to allow children to look through a “window” to experience and learn about other cultures. As educators, we can use books to provide such windows! However, often what happens is that children’s books only reflect one race, family structure, gender identity, or sexuality; the Middle-Class Caucasian.

I could probably count on one hand the amount of diverse children’s literature that I was exposed to in elementary school. So while it reflected the life of my peers, I was always looking through a window. Where were the Native American books? Native American characters?

How does this tie back to my problem with the teacher education program? Well, I’m still learning through a window.

I feel like I’m learning how to be a teacher by looking through the lens of what my peers are experiencing. A window in which I cannot interact because the topic does not pertain to me. Through this window, I watch the professor address the fears of my white peers while I sit there and nod along.

On a more positive note about this, perhaps learning about my peer’s concerns on culturally sensitive teaching provides me a window. A window that may be helpful when I work with future colleagues and understand their concerns and fears around education.

However, right now, I want to learn how I can be the best teacher possible, and I do not feel like I’m currently learning that.

Please let me know what you think and thanks for reading!