I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
These words were spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28th, 1963. Most Americans and citizens of the world know this part of the speech. He had a dream that went beyond just the African American community. There was the inclusion of other races and it was a beautiful dream.
In the world of education we see this a lot and hear this buzzword a lot: diversity. We know what it means by how does it play a part? In most large cities it’s glaringly obvious of how it plays a part. But if you’re from a small town in West Virginia where a majority of residents are Caucasian it’s not so obvious. I work at my childhood elementary school and I see more diversity there now then when I attended there. Allow me to give you a snapshot of my classmates. There were 2 Latinos, 1 African American, 1 Asian. That’s it. All of my teachers were Caucasian and that was just how it was. I saw zero representation of my ethnicity anywhere and that’s not my parents fault nor anyone else’s. And none of my classmates every pointed out that I had a different skin tone or looked completely different from them. But what’s the point of this background story? And what does it have to do with Dr. King’s dream? Everything.
Let me put it into better context. I’m the lone teacher at my school that is of another race. A few weeks ago I had a new student arrive and throughout the morning he kept staring at me and smiling. At first I thought he was just happy to be making friends but finally I asked him why he was smiling. He said, “Because my teacher is just like me. I’ve never had a teacher that looked like me.” I asked him what he meant by that and he pointed to his skin and then mine. It was then that I fully understood how this student was viewing me. A few weeks later I get another new student and he’s Latino. When I went to the front office to meet him the second he saw me and I introduced myself as his teacher his smile grew. Later in the afternoon the first student, D, motioned me over and then pointed to himself, me, and K and whispered, “Ms. Barrick, slowly but surely we’re taking over this classroom.” “What do you mean,” I asked. “You know, we’re adding a splash of color to this classroom.” Smiling I knew exactly how he felt. It would have been nice at times when I was in elementary school to have looked around my classroom and seen someone else with my skin tone. I wouldn’t have felt so alone.
As a teacher of another ethnicity I always take the time when I’m seeing so much hate in the news (nationally and locally) to talk to my students about the events. I want them to understand different viewpoints and to realizing not everyone has the same opportunities as themselves. Whether that’s based on the color of their skin, their SES, gender, physical abilities, etc. My classroom is one that fosters inclusion and we value our small family in Room 204 on their character and morals. Not the color of their skin. If you’re seeking some bright and good news come to my room & you’ll find it because I’m so proud of all of my kids.