The joys of being a Black teacher
First grade teacher Selah McClain is in her third year teaching at Friendship Academy. Selah says racial disparities along with her love for children led her to this work.
“I think it was just kind of by nature for me to fall into teaching,” she said. “But it was also working with special education students, and realizing I am working with a lot of students of color. And so I'm working with them and seeing them bloom and grow; it just makes my day to see the kids thrive in those different ways.”
Selah says being an effective teacher of color means having high expectations in the classroom, being consistent, and to also make education fun and engaging.
“My classroom is full of encouragement. And where I work is full of Black women, which is so empowering to me because every teacher in my building is Black. I am empowered by just being surrounded by Black educators, and they're showing up every single day for these kids and making a wonderful and positive difference,” she said.
Selah says students are drawn to cultural resemblance; she notices how children of color often stop by her door.
“The first time I had my first teacher of color was when I was in college - that’s just crazy,” she reflected. “These students - they come in and they're like, ‘Oh, my God, she's Black. I'm just excited to learn from her and receive this information.’ I'll have students who were in kindergarten, they might have had that white kindergarten teacher and were looking past my door, and now they're in first grade. and it's like, ‘I made it, yes! I'm in Ms. Selah’s class!’ And that's just a lovely thing to experience as a teacher of color.”
Selah says bridging the gap of racial disparities in education means focusing on the needs of the whole child rather than uniform expectations.
“We're not meeting them where they are,” she said. “Yes, we have high expectations, but we still have to meet the students where they are. And I think that in the future, I just want to see my kids, my, my black students on those statistics surpassing all of these different things that we are currently facing, whether that be behavior, academics, whatever it is. I just want to see us thriving, because the charts are not showing that right now. And that's why I am teaching.”