Yesterday I saw the movie “Hidden Figures’ which was an excellent portrayal of 3 black women who changed the outcome of NASA’s space program through their intelligence, their work and their amazing abilities. I left the theater in awe of their dignity and perseverance in view of the horrendous times of living under Jim Crow laws. It pointed out to me how much I fall short in the ability to push through in dealing with inequalities and racial discrimination.
Today I woke up angry and not for the obvious reasons of what they had to deal with in spite of the fact they were overly qualified and looked over and dealt with disrespectfully.
I woke up angry because I am a retired teacher. I have always had pride in knowing the history of my people. I have always gone the extra mile in sharing that history with my students. In fact I worked to bring it down to levels that they could deal with, because we all know history for blacks, has not been pretty. In America, it has been hateful, dark, hidden and shameful, not of our doing but rather what has been done to us.
I am angry because after 38 years of teaching, I had never ever heard the story of these amazing women. Not once has any of their names been attached to the history books or curriculum guides, noting their monumental contribution to the space program. And it was monumental!
I hate that one has to dig deep and uncover that which should have always been written right along with white contributor’s of history. I hate that our children are missing out on understanding how truly amazing and rich our history is. I hate that our history books want to assign us the same black Americans to learn about. I am in no way knocking them, but my gosh, there is so much more to build on, to add to.
I hate that as a teacher, I was often asked for supplemental information and materials, by fellow white teachers of material to teach for Black History Month, because heaven forbid the material would be used in any other month of the year. And while I am happy they wanted to be inclusive, I had information because I searched for it. I dug deep and found things to bring into the classroom, something every teacher has the power to do, if the interest is there.
I hate that, sometimes, parents complained that I talked about black people too much and asked did I have to bring it into conversations every day? The very fact that they asked the question, answered it for me. I found myself teaching parents, at times, as well as my students, in ways they were not aware of.
I hate that I am no longer in the classroom because I have all of this information and history our kids need to hear and I do not trust the textbook companies to be inclusive and correct. We all know how slanted things are and how politicians are in effect trying to guide our curriculums. I would love to share it but don’t have a platform. And no, asking me for Black History Month will not work. Black History is everyone’s history, 365 days of the year. We are all intertwined whether we want to accept it or not.
I hate that when I neared the end of my teaching career I was told if it was not in the curriculum guide, it should not be taught. I have never been one to be boxed in and pigeon holed into a cookie cutter curriculum. If children have questions, we follow that path to understanding. That is what teaching is.
Lastly, on the flip side, I am thankful that I am still learning. I am so glad to know the story of these amazing women. I challenge everyone to look outside the box. There is so much history that is unwritten and pushed under the rug. You will have to look for it and uncover it. But it is so rewarding and amazing to see.
Open you eyes. Ask questions. Stop looking at history from one group’s perspective. Look at it from everyone’s. Research and start using those history books as a supplement and not as a full guide, because the full story will not be there. If you want to find it, you will.