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Home : 2005 : Apr : 28

    Teacher Discrimination
    By concerned mother

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    I love the definition of the perfect school as being "a school where every child is equal and every teacher believes in the value of each student".

    My daugter's response on a writing assignment where the teacher asked how she would like to be treated in class is:
    "I want to be treated like everyone else. I don't want any special treatment. I just want to be treated like everyone else is treated".

    She was hoping to be in "a school where every child is equal and every teacher believes in the value of each student".

    However, we all know that this is not the case. I'm positive that her response for how she wants to be treated stems from some of her experiences growing up. I'm going to cite 4 incidents where I felt a teacher discriminated either intentionally or unintentionally against my daughter. I'm sharing this in the hope that teachers will read this and think before they make similar comments or actions that may have unintended consequences. I'm also hoping that others will stand up and protect our children when they are around these situations.

    1) At 5 years of age, my daughter was a member of our community's swim team. We were the only family of color among the community pool's membership. There was a group of 7 kids in the swim competion and as each child touched the pool side when he/she completed his/her swim, the teacher proceeded to tell each child "Good Job, child's name". When my daughter finished, she was totally ignored by this teacher. I was right there so I proceeded to say "Good Job, my daughter's name, Good Job, each other child's name" until I named every single one of them. I then gave the teacher a disapproving look. I definitely think that this was an intentional discrimination on the teacher's part. She knew my daughter's name so this cannot be why she ignored my daughter. If she did not know my daughter's name, she could still have said "Good Job".
    How often does this type of subtle discrimination happen? What are the children learning?

    2) At 12 years of age, my daughter often mentioned to me that a teacher scolded only her for doing the same things that other students did (talking in class mainly). She decided to enlist two of her friends' assistance for an experiment. The three of them decided that they would each run around the classroom and talk to other students. Her two friends did it first with no consequences from the teacher. When my daughter did exactly the same thing, she was reprimanded. At this point, she told the teacher that he was prejudiced because the other two students did the same thing without consequences. She told him that he preferred 'EURASIANS' since the two friends were both half white and half asian. My daughter is asian.

    Since that time, this teacher has become one of my daughter's favorite teachers. Even now, we occasionally run into him around town and he and my daughter always talk. My daughter thinks very highly of this teacher now. From this incident, I truly believe that this teacher was not consciously aware of what he was doing and how he was making my daughter feel. I am amazed at how my daughter handled the situation. Luckily, the teacher was open minded and everything turned out positively. But, how many children will do what my daughter did to call attention to what she perceived as unfairness?

    3) At 15 years of age, my daughter was in a kids' summer theatre program where she was picked as a 'featured player'. I believe there were 21 featured players in the play and the director assigned a musical 'solo' for each of the featured player except my daughter. She came home that day in tears. She then told me that one of the kids told her that since she did not have a singing part, she would most likely get 'speaking' parts. When the 'speaking' parts were assigned, she did not have any.
    Right before the day when blocking (assignment of where the kids will be on stage during the play) was to be done, we had a family tragedy where my 26 year old special ed teacher niece was killed by a random shooting while driving.

    We were all under a lot of pressure and pain at the time and I could not understand how my daughter even worried about missing the 'blocking' day since we had to go to my niece's wake and funeral. She said that the kids were advised that if they missed 'blocking' that they may not be included. I told her that this was an emergency and that the director would make an exemption. She then expressed her feelings of being excluded as she said that the director will call the featured players on stage and when she would proceed to go on stage, the director would say, "I mean Sam, Joe, Jane, etc." and not her name. At that time, this was the least of my worry, but at the same time, unfairness always pulls at my heartstrings.

    I'm going to have to continue this another time...

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