* Forgiveness and race

I was moved by an opinion column in today’s Chapel Hill News.  Anita Woodley‘s column focuses on forgiveness.  Forgiving those who have hurt her with racist remarks and forgiving herself for “feeling that [she] had to prove” that she belongs, that she’s “entitled to be somewhere.”  Woodley describes her experience at a workshop, “Race and Grace: Changing the Race Dance” where she was the only person of color in a group of about 20 folks.  She endured horrific stories, resorting to an emotional disconnect to protect herself.

The following day, Woodley started a two month self-esteem support group for women, where once again, she heard the N-word.  In this case, a woman actually tried to convince Woodley that the N-word is no big deal.  After all, that woman had been called “whitey.”  Woodley describes the emotional turmoil that eventually led her to forgive that woman, and in the process, to see herself as she is: courageous, loving, and strong.

I’ve been a part of these conversations for years.  It’s discouraging that whites still diminish the black experience in this country.  I see the legacy of slavery, I see undereducated black kids, I see a class system with widening chasms.  Woodley’s advice is sound.  Forgiveness is one place to start.  Playing an active role in changing hearts and minds is another.  We all lose when a single child’s potential is lost.

black woman

* Kindness counts

Katie Mgongolwa, a young  mom and teacher, shared a powerful story about a much-loved fifth grade teacher.  Writing in the Chapel Hill News, Mgongolwa described her mother’s unexpected encounter with Mrs. Elder and wondered how her mother had recognized the teacher after so many years.  After inviting Mrs. Elder to dinner, Mgongolwa wrote, “I understand, now, as a mother, you never forget the people who made your kid feel happy and safe.”  Mrs. Elder (I thought I had the copyright to that pseudonym), taught her students well.  As Mariale Hardiman has written so aptly: “Setting the emotional climate for learning may be the most important task a teacher embarks on each day.”

Mgongolwa has set an admirable goal for herself, to be a kind, adventurous, and patient teacher like Mrs. Elder.  I believe she’s off to a great start and has the potential to be THAT teacher, the one who makes students smile!  More on the delightful Mgongolwa tomorrow!

classroom

An old classroom suitable for an elderly teacher?

 

* More on race and literacy

Nando chapel hill newsMary Carey, a columnist for the Chapel Hill News, published this article in the Chapel Hill News section of today’s News and Observer.  She asks some important questions about how the relationship between the racial achievement gap and effective literacy.  The current academic scandal at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill centers on disreputable efforts to keep black athletes eligible to play by padding their GPA’s with bogus classes.   Ms. Carey tackles the bottom line: Why are our black students unable to read?  What approaches work best?  She cites the Orton Gillingham approach, used by the nonprofit St. Augustine’s Project, as a shining example of how to teach ALL kids to read.  I say YES!!!
The following is a copy of her article.
               
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