Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused on a lot of topics, but have strayed away from my primary focus and goal which is in re-education; Today, I regress.
It has occurred to me that many of our daughters are being painted with the broader stroke of mediocrity and unjustly so. Young Black girls are often pressured by outside influence as to what they should look like, act like and who they should be liked by. During the tumultuous period of adolescence, it’s easy and natural for our daughters to be conflicted about their identities and sense of self. We parents are often confused as to who this new person is that we find ourselves living with. Someone we knew for 16 years and who was sweet and innocent only yesterday is suddenly argumentative and wanting a bum-length weave, false eyelashes, a lip tattoo and permission to drive your car. She’s undoubtedly finding herself and disturbing your reasonable enjoyment in order to do so. The princess of your loins has become a near stranger in personality as well as physical appearance.
Now, imagine this same character in the classroom for 8 hours a day already feeling conflicted about who she is and who she wants to be. Picture this person in a class with 30some other 16 year old freaks of nature with raging hormones, body odor, acne and attitude problems and then, imagine yourself as the teacher who has to deal with all of them at once for days at a time. Scary isn’t it? Makes the reality of having to deal with one at a time seem like a blessing doesn’t it? I understand, I’ve often taken it for granted too.
Teachers bear the burden of having to facilitate learning in environments best navigated by The Joint Task Force, this is the reality. Good teachers try to balance calm and stimulation while maintaining an atmosphere conducive for thinking. A good teacher innately understands the challenges of kidulthood and adjusts his or her teaching curve to deal with the ebbs and flows of the teenaged attention span. A good teacher cares that our children leave the school day knowing one thing more than they did the day before and that their personal arsenal of critical thinking and mass communication skills are being cultivated in abundance. A good teacher notices when your child is expressing both fluency and difficulties in subject matter and coordinates with parents accordingly to address the situation in either case. This is my short list of good teacher qualities and in a perfect world, our children would have the luxury of being placed in classrooms with caring individuals who are passionate about education however; This is not the reality. In many cases, what our children are experiencing is the complete antithesis of this dream.
Parents, be aware that our daughters are often left in the shadows of students who require more attention due to behavioural issues. Our daughters are being neglected in the classes because they don’t draw any special attention to themselves academically or attitudinally. Sadly, our daughters educational needs are being ignored because of how they look. If they fit the description of a young-Black female-who-isn’t-destined-for-much-of-a-future-anyway, many teachers will not invest the time it takes to cultivate trust and respect in order to help to inspire her to reach her full potential.
In terms of the traditional education system, unlike our sons, as long as Black girls behave well and keep their “attitudes” in check, regardless of whether or not they complete their assigned tasks or are up to the class median, they pose less of a threat and therefore are treated with less interference. They can be virtually invisible.
Parents, this is an issue. Our girls need to be challenged, included and regarded as visible within the classroom environment in order to reap the benefits of academic exposure. We must ensure that our daughters are aligned in fully exploiting the full value of her education as this will help to assure the completeness of self-esteem, her confidence in her abilities and her future success. Be ever vigilant of this phenomenon and commit to protecting our daughters from it. Demand parent teacher reviews and interaction. Get to know what her teacher thinks about her. Demand that her teachers actually get to understand her needs and challenge her accordingly. Demand homework, it’s practise. Encourage her to get involved with school citizenship and extracurricular activities and not only sports. (Unless it’s Girls rugby!) Support her to join the debate team, teen political and mock parliament societies. Encourage as much academic exposure that you can so that her brain grows at the same rate as her interest in boys. If you can’t limit her distractions, participate in them! Trust me, your teen won’t feel the need spend 23 out of 24hrs a day Tweeting her random musings if you become one of her followers…
Parents, especially us mothers, we must be good to our daughters. Our rule of thumb ought to be the role model she needs so that she can breathe life into her dreams and passions. Help her learn and express her abilities. Teach her to understand the implications of being overly sexually provocative. Show her how a lady acts and dresses while still accepting her need to explore her less than desirable fashion sense. Teach her the classic approach to sexiness: Sometimes less is more. Make your good demeanor the prime example of how hers should be. Allow her to be sensitive and express her feelings and softer side. Teach her to embrace and develop her natural gifts and talents. Teach her to be a good friend. Be the one true person who advocates for her when she needs it yet demonstrates how she must advocate and assert for herself.
She will be a better woman for it. She will have better learning experiences for it. One day, she will become a better mother because of it. Don’t be her friend, be her mom; Her good teacher.
Light reflected is enlightenment infinite.