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Protests leak into the classroom

It is quite tough to recall a time in which social media did not consume the lives of the average consumer. Whether used for entertainment, business advertisement, or keeping in touch with loved ones, on average, the consumer spends 5.1 hours per day on media platforms (Hodgeman, September 21, 2016). Considering this staggering data, it does not come as a surprise how quickly breaking news can spread via social media. This was clearly demonstrated during the tragic and emotional shooting in Charlotte, NC, involving another Black male and a police officer. This incident trails a similar tragedy five days prior in Tulsa, OK, involving another police-involved fatality.

Live feeds from Facebook quickly emerged across the Charlotte area drawing raging emotions to the community. As a result, our youth have direct access to view the violent acts taking place. The question becomes, whose role is it to equip and support our youth with real solutions on how to effectively channel their emotions? They are scared, broken, and very aware of this reality.

Educators in our community are conflicted with how to foster healthy conversations with students about recent events without crossing boundaries. But in this moment, we do not have room to be sensitive to these conversations and we cannot afford to skateboard around them. Teachers need to take advantage of opportunities like these and carve time into the schedule allowing scholars the leverage to write or openly discuss safe practices in order to handle the crisis in which our city and country face. The riots, rage, property damage, and attacks are direct results of generations of people who have been robbed of basic skills to channel and communicate their emotions. This is no different from teaching a toddler to use their words to communicate how they feel or what they want. A person who has not effectively addressed this stage of development, will respond the way he/she knows how–physically.

North Carolina educational policies make attempts in supporting schools to identify and implement programs that address specific needs. Under the North Carolina General Assembly 115C-105.32., it claims “State Board of Education shall develop a list of recommended strategies that it determines to be effective, which building level committees may use to establish involvement programs designed to meet the specific needs of their schools” (North Carolina General Assembly, 2016). While I can appreciate the sentiment of structure, school level and local leadership must advocate for the obvious needs. This policy should specifically force schools to embed opportunities during the school day to address scholar concerns.

As a Black male educator, I feel the pain of my brothers and sisters who are living in fear, I know the pain of my Black male scholars whose future lies in the hands of those who have no clue what it is like to be Black in America, and I empathize the pain of those who know what true freedom looks like but are stricken to the cycle of poverty. In the words of my 14-year old mentee, “[teachers] don’t care about how what happened and if they do, they don’t show it. For all they know, I am an agitator” (L. Sherrill, personal communication, 21, September 2016). It is in this moment our role as educators is crucial. Hold scholars close and educate them with strategies of managing emotions. Our scholars need to know that it is okay to be vulnerable but that it is never okay to be a victim. I care.

Dominique Stone

Dominique Stone is a teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.