cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Trust is built in very small moments

D stopped by my room after 7th block. He came by to just hang out before our BSU meeting. Usually he drops by for a quick hello during passing period to work on my handshake. Spoiler alert: I'm still terrible. Today, he just felt like hanging out. He kept me company while I purged papers from giant piles on my desk.

D is a big, handsome, talkative, brilliant and witty young guy, a very strong student, solidly built, with dark skin, a ready laugh, and the brightest black eyes I have ever seen. He asked me how I liked his new twists, tilting his head so I could get a good look. I liked them a lot. He explained the process of setting them up and caring for them. His girlfriend really likes them.

We just shot the breeze about everything and anything in the late-afternoon light. He asked my advice about two gift options he was considering for his and his girlfriend’s three-month anniversary. He showed me some pictures on his phone and I gave my opinion (I liked both, but had some thoughts). We talked about climate change, the school-to-prison pipeline, manners and the lack of manners, Flat Stanley (“Flat who?” I could see the wheels turning in his head. Finally he quirked an eyebrow at me and said, “White people have some crazy-ass ideas about education”), course selection for the fall, summer plans.

It felt like such a blessing.

I never taught him as a student, so it felt like an extra helping of miracle for us to be just sitting there in my classroom after school, hanging out.

One of the books I’ve been reading in my personal school equity work this year is Dr. Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. I have found it most helpful in understanding the legacy and issues that come with this transgenerational trauma. Much of the current equity focus among teachers and teacher-educators in math education has been from a sociological lens, which I honestly have not found that helpful in addressing the systemic issues in my teaching life and in our school. I come to my teaching work from a more psychodynamic point of view. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sociological work; I do. I just find it the psychological perspective more clarifying.

The most important learning I’ve had this year came from a passage in Dr. DeGruy’s book. The section on the preeminence of relationship in Black culture really made an impression on me and has been foundational. She writes, “In African American communities, relationship frequently trumps everything else. Consideration of relationship permeates all of our interactions. For example, when Black students feel they have been disrespected by a teacher, they often feel completely justified in rebelling and shutting out the offending teacher, even if it means failing the class and sabotaging academic aspirations “ (p. 19).

This makes enormous sense to me, especially in light of what I know from the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman in their work on repairing and rebuilding marriages. Trust is the foundation of everything in a close relationship, and as John Gottman says, “Trust is built in very small moments.” So this has become my mantra in all my equity work this year at school. Without trust and relationship with my Black students, there is nothing.

It doesn’t matter how many book chats I do on Twitter, how many times I get called out for my own internalized racisms and make changes, how many times I support my BIPOC adult colleagues. What matters for my equity work with my students and with my school is how much trust and relationship there is in our shared well.

D and I ran the backstage happenings at our Black History Month assembly in February. Actually, he was the stage manager and I was his assistant. What truly mattered, it turns out, was the fact of weaving that relational web together.

I noticed the time and said, “Hey, would you help me close the windows? It’s time to go to BSU.”

He took his BSU jacket out of his backpack and carefully pulled it over his head. Then we flipped off the lights and headed down the hall together to our meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Makes so much sense. Trust is being able to have some sense of the range of someone's response or reaction and that takes a lot of little exposures, or meeting someone when the chips are down.