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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

When a student calls the teacher ‘racist’

White Teachers, Here’s How to Handle Being Called Racist, writes Tom Rademacher, a former Minnesota Teacher of the Year, on Education Post.

His advice ranges from the sensible (don’t get defensive or cite all the black people who think you’re not racist) to the insanely “woke” (don’t argue lest you “use all your power and privilege to quiet the voice of a marginalized child”). And, if you’re upset by a false accusation, that’s just “White tears.”

Rademacher assumes that students who call teachers “racist” have noticed a real problem, that they’re not just saying “I dislike you” or “I didn’t do the work.”

Step One: Shut Up. . . . a student who is calling you racist is a student with something to say, so you can’t fill all that space with your anxiety at being called out.

After avoiding defensiveness, reflecting and researching, it’s time for:

Step Five: Discuss. Think about how much better and more powerful your conversation with your student will be when you show evidence of the work you’ve done because of their comment. Study; reflect. Come to them with something new. Not something that you think proves them wrong, but something that shows you are hearing them as much as you can. Ask them if they are comfortable telling you more, explaining what they were feeling or thinking. Ask them if they have good ideas for what you can do more and better, but only if they want to talk about those things. If a student in your care calls you racist, it’s not their job to fix whatever caused that comment. They’ve done their job, more than their job, by calling you out.

The final step is to “change,” he writes. “If you really want your student to feel heard, you have to show them that you listened.”

Rademacher cites a piece by Kayla Renee Parker, a black college student who challenged her progressive professor for a multiple-choice answer the student saw as minimizing the horrors of slavery.

The student was arrogant. The instructor, an adjunct, was arrogant, unprofessional and apparently clueless about Facebook privacy settings. She posted:

“After the semester is over and she is no longer my student, I will post her name, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.. after she graduates, all bets are off.”

The instructor was fired.

Read both and tell me what you think.

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