Being the only minority in a white school

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Iris1001, Sep 17, 2020.

  1. Iris1001

    Iris1001 Rookie

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    I recently got this teaching position in a town about 20 minutes from home. The majority of the kids are really sweet and well-behaved, and the admin is a lot more supportive than my old school. I just feel weirded out by something.

    I'm an African American woman, and I feel like I'm the only minority in this school. Most of the teachers are white, and there are only 4 African American students in this entire building.

    Is it normal to feel a bit uncomfortable at times about this? How can I cope, especially with everything going on in the world right now?
     
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  3. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Your title conflicts with your statements within the post.

    So you aren't the only minority adult in the school. Feelings and reality are often two different things. Feelings can drive your interactions with others and not always for the best. Your statement tells me you are already anticipating issues by feeling you are something that you are not - the only minority in the school.

    You are responsible for your reactions to situations. You decide how you will "cope".

    My suggestion is to just see yourself as another person and don't focus on race.

    Start from a place of it all being good and don't over-analyze interactions because if you look for something to be an issue, you will find a way to frame it as an issue.

    My suggestion is keep race out of it. If racial issues arise then deal with it, but don't anticipate it.
     
  4. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    It stinks when we feel like we're "alone" or singled out. Do they treat you differently? At one point in my school there were only 2 African American teachers and one Asian teacher with the rest all being white but I never noticed them being treated any differently. If there is nothing going on to cause you concern why worry about it?
     
  5. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Go out and make friends! Introduce yourself to others. Don't expect the worst unless they are already giving you crap. If they are making it miserable for you, go to admin or HR. At this point, it is all up to you.
     
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  6. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    We are more alike than we are different.

    If you’re looking for differences, reasons to be singled out, that’s exactly what you’re going to find. Our own perception of situations taints our experiences. Instead look for ways you can connect and be a part of the community. You’re all educators, there’s other people in your department I’m sure. Speaking from experience, science teachers tend to be not-quite-right about the head.

    Look at the positives, and you’ll have a positive experience. Look at the negatives, and you’ll have a negative experience.
     
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  7. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Apparently, the school doesn't see your race as a problem. They hired you. I would suggest the same advice you were given...don't go out of your way to create problems that don't seem to exist. You are a staff member. join in with staff activities and soon you will make good friends.
     
  8. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    It is so difficult to be one of only a handful of any group in a minority within a larger group. I think it is easy for those not in this position to say it isn't a problem, it isn't something to concern oneself with, etc. You expressed your feelings about it and your feelings are completely valid. Please also be aware for those four students - even if they aren't in your classes, but especially if they are - you are doing a huge HUGE thing - research (That I know I should be linking and I'm not so yeah, people will choose to ignore - I get it) shows that we learn best when our teacher looks like us - ethnicity is part of that.
    And maybe you do search out one of those other teachers and discuss some of your concerns. You might also learn that some of your standards based lessons can absolutely be tied in with current events and that a classroom can absolutely be a place where students can learn to not only hear new-to-them ideas, and also to understand that there is more than one viewpoint, and more than one opinion. Students need to be guided explicitly on how to disagree with each other's opinions in an academic conversation, and to back up their opinions with evidence. ...Sorry, don't know what you teach. In English class I often get to work with some very explosive topics as we dip toes into persuasive speech and writing. But no matter the subject, the idea of many view points is vital for academic growth, so yeah, I think what we bring into the (online?) classroom adds to their education.
    And I know this discussion can easily fall into "political" and that is not what this site is about, but it is a very legit question - I tend to see much of my job as "political," and how do I, with my personal views, teach my students, who might or might not agree with each other, or me, to not just be able to see other view points, but to be able to converse with different viewpoints? We don't have a lot of models of this.
    Sorry, I did not mean to change the topic...it seems very related to me. Your first concern seems important to me because of how we all fit ourselves into the world of our classrooms, our schools, and our communities.
     
  9. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Groupie

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    Sep 17, 2020

    I spent about 1/3 of my adult life as a minority in a huge school and large community. At 1st, I thought ( did not say) a few of their cultural differences were strange and they did not really align with my values.
    As the years went on, I saw why these differences were needed there and actually had a strong appreciation and respect of them.
    A few times over many years, I got yelled at, looking back, it was due to language miscommunications. Not pleasant memories....lol, but and Here is the big BUT: .............as humans, we all have so many things in common.
    Love for our children and families, heartache at times, a need to be needed and appreciated, to be understood and validated..... just to name a few. There are kind people everywhere.
    What helped me was I had a sense of humor and it fit into that culture well. ( I know how to laugh at myself.)
    I observed a lot before I spoke too which I think helped me a lot. ( Also, if I disagreed with the popular thought or someone who was loud, I called long distance to get advice from someone who was very smart and would never repeat the problem.)
    As time went on, I met people I could talk to openly.
    I shared new cool ideas with them ( my absolute best) and was thankful for what they shared with me. I made some of the best friends of my life who I am still in contact with today.

    At 1st, I was so lonely that I seriously looked forward to 2 Mormons who would stop by to visit! :) I am NOT Mormon! I wish I could put the haha face here. By the time I had to move back, I felt like I was leaving family behind.
    I tell you this only to show you how possible it is to thrive: After about 10 years, they nominated and voted me as Teacher of the Year in a huge district. I know it is basically a popularity contest, but I did teach my best there too.
    Many years later, I moved far away back to my own culture and family. I have had more people come here to visit me ( far away) than I ever could have guessed since I came back. A couple even came back here this summer once Covid had started. We had planned it before Covid. I let them know I wanted to visit, but could no longer host and needed to do social distancing. They came anyways after being tested and rented a place within walking distance. We could only visit outside, but had fun.
    I miss some parts of that culture a lot too. So, it is really a breath of fresh air when they come. One thing I miss the most are humble/ down to earth attitudes.
    Just do your best, be kind, be humble, and do not criticize. Look for the fun, kind people. Listen to others and learn. Best wishes to you!
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
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  10. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    I don't think her concerns are invalid but she didn't mention what is bringing on these concerns? DId something happen or is it just a feeling because she is a minority?
     
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  11. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    It can be under three situations:
    First, a truly hostile environment.
    Second, if you start with the idea it is hostile and look for reasons to claim it is.
    Third, let the behavior of very few who may be hostile represent the whole lot.

    I agree with TiredTeacher. What is driving the OP's feelings and causing her to state she is the only minority when she also claims that is not the case in her post: fear or current behavior?

    Hmmm. Are you saying those responding have never been in this situation? It sure seems so.
     
  12. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I am Mormon and I will happily show up to visit you anytime. In a totally non-creepy stalker-like way. Because I would absolutely never behave that way and don't listen to anyone who claims otherwise.
     
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  13. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    The way I read the OP, it sounds more like that general weirdness when you know you are different. It doesn't necessarily mean anything bad or wrong is going on in the school, but we humans like to find people like us. We bond over shared interests, shared backgrounds, etc. We might love people of other backgrounds and interests and love learning about such, but that doesn't change that burst of joy when we find that kindred spirit.

    So, OP, I'd suggest watching for what you have in common with some other staff members. I wish you the best of luck finding your place in this new school.
     
  14. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    Sep 18, 2020

    Sorry - I don't know how to do quotes from posts. (everyday I learn more about what I don't know, but that is for another post!)
    I was not meaning to make assumptions about anyone's experiences. I was trying to respond to Iris' original question: "Is it normal to feel a bit uncomfortable at times about this?" My take is that yeah, our (everyone's) feelings are completely normal. I don't think that means anything negative exists in what sounds like a positive new working position, just that we (everyone, humans) bring our own views to every experience and we all notice different things. And our unique viewpoints are always an important part of our classrooms.
    And a2z you are right, I know nothing about anyone on this site other than what I read (and don't forget - I'm getting old!) so, I apologize if you understood what I wrote as me making assumptions. That was not my intent.
     
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  15. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    My husband is. I'm not. I love it when the sister missionaries come over weekly. We feed them supper on Sundays. I even help coordinate other church members' meal visits. Don't want them to starve. ;)
     
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  16. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I think you are completely right to be asking these questions. Unfortunately, the answer isn't pretty. I had sortof the opposite experience growing up. I attended an all white school. Not majority white. All white. Then junior year I left for a very diverse boarding school, having absolutely no cultural awareness. I was lucky that my new friends were so patient. They taught me about their cultures. When I asked inappropriate questions, they let me know the questions were inappropriate, but answered them honestly anyway. I learned about microaggressions. I learned about inclusion vs. tolerance. It must have been exhausting for those who were different from me, and I realize looking back now how much of their emotional energy I was draining. I highly recommend finding a message board or online support group for minority teachers. It's so important that we all have a place where we can be our own selves without worrying and explaining and where people don't question or judge or comment.
     
  17. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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  18. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Companion

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    Yes, culture shock is normal.
     
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  19. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    I agree. And it's not permanent unless you make it so!
     
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  20. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    I didn't notice any mention of the other minorities that I would bet my last dollar that are working in that building OP is describing. What minorities, you ask? How about the members of the LBGT population, teachers who have same sex marriages - some of whom will share that openly, while others are guarded about. You might want to look at the number of employees who are 50, or older. I guarantee they are a minority because teachers don't always stay in the profession. Some who are of a different religion may feel like a minority, or there may be ethnic differences you are not yet aware of.

    Unless someone has specifically made negative remarks, I would, if I was OP, assume that virtually everyone she works with could care less about the color of her skin. They will care that she is a dedicated co-worker, who does her fair share when asked to step into an unexpected momentary need, who enjoys her students and job, if she is able to contribute to the overall school norms, the last thing that people remember will be her skin color. I hope she accepts that, in reality, we are all "minorities". We are unique, with a different genetic code that makes us different from even our closest relatives, with the exception of identical twins, and then there are the differences of different experiences.

    As a science teacher, maybe I see things differently. I only see the human race as perfect because of the variety. I do pity anyone who thinks that variety is bad or undesirable, because it is that variety that makes us a viable population that can deal with change, as it always comes, sooner or later.

    I would hope that OP will become comfortable in her own skin. It may surprise her to find that most of the adults in the building only care that she be good at what she does in the class room.
     
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  21. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Groupie

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    In all my life, I have only been lonely twice. Both times were for maybe a couple of months after a big move. Those 2 times though really stand out to me. When I moved there, I had kids, but for some reason it did not help much at first. Later they helped me meet one of my best friends who had kids.
    I was newly separated too. That is why I moved. I was pretty sad about that too, but we got back together within 3 months. He decided to move there pretty quickly. I don't think he fully believed me that I was leaving until I did.
    At the time, I'd have a few glasses of wine and had to hide them quickly when the Mormons guys came b/c I was pretty sure they would NOT approve. :) Also, I refrained from smoking when they came. I didn't want to lose the 1 social connection I had.
    They were 2 young guys and I remember feeling like such a bad hostess b/c they would not eat or drink anything. It was really hot there and I am not even sure if they'd accept water from me. I am pretty sure it had to do with their beliefs. It was a long time ago. It is now a funny joke ( wish you could hear my voice tone when I tell the story of hiding the wine and smokes.)
    They were very nice guys and I did have the utmost respect for them. Both had moved down there on a mission for a year (I think) rode bikes everywhere, and were practicing what they preached. I was not living my best life then, so having them as my only connection was pretty funny! :)
     
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  22. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    There are two ways you can do this. There is Reply in the lower right hand corner of a post. Clicking that will put the entire post in quotes in the comment box. Or you can highlight the text you want to quote and a little black box with reply in it should appear at the end of the highlighted text. Click Reply and the highlighted text will appear in the comments box.

    Then you can enter your comments after the text in the comment box.
     
  23. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Thank you for the clarification. Apology accepted but not necessary.
     
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  24. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Groupie

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    I am really sorry. I realize I "squirreled" on this post. My own kids tease me about it, but I am getting old. haha

    First of all, I'd cope by being very thankful to have gotten a job so close to home, with mostly sweet well- behaved kids , and more supportive admin. That is a dream job for most teachers.
    You don't come out and say exactly what is making it hard to cope. I can only speculate it is the political environment by certain clues you give. I was trained very old school that you need to keep your religious and political views outside of the classroom. Present material, teach the kids to think, and decide what is right for themselves.
    Also, until you make close friends ( which takes time), I'd try to observe/ listen to understand the school's climate.
    Best wishes in your new school!
     
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  25. MrTempest

    MrTempest Companion

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    I found it amusing that you are in almost the exact opposite situation as me. I am a white man at a primarily black school with a mostly black faculty. Of course, this is only speculative, but based on my experiences I sincerely feel like your situation would be a lot easier for most people than mine is. There are things I witness every day that are tolerated but would be deemed unacceptable if the races were reversed. It is all what you make of it.
     
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  26. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    There is a lot of privilege in this thread. This is meant to be an observation rather than an insult. It's easy to tell someone not to worry about it when you've never had to worry about it. Some people do have to worry about it, though, because this world is a crazy place. Speaking purely from my own perspective, I am seeing some things clearly for the first time right now, even though others have been seeing those things all along, for decades and decades.
     
  27. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Companion

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    It's very hard to walk in someone else's shoes; impossible, really. We hear a story, but it never is really the whole story, even if it's book length. With the best intentions, we fill in the gaps with assumptions and bits and pieces from our own experience. Given a small framework, we can come up with a life story. But it isn't likely to be accurate, advice is going to be hit and miss, and the receiver of that advice will have to filter appropriately.
     
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  28. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    What exactly does one have to do when being a minority in a school especially before anything negative has occurred?
     
  29. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Perhaps I'm not understanding your question. I think that it's impossible to exist as a BIPOC "before anything negative as occurred" when you consider implicit bias and microaggressions. Even if there isn't an overt, cross-burning or swastika situation, BIPOCs do face racism every day, and this has far-reaching effects. There is a lot of research out there regarding the links among racism, mental health, and physical health.
     
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  30. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Before anything specific happened at that school.

    But I see you have already determined racism is so systemic being not of color means you are automatically racist. Therefore the person if color is doomed to experience it.
    I just don't subscribe to that idea even if it is catching on. I also have a lot of friends who know it is bunk and know the difference between racism and looking for racism because they have been discriminated against.
     
  31. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Companion

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    Not really sure what's up. But the OP is not in the conversation, except in the original post. As far as the original subject is concerned, we are rudderless, filling in the blanks on our own.
     
  32. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    The op created other threads talking about anxiety and being ready to quit.
     

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