Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Kai Davis: Fuck I Look Like?
I came to Louisiana for a nine-month temporary gig in August of 2007. So, by the time I finish this school year, I will have taught here for a decade. The day I arrived, I was told, "You will find our students lacking. They're under-prepared. They don't like to read. And they don't know that's a problem."
My thought at the time was, "Even if that's true, why would somebody say that to me on Day One? That's like calling students incapable before I even meet 'em." But it turned out that, by and large, I was being told the truth.
On the other hand, I eventually learned (on my own) that, while any low income student might demonstrate the traits I had been warned about and even students from families with money might have succumbed to the traits along the way, Black students, in particular, were the most likely to arrive as first year students looking and sounding like they fit the profile.
Then, I started dragging them to my office one at a time to explain the okey-doke. I assured them that, with a little input and a lot of effort -- despite the obstacles placed in front of them since birth -- they could build the boat while it was in the water and they were standing in it. Over the years, more than a few have proven me right.
The upshot is that, while many classes on the campus have two or three Black students at most in them, my classes tend to weigh in at 30% or better Black -- even the first year students who just arrived and are taking Intro courses with 90 students in them. It's not because I'm wonderful. It's because I tell them the truth. And I know who they are. And in the mirror of my face they see themselves succeeding. Because -- given a real shot -- they are ferociously ready to learn and ready to teach.