Shadowing a High School Freshman

I shadowed a student during her math class. What I learned surprised me and confirmed some previous thinking.

Photo of Jennifer Bartell
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One assumption I purposely want to challenge this school year is the stereotype of the black girl with "an attitude." Reading Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris inspired me to do this since I have heard myself (and other educators) say this before in reference to a black girl. I want to interrogate what that means for myself as a Black educator. With this in mind, I chose a student who would be unfairly characterized as a "having an attitude." 

I shadowed her during her Algebra class where they were playing a review game for a test the next day. Students were in groups of five, and though the review game provided a chance for movement for a few students, she remained seated the majority of class. It was cold and loud in the classroom and just sitting there for 40 minutes made me sleepy. This made me empathize with my students' desire to move around in the classroom, or even ask to go to the bathroom. This confirmed a thought I have been having lately: I need to incorporate more movement and brain breaks in my classroom. 

She was very competitive during the game, which was surprising! She worked well with the group of four other students. She was able to not only give correct answers, but to explain why they were correct. She encouraged a fellow classmate in her group and was engaged with what was happening in the review game, but still seemed slightly bored at moments and put her head down once in a while. 

Observing her allowed me to see her leadership skills shine through. She is a young woman with a strong personality who speaks up for herself and when necessary others. 


[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or research.

Students need more opportunities to not only think in class, but to move also; teachers should challenge their own assumptions and labels of students to see who they really are.

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Photo of Gaynor Brown

So interesting that a student could be characterized as "having an attitude" and seeing leadership skills shine through. Two sides of the same situation. Does this just apply to girls? is there gender bias in this too?

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

I definitely think there is some gender bias involved.

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