By Rachel Hanson, SED 2017
When my alarm sounded at 5:15 a.m. on my first day of student teaching, I jumped out of bed more eagerly than anyone should ever get up at 5:15 a.m.. My early morning voyage was completed before the sun was even up. I made it to Boston Latin Academy over an hour before first period started, something I haven’t managed to do since. I proudly walked right past the signs on the stairway that said “No students permitted before 7:10 a.m.” and was greeted by every teacher I walked past, nobody questions whether or not I should be there. I made my way to my cooperating teacher’s classroom and found it locked with the lights off, a friendly reminder on how early I was. As I waited, daydreams of what the lessons would be like entered my mind. My first day as a student teacher was made more memorable when what happened in class made national news.
When the first senior sociology class rolled in, I knew this was going to be a little different. The students were talking, loudly and passionately, amongst themselves about what had happened on Twitter and Instagram the night before. At one of the other exam schools in Boston, Boston Latin School, students had created a hashtag, Black at BLS (#BlackatBLS), to share their experiences being people of color in a school that is predominantly white. The hashtag calls attention to and creates a conversation addressing the injustices and racial discrimination that the students of color face. However, the Black at BLS hashtag was met with criticism. It is the criticism that the hashtag was receiving that angered the students in my cooperating teacher’s sociology class when a student from BLA posted a racially charged criticism against the students supporting the hashtag.
Being the teacher of three sociology classes, my teacher decided to forgo his original lesson for the day and instead provide students the opportunity to talk about the conflict on social media and their response and understanding of what happened. The sociology classes had just finished a unit on racism, so all he asked was that they rooted and rationalized their understandings and perspectives in what they had learned in the racism unit. The Boston Globe and the New York Times had articles about the Black at BLS response and backlash. Even more close to home, Boston University will be hosting the founders of the Black at BLS hashtag and movement in the School of Education for a Critical Conversations and Coffee event in March.
The students were going to have conversations about Black at BLS and its backlash no matter what, but my teacher saw an opportunity to provide a forum for those students to articulate intelligent responses rooted in sociology so they could go out and engage in meaningful conversations about race with their equally upset peers. What I learned on my first day was far more valuable to me than I could have possibly imagined as I daydreamt about what my first day would be like as I waited outside the classroom. I learned the value of a teachable moment, how to facilitate tough conversations, and when to prioritize real life over my lesson plans.
Rachel Hanson is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in History Education