I just had to draw the ideal classroom for my Educational Research class, and I found myself wanting to share what I wrote:
The last classroom I had, in North Philadelphia in 2014, had all the technological advancements that grants could buy—we had a most-of-the-time working Smartboard, a cart of 30 up-to-date laptops shared between two classes, good, Common Core Aligned textbooks, a schedule built around formative assessment and teacher training, even an enrichment program. My grade partner and fellow teachers were incredibly big-hearted, knowledgeable, extremely hardworking and tough. Yet I was the third teacher that year to go out on FMLA leave (and later resign) due to Acute Stress Disorder. No matter how dedicated I or my students were (and those kids TRIED THEIR HEARTS OUT) we couldn’t keep violence, poverty, prejudice, shame, homophobia, or stress from derailing our beautifully planned and decorated classroom culture. Though we learned to line up perfectly and sang class songs about how “everybody has a seed to sow,” I couldn’t keep the children safe. I thought constantly about the School-to-Prison Pipeline, (https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/538/is-this-working) and the last week I was there, I dreamed that we were loading the children onto Holocaust trains, and that doesn’t seem like much of an exaggeration.
I’m still not sure how to run a classroom without becoming part of the problem, but it was very healing to imagine what a classroom in a hospitable world would look like.