I didn’t truly believe I was smart until 4th grade when I was blessed to be part of Mrs. Wainwright’s class. Mrs. Wainwright was the first educator to recognize and challenge my educational capabilities (especially math). Mrs. Wainwright was the first educator that truly gave me attention and didn’t label me.
You see my k-3 educators mistook my boredom and desire to “color outside the lines” as behavioral concern. I remember my first grade teacher making me keep blue hands after I tried to be nice and clean up another student’s paint mess (which coincidently my peer lied and said I did it). My 3rd grade teacher saw my left-hand dominance as a nuisance so made me learn cursive with my right hand like the rest of my classmates. But then came 4th grade with Mrs. Wainwright, my first of 4 black educators before college. She, with the assistance of my parents, forever changed my educational journey and faith in teachers.
Fast track to me being in high school…. I was no longer mislabeled, but my skills and capabilities were constantly questioned by some of my educators. Questioned because some of my educators didn’t think a Black Female student could do that level of work. Questioned for it was rare to see a Black Female student thrive in STEM fields – I was typically the only one in my classes. Fortunately, I was prepared for their doubt because of my parents involvement and extracurricular programs. I attended specialized summer camps that prepped students on their upcoming course material. I was involved in our local Black Achievers Saturday programs which encouraged students to reach their dreams and educated us on historical figures in our desired careers (since our schools weren’t doing it). Finally, my parents had taught me and my sister about our ancestors that fought for our right for a good education (my great great maternal grandmother was one of the first Black women to attend a local college and both of my parents were one of the first Black students to integrate their high schools).
One would have thought that my children wouldn’t experience racism within their schools. But they do – they have been labeled and their academic capabilities are sometimes questioned. And just like my parents, I’ve had to advocate for their education based on unjustified actions by a few educators (Don’t get me started on issues for Little this past Fall). Finally, I’m continually reminding my daughters of their worth, making sure they know their history, and providing them literature with Black representation.