Teach Kids to Be Eagles: Overcoming Educational Storms | Dorinda Carter Andrews | TEDxMSU



at about the age of nine my mother told me Dorinda you are an eagle you fly above the storm and throughout my childhood as I had challenges in school or in my personal life I would go back whining to her she would say I remember you are an eagle you fly above the storm and I carried this Eagle philosophy into my work as a high school math teacher and now here at MSU as a teacher educator when I was teaching high school math I taught some of the most disadvantaged youth in urban communities but also economically privileged youth in suburban neighborhoods and what I learned from teaching across those various contexts was that kids didn't need me to keep feeding them a narrative of just work hard and do your best and you'll get your piece of the American Dream know what my kids really need it was an ideology that helped them understand that there are institutional and structural barriers that can impede their success both in school and in life and so I took it upon myself to be an Eagle teacher the kind of teacher that help them develop wings to overcome the challenges of the storms in their lives and soar imagine if you will that you grew up in the late 1930s 1940s mid 50s in rural Arkansas now you would have been going to school in the Jim Crow segregated south and actually at that time there was a little girl little african-american girl named doc who did in fact she came from a farming family pretty large family she was the third of 15 children and she wasn't very good at doing the farming and they actually picked and sold cotton but what dot was good at was school she loved going to school and she would walk to one way every day to a one-room schoolhouse for african-american children in her rural community it looks something like the school you see on the screen and meanwhile the white children went to a different one room schoolhouse which was a much nicer facility dot had a lot of turbulence in her educational storm in fact her school had overcrowding it was poverty-stricken kids didn't have their own desk and they actually didn't have enough books for every child and here in this picture you see a sample of a school from 1948 in a city that was about 20 miles from where dot was living in her rural community she would have been about ten at the time but in that Jim Crow segregated south white children even ten years earlier when dot was just being born we're going to school in nice one-room schoolhouses every child had a desk they had a book to read from and so they were comfortably learning to read and write these challenges were part of the separate and unequal system that dot was being educated in and while those black teachers were underpaid and under qualified because they didn't have access to quality teacher training what they did was worked within their limits situations they taught those young children to have high self esteem to have a vision and to remember that collective success is more important than individual success dots educational storm was wrought with poverty overcrowding all these things you see here on the screen but she persevered she had a vision she had a communal network of people that wanted to see her succeed and she didn't let the educational inequities of the segregated south keep her from achieving her dreams in fact she went on to become a grade school teacher in Arkansas and later on a community college instructor for 33 years dot was my mother and she passed away 17 months ago from a battle with fallopian tube cancer but I hold this Eagle philosophy in my heart that she taught me and I use it in my work now as a teacher educator here at Michigan State she's pictured here at about the age of 30 with nearly all of her siblings and her mother and father sitting on the ends well that was 1948 when she was about 10 we can kind of fast-forward to today and consider what's the educational storm for young people today it's actually not much different than my mom's storm in 1948 in fact the 2011-2012 academic year data from the US Department of Education shows that over 40 percent of black youth that's about 3.2 million young people attend high poverty schools and in comparison only 6% of white youth attend high poverty schools in fact african-american children are four times more likely right now to go to a high poverty school and when we compare that to their white peers there's six times more likely and so we're still educating our young people in a separate and unequal Society we know that students of color also have the challenges of having less qualified and more likely to be less certified teachers in their schools as well I'll give you an example in 1948 when my mom was about 10 in West Memphis Arkansas they were spending about a hundred and forty four dollars to educate a white child you know how much they were spending to educate black children in the South $19.50 what we know if we fast-forward today the Center for American Progress put out a research report that showed that for every 10 percentage point increase of students of color in a school there is a decrease in per pupil spending of $75 so where we see more students of color in our schools we tend to decrease the funding to educate them not much has changed it seems since the time of my mother segregated schooling but I believe we can teach young people to have Eagle qualities and what that involves is not teaching them to have this mythical hope that if they just work hard and put forth effort they'll get their success in fact we have to teach them qualities of resilience that help them utilize the storms and challenges in their life to actually ride those to their destiny now I am no Eagle expert but I decided for this TED talk I do some research on eagles and there's some qualities about eagles that I think I'd like to think I taught my young people and that we can continue as educators in the classroom and even all of you as educators in your daily lives to teach young people the first one that I found out is that Eagles have strong vision they focus on their prey and they don't lose focus until they've captured it we need to teach young people how to set goals and after setting those how to have an action plan to achieve them goal setting for students results in long term vision and short-term motivation but we have to remember that it's not our goals for them but the goals that they have for themselves we need to help young people write their vision and live it out how radical would it be if in kindergarten every child did a vision board and every year of school they revisited that vision bored and reshaped it and molded it all the way to the senior year so that they were writing this positive narrative of who they are for going out into the world we need to help them do that an eagle teachers can do that the second quality that I learned about evils is that they're fearless the Eagle is not afraid of the size or strength of its prey and in fact it will focus on capturing that prey regardless of size we have to help our young people particularly those who are most disadvantaged by the educational system to take risks and that risk-taking is how we learn how to fail and become stronger and more successful but we can't teach them to be fearless if we are fearful of them Society for example has given us all kinds of deficit narratives about boys of color they're violent they're aggressive and so these feed over into schools and we become afraid of them as young as seven and eight years old how can teachers teach children that they are afraid of not knowing them very well Eagle teachers are willing to take risks of learning across cultural differences so that they can help young people authentically live their best lives the third quality that I learned about Eagles is that they fly high and they nurture their young the Eagle waits for the storm and it waits for the winds of the storm and it uses the wind to lift it above the storm and fly above it to its destination we can teach young people to do that and while they're doing that while they're flying high bring others along we live in a society where individualism is the goal for social and social upward mobility how awesome would we be if we taught young people that their success is only as good as those peers they bring along with them that in fact the collective good is so much more important than the individual good for our democracy so what am I saying here we all have storms maybe your storm has not been challenges with racism or poverty or sexism for that matter but every person in here has experienced some kind of storm and you know what you overcame it in the same way that you overcame your storm we need to help young people of this generation develop the skills to ride their storms to their destiny my storm wasn't poverty it wasn't under qualified teachers in fact I went to predominantly white schools most of my education and I did experience those challenges with institutional and structural and even individual racism but I remembered what my mother had told me and what many teachers even though they didn't realize it had taught me that I was resilient and I did not have to let those challenges determine my destiny young people today need Eagle teachers particularly those youth youth of color and poor kids who have been historically and traditionally marginalized by our educational system in the same way that we are our brothers or sisters keeper we are our children's keeper and I have the audacity to believe that we can place a teacher in every classroom the sea's cultural difference not as a deficit but as an asset on which to build I also have the audacity to believe that every teacher can be an eagle teacher and as you go out in your everyday lives I challenge you to have the will to teach someone how to soar over their challenges it is one of the greatest things you can do as part of your legacy I thank my mother for instilling in me the idea that I'm an eagle and I can soar above my storms I challenge you to have the will to do the same for young people today thank you

3 thoughts on “Teach Kids to Be Eagles: Overcoming Educational Storms | Dorinda Carter Andrews | TEDxMSU”

  1. Right raise other people's children. So realistic. Horrible suggestions in lieu of parents kids need Marxist teachers.

  2. This is absolute Brilliance. I applaud Dorinda for speaking about White Privilege and oppression. And for White people who equate this talk to white guilt-that's your problem not the problems of non-white people.

  3. That's absolute bullshit. These "institutional and structural barriers" are in your DNA. Bear with it. And stop milking the white guilt.

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