Leave Him Alone: Microaggressions in Pre-K and Elementary School

Photo: Me! All rights reserved.

Our school district has recently started a new task force looking at minority achievement. In such a resource rich district, but also with many social inequalities, its unsurprising but still really angering that we have disparities in the rate of college readiness, standardized test scores, and simply personal experiences. The number of times I’ve heard truly devastating stories of how kids are treated based on their racial, ethnic, or linguistic background is simply appalling in a school district that touts how progressive it is.

The creation of the task force got me thinking (as always) about my family’s experiences here. My children are in the second and third grades (and another a few years behind them), and we’ve been dealing with little things — microaggressions — since we started here four years ago. Microaggressions, a term coined by Dr. Chester M. Pierce, a professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, in the 1970s, refers to  “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them.” I believe that my children’s teachers believed they were helping my kids — and my husband and I as parents. But their words and actions did a lot more harm than they realized.

Here’s a sampling of our experiences, from my point of view when they occurred:

Continue reading “Leave Him Alone: Microaggressions in Pre-K and Elementary School”

Rat Race, Continued

So my daughter didn’t get in to the one private school we had our hearts set on—the only one we applied to. Or rather, she failed to procure one of the two “girl” spots that were available to the pool of 41 applicants for first grade—one spot went to the sibling of a student and the other went to, who knows, some miracle-child whose parents have undoubtedly been doing their happy dance all weekend.  Or maybe not, maybe they were some high-flying billionaires or society folk who knew they had it like that all along.

My girl made it through the first several hoops—the IQ test, the interview, the playdate—only to stall at the very last stage, the actual selection part. I got the letter telling us we were in the “wait pool” on Friday, spent the Persian new year over the weekend just slightly bummed out, and called the school first thing on Monday to see what “wait pool” means exactly. We had been told in the past that everyone is put on the wait list, that they don’t reject folks for political reasons.

By the time 48 hours had passed and I hadn’t gotten a call back, I started to read all kinds of things into it. I was also talking to a couple of other moms whose kids were in the wait pool too—albeit for different grades. I started observing an interesting trend: we were all talking about our rejection letters in language that I’ve used in the past only to describe relationships. As in: “I thought things were going so well.” Or “The things that were said made me think it was meant to be.” Or “I felt so much at home that I thought maybe the feeling was mutual.”

And once I recognized that, I just had to step back and laugh. What the heck were we all talking about exactly? Was this still about our children? Or something else entirely?

I decided to consciously separate my wish for my daughter to have the best education, the best possible early start and the most conducive learning environment separate from my own EGO!

This is not about me. Or at the very least, it shouldn’t be.

I also decided to accept that things happen for a reason and we almost never know why a path takes an unexpected or undesired turn.

I decided to accept and submit.

And just when I began to feel detached, the phone rang.

It was the school.

There were only two wait pool letters sent out to girls and my daughter is one of them. She is a strong match and will likely be the next person to be offered a spot if one becomes available.

Having said that, there’s not a huge likelihood that a spot will become available before the end of the summer.

Either way, we’re fine. Healthy. Thriving. Grateful.