1619 Project: Stewart

For some reason, I had difficulty finding this article the first few times I tried. I think perhaps I kept clicking on another worthy article, that I will discuss in my next post. So feel free to use the link below in case you have trouble reaching it, too.

Nikita Stewart’s article is entitled “‘We are committing educational malpractice’: Why slavery is mistaught –and worse–in American schools.” She discusses the failure to teach the history of slavery adequately and/or accurately in our school systems, which resonated for me both because I have already complained about the fairy tales that are perpetuated in our society and because I used to teach middle school, (I lasted four years–during which one of my goals was to improve my ability to teach history, including taking a NC History class at Appalachian State and learned, for the first time, about the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot).

Here’s the link:

She covers some important ground in this article, both what has gone wrong and ideas for change. Her closing words stand out, after recounting the stories her grandfather told:

He wanted listeners to understand the horror of the institution, even if he was too afraid to condemn it outright. For me, it’s a reminder of what our schools fail to do: bring this history alive, using stories like these to help us understand the evil our nation was founded on. (Stewart)


Joshua worked hard today.

Joshua worked hard today.

Signed–Ms. Duke

Did he really? I honestly can’t remember as I write this note. In middle school, each day is a ride on a cheap Ferris wheel with the speed set too high, punctuated by unsettling sights and rattling noises. 

But I’m not feeling frustrated with Joshua at the moment, and I don’t see his name written down somewhere with a dozen angry tick marks that mean I need to send him to detention or take away some petty privilege–the heady freedom of going to the hall for a sip of water, for example–or have a pseudo heart-to-heart.

Could he work harder? Probably. He’s likely a genius, and I’m not doing my job as a teacher when I don’t hound him every time he inhales a fresh breath. 

Yesterday I called his mother, again. Her solution, surprise surprise, was for me to stop to write a note in his planner each day. Perfect.

Most parents make me feel everything is my fault, and I worry they are right. I created the lesson plans. I signed the teaching contract. And long ago, I sat in education classes and dreamed of reaching struggling students. 

What was I thinking then? It’s hard to remember now. Something about being there for these kids when it was the hardest. Funny, too, I thought maybe I could help young girls in particular gain confidence. Yet here I am devoting so much energy to Joshua, and just feeling grateful that Mary is quiet, pretending to do her work.

Is she pretending? I don’t know. I wish I could know when the assignments are too hard, too easy, or Goldilocks just right, the perfect match for each child. Not one lesson, but thirty, for kids wiggling out of their seats, and almost out of their skins. It feels as if we fail more often than we succeed, but especially me and Joshua. I sense he will leave this class when summer comes, and it will be as if this year never happened, so much energy lost and hopes discarded.

But he seems okay right now. I don’t feel upset with him, and I see almost two paragraphs of new writing on his paper that is only a little shredded on the edges, so it’s probably true: he has worked hard today.

–previously published on a now defunct website around 2009