Teaching Beyond a Colonial American Blackness or The Costs of being Black and not really American in the Classroom
By Jessica Samuel, IRT ’15 American & New England Studies Program Boston University
One of the most fascinating (and disheartening) phenomenon I experienced as a first–year teacher in an urban public school was the way in which the Black students I taught assumed that because I was Black—in addition to being a woman, “foreign,” and young—I knew less than my white colleagues, even when those colleagues and I shared similar demographics across gender, age, educational background, and professional experience. Comments such as “she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,”“what the hell is she saying” or even, “she can’t teach” alerted me to the ways in which my identities had predetermined my capacity, and by extension, that of my students. It became increasingly clear to me that years of indoctrination had led my students to think the way they did about Black intelligence.
Even more than thinking intelligence was colored everything but Black (or Brown), my students had also learned that “American” was the most reliable and legitimate label from which to expect knowledge and skill. As an Afro-Caribbean U.S. Virgin Islander—whose relationship to Americanness is fraught—it had become clear to me that my students had inherited a white supremacist, imperialist, patriarchal framework for being in the world. Who my students believed was most qualified to teach them was not simply about years of experience in the classroom but also about years of experience being American. How American I could be directly informed my students’ ability to respect me in the classroom. That I had a slight accent, was born in a place they’d never heard of, and happened to also be Black meant that I would have to work overtime to establish professional authority in my classroom.
The IRT opened it’s 29th Summer Workshop program this July. Welcoming members of the 2019 cohort, more than 30 IRT alumni and IRT consortium deans and representatives, the workshop was an engaging experience for all constituents.
“Being an IRT intern in Andover this summer gave me life. IRT gave me life because it put me an intellectually stimulating environment that challenged me not only to grow as an academic but as a person. The challenges that IRT presented me with pushed me to see my full potential. I am forever in debt to IRT for giving me life.”
2019 Recruiter’s Weekend Students gleamed insight on consortium school’s program offerings as they begin to navigate the process and develop their application materials. Throughout the weekend, IRT students had the opportunity to make valuable connections with deans and liaisons and establish relationships with each other.
Over the past two years, the IRT has partnered with the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Social Innovation Internship Program. The program places students who are passionate, impact-focused and looking to pursue careers with a social mission. The IRT has had two amazing UNH students work at the IRT office during the past two years at the Summer Workshop. The partnership was initiated by IRT Arts & Sciences Specialist and UNH alum, Brittany Zorn, IRT ’13. Brittany mentors each UNH student during their time with the IRT.
We are excited to share and thank the students at UNH who have contributed their thoughts and experiences on their time with the IRT in this two-part special blog post.
Social Innovation Internship 2018
Juliana Good Juliana presents and shares her IRT experience at UNH’s Social Innovation Internship Showcase in the video and in her written commentary below.
On Saturday, September 21, Steve Frank ’81, P’09 was awarded Andover’s Distinguished Service Award. Presented annually by decision of the Academy Resources Committee of the Board of Trustees, this award honors volunteers whose services to Andover have been distinguished by commitment, uniqueness, and effectiveness. Their efforts on behalf of their school provide an inspiring example of all Andover volunteers.
Deeply involved as a fundraiser and leader of the IRT nearly since its inception, Steve was the inaugural chair of the IRT Advisory Board, which he led from 2005 to 2014. He formalized the group’s responsibilities, created productive subcommittees, and oversaw the seamless transition from Executive Director Kelly Wise, the IRT’s founder, to successor Asabe Poloma. He also addressed board issues around governance, financial stability, organizational structure, and leadership; established and led an executive committee; initiated resolutions around board terms and annual financial support; and participated in national searches for the IRT director and executive director.
We at the IRT are incredibly grateful for Steve’s myriad contributions to the program and thrilled to see him honored in this remarkable way. Thank you and congratulations, Steve!
Who are you? Even as a child my most notable quality was my curiosity. Every adult I encountered had to entertain a litany of questions that all stemmed from my greatest question, why? I could go on forever and I truly appreciate their patience in trying to satisfy what seemed to be an insatiable desire to know more. This curiosity led me to spend copious amounts of time reading, writing, and being alone with my thoughts. It was not until college that I realized many of my whys could be answered in images. Art helped me make sense of the world around me and led me not just to answers but helped me
see what questions the perceived answers were hiding.
My journey to becoming an art historian is relatively nascent. I discovered the world of art history as a freshman at Spelman College. I was completely in awe of the possibilities the field offered me and the sheer need for diversity that I knew this was my calling. From fellowships, to museum positions, to my first year of graduate school, I found a path that is fully my own. Like many people, I have had my doubts and uncertainty, but I came to understand that the spaces I enter are mine to claim. Continue reading “Kéla Jackson, IRT ’18: A Journey to Becoming an Art Historian”