Soooooo, y’all done went and done it again; judged another person for what they do with THEIR body and THEIR life. The #teacherbae fiasco has flooded my timeline for the past 2 days and I’m downright flabbergasted as to how this became an issue. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a look at this:
That is Patrice Brown a 4th grade paraprofessional in ATL. She has been deemed #teacherbae due to her appearance. Apparently this is how she dresses to complete her daily duties. And apparently some of y’all have a HUGE problem with her being #fineasf and still doing her job.
It seems that in the year of Our Lord 2016 most of y’all still haven’t learned to mind your goddamn business. Never mind the fact that most of the people commenting don’t even know this woman but have judged her harshly (aren’t we sick of playing this game yet?) Or the fact that few teachers have commented on her pics and most of the people commenting seemed to be strange puritanical parents who clutched their pearls at the appearance of a teacher without actually knowing all a teacher does. Or the fact that your opinion of someone’s clothes don’t fucking matter.
Most comments I have seen seem audacious at best and downright slut-shaming at Trump (new replacement for “worst”). So as someone who is an ACTUAL teacher I felt I might chime in with 3 little known facts about teachers:
Teachers are people.
I know this may come as a shock but teachers are actually people. Breathe deep. Don’t be scared. Take it in. Last time I checked, as a teacher I got to keep my eyes, limbs, blood, lungs, heart and even soul. I even sometimes leave my classroom and go to my *gasp*… house! (It’s where I keep all my not-teacher stuff like feather boas and barrels of lizards.)
Remember when you were little and you thought your teacher maybe just slept on a cot in the back of the classroom? Or better yet they never slept they just powered down like a robot ready to wake up when you crossed the classroom threshold? Yeah, so, that’s actually not true. We actually use our salaries to live in places OTHER than our classrooms. Some of us even have talents OTHER than teaching. There are of few of us who go out on the weekends (to places OTHER than that big teacher store in Brooklyn). There are teachers who even do OTHER things like drink and dance and even … have sex! (With other consenting adults you pervs!)
That being said, it is harmful to persist with the idea that teachers are not real people. It contributes to unrealistic goals imposed on us like grading 167 five page essays in a night or getting EVERY SINGLE CHILD to pass some arbitrary state test. It also allows your kids come into the classroom and treat us as though we are not human even though we are expected to treat them as though they are. So this means Apple (yup, cuz y’all name your kids some weird ass shit) comes into my 3rd period and she can suck her teeth and roll her eyes because she thinks there will be no reaction from her robot teacher. I rebuke that eye roll in the name of Jesus! I explain to my students all the time that I am human just like them which means I will make mistakes, I will not tolerate their disrespect and I love them BECAUSE I’m a human being. Period.
Teachers are under a lot of pressure.
Imagine being under immense pressure and be consistently berated and belittled by the people you serve, the people you work for and the society you live in. Welcome to teaching! And imagine you do it for a paycheck that makes you laugh every time you see it drained away by bills bi-monthly. Everyone knows teachers are underpaid (except those idiot assholes who think we’re overpaid babysitters. Even a babysitter is paid about $22 an hour; multiply that by 34 kids for 5 periods a day, moron.)
What you may not also realize is that we get no overtime. You know all that pretty stuff that’s up in our classrooms to trick your child into learning something? Yeah, we did that on our own time without getting paid and usually with our own money. Oh, and if you’re wondering when we check all the homework and grade all the papers, it’s usually when you’re out at happy hour or chilling playing golf on the weekends. Btw, soon my paycheck might be tied to how well your child does on state tests while you won’t have to worry about a thing because you’re not held responsible for your child’s education at all.
In fact, if you actually listed the skills teachers used to complete their jobs, you’d have to include not only teaching but also psychology, care taking, counseling, policing, janitorial services, tech support, culinary arts, fine arts and stand up comedy. So damnit, if I wanna show off the beach body I worked so hard to maintain in the 5 minutes I wasn’t at work, by God, I will do so!
Teachers teach kids.
Again, I’m sure you’re shocked. But in my contract it states that I must TEACH my students something. Specifically English for me since that’s what my degree is in but I try to throw in underwater basket weaving every once in a while just to keep things fresh. Here’s the kicker: we teach things that are not in our curriculum every day through our mere presence.
When I walk into my classroom my students see a person who looks a certain way and comes with a certain set of experiences that color my interpretations of life. This appearance also shapes the way I teach. So the fact that I am a relatively young Black single mom transforms my classroom. I relate to students differently than other teachers might, I think of things or through things that other teachers might not. And who I am as a person and how I look has engaged and encouraged many of my students in many different ways.
Wanna know the best lesson I ever taught? It was that time I told the kids about getting pregnant with my son in college and still graduating. Afterwards, a girl came up to me and said, “Thank you Ms. Cuffie. Before you I’d never seen a single mom doing anything. Most of the women in my family kinda gave up when they had babies. But you showed me you can still get an education, move forward and live your life even if you have a kid. Life doesn’t end.”
Was that in the curriculum? No. Did I burst out crying in my classroom afterwards? Hell, yes! And these lessons are far more important in the long run when the kids won’t remember what books you taught them but how you made them feel.
So for those who start this conversation with, “What is she teaching our kids dressed like that,” maybe she’s teaching them that you can be beautiful AND smart. Maybe she’s teaching them that #blackgirlmagic is real AND so is reading, writing and math. Maybe she’s teaching them that they can hold on to who they are AND work a 9 to 5. And those lessons are invaluable.
All I know is this: most districts DO NOT have an ACTUAL dress code for teachers but suggestions for professionals which is subjective at best. And last time I checked your clothing did not dictate your intelligence. She is covered, she is fly and she is gorgeous. So stop wit all the, “Well my son wouldn’t be in her class,” cuz that’s the EXACT reason why your son grows up to stand on the corner and holla, “Ay, yo, let me hit that!” Teaching our kids that clothing is what deems you respectable or nah is why we suffer from rape culture syndrome today. This is simple: stop policing Black women’s bodies. We thick. We gorgeous. Get over it.
In conclusion, (I stole that from a graphic organizer on argumentative essays) I would like to say everyone should STFU and go back to doing YOUR job well. This is all just misogynoir bullshit. Wanna know how I know? Cuz this also comes up when you type in #teacherbae or #teacherfineasf:
And I have yet to hear ANYONE complain. Not one has shouted in anger, “Why are these sexy ass male teachers allowed ing the system?!” but #teacherbae has been put through the ringer. In fact, I’m just tryna figure out where they teach at so that I can hurry up and enroll Miles. “Hey son, you ever thought about going back a. grade…?”
Let’s start positive reinforcment instead of negative criticism and support a sistah doing EXACTLY WHAT Y’ALL SAY WE DON’T DO: work, be intelligent, be independent, influence youth. Start by posting #ISupportTeacherBae with pictures of your dope ass work outfits on your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. Especially if you’re a teacher. Let’s flood the Internet with people who work AND look good; join me and let’s actually support educators for once.