Working Together To Make Change

Student perspective

By | Rosine Niyoyishura

The whole world stopped, and also most importantly, the controversial teaching mechanisms that have been in tact within the educational system in America— also stopped or should I say woefully reigned in? As a student within this educational system that is catered towards white and affluent students, it was disheartening, but not surprising to any capacity. I vividly remember being frustrated with the lack of rigor, having a sense that the curriculum was not adequate. It was almost as if the bar was set to a minimum. It was. This was a daily reminder for me of the cost and consequences I have to pay for being a Black student—and why is that?  I felt guilty for feeling the way I felt, but why should I? Why should I feel guilty about wanting to advocate for a more adequate learning system whether this learning should take place at home or at a school building? Why is it that I as a Black student felt guilty about advocating for my educational needs? Is it because BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) for so long have been in these shackles of deprivation and we have been forcibly taught to be accepting of these injustices? 

There was a paradox that also presented itself for me and attempted to figure out my convoluted thoughts that harbored my everyday learning experiences.  Teachers and educators were overwhelmed as it was, but I, as a student who wanted and thought I was being prepared for my post-secondary goals, felt let down and forgotten. These contradicting feelings were accelerated during online learning. During online schooling, educational and teaching dysfunctions demonstrated the need and requirement to better pay and support our teachers, but also ascertain that just because I am (and other students like me) a part of the marginalized demographic groups within the American educational system, I (we) do not need to be failed.  My personal school experiences did not change with online learning, but rather enhanced and illuminated to a greater degree through online learning. The responsibility should never be casted on myself, students, families, or educators,  but rather the educational systems that remain  complicit in the hands of those who have the authority and power to change the policies, legislations, and laws pertaining to how we educate our children. The inequalities of a) lack of relationship building, b) curriculum that does not serve me or other students, and c) access to enriching resources, are a repetition of the same inequalities that continue to be manifested in the form of institutional and social-emotional learning neglect, with the disturbing complexities of wicked racism that strickens this nation (both in-person and virtually.) This is a lot for me to process. I feel  the sorrow, heartaches, frustrations, confusions, and exhaustion of many students and families who needed to undergo this rapid change and had difficulties adjusting to these unprecedented changes that brought many difficulties and circumstances that were unique to each student environment. 

The pandemic was a start to diligently reflect and understand the complications that are within this educational system. Will we ever be able to completely shift the inequalities right away? No. However what can be done is assessing and applying the changes in a coherent, equitable, and timely manner that is dedicated towards the improvement of what is being taught in our classrooms, the legislations that dictate the logistics of this American educational system, and never being complicit in a racist environment where the compromising nature of neglecting our under-resourced students continues to disturbingly triumph and reign. I believe that this is possible. May we continue to be radical advocates and stewards of leadership to better support our students, families, and educators. Thank you families. Thank you students. And my deepest condolences to any lives that were lost due to this tragic health crisis.