This Week With Weaver: Feb. 5

Black History Month
My fourth grade teacher, Ms. Turner, was a game changer.


I remember being a student in her class at Joseph Warren Elementary School in Chicago learning about civil rights leaders during African American History Month. She was teaching a lesson highlighting the sacrifices they made for kids like me when I blurted out, “but I didn’t ask Dr. King to die for me.” 


The room went eerily quiet and Ms. Turner looked completely dumbfounded. The next day, I remember walking into the classroom and watching her affix band-aids on the hands of some of my peers while others went without. When it was my turn, I was surprised when I didn’t receive one on my hand.


Throughout the day, I felt embarrassed and inferior to my peers as I watched the kids with band-aids enjoy what used to be normal privileges like going to specials, eating in the cafeteria, being able to go to the restroom when needed, sitting in their normally assigned seats, and participating in the lesson for the day. 


I was band-aidless, so I was excluded.


It was the first time I felt different. I suddenly realized the immaturity of my comment and the sanctity of the sacrifices of the civil rights leaders that Ms. Turner attempted to teach us about. It was also one of the moments when I genuinely learned.


Ms. Turner was a master at creating experiences to illustrate important learnings for us. She frequently made us the center of learning, expertly picking up on our misconceptions, using them to create opportunities for deeper learning and teachable moments. She regularly supplemented what we were required to learn with what we needed to learn to value who we were, what we looked like, and the greatness and history from which we came. 


Our school required education regarding different aspects of African American cultural advancements. We often examined art from less-known Black artists and studied writers like Langston Hughes. My music classes were filled with songs from greats like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Earth, Wind and Fire, Whitney Houston, and budding stars like Tupac Shakur – a diverse exposure to aspects of our culture highlighting different times and experiences. We took frequent trips to the DuSable Museum of African American History, watched aspects of the O.J. Simpson Trial and verdict during class, and often discussed the real-life ills happening everyday right outside of our doorsteps. 


My experiences in classes like Ms. Turner’s shaped my perspective of what inclusive, student-centered learning should look, feel and sound like for children year-round.


As we celebrate African American History Month, and as we prepare to tackle what real, inclusive, student learning should look like in DeSoto ISD, I encourage you to reflect on what this month means to you, and email me at regarding any stories of your early educational experience that may have had a similar impact on you the way Ms. Turner’s 4th grade class impacted me.