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  • Writer's pictureNepantla Teachers

“Pretend That I’m A Cop” - Part I

Part I Norms for Reading Our Blog

The goal of the Nepantla Teachers Community blog is to provide an honest and encouraging space to navigate sociopolitical situations that occur in mathematics education for the purpose of working towards justice in traditionally marginalized communities. By using the word political, we mean any situation that involves power dynamics.

Each post will be published in two parts (Part I: The first saturday of each month at 5 PM and Part II: the following Wednesday at 9 AM). Part I will give a math teacher author’s real dilemma that they have recently experienced and to share some information about themselves. Part II will provide an analysis of the powers at play and the author’s response (or lack of response) to the situation. Before Part II is published, readers are encouraged to interact with the author and each other by asking questions, comments, and/or providing ideas on how they would respond if they were in their shoes.

We as readers and/or participants agree to keep the following in mind as we engage with other educators’ sharing their stories:

1. Each author is choosing to be transparent/vulnerable at the risk of disapproval or disagreement. These are not meant to be places of attack but a place to empathize and grow together.

2. We use the word nepantla to connote the space of tension and grey area that people experience as they navigate multiple (and often opposing) philosophies, truths, or identities. We offer this blog as a space to remain in nepantla to guide creative and nuanced responses to the contexts we encounter.

3. Note that all students’ names are pseudonyms. Some details may need to be obscured to protect the privacy of individuals.

Part I: (Written by Jerica Jurado)

When I chose to become a teacher, I thought I was going to transform the world. By my second year teaching, I recognized that this was a journey that was going to transform me. The tenacity I developed growing up in a single parent immigrant household that lived paycheck to paycheck became my rock. I accomplished my dream of becoming an educator in 2014, and my first job was at a space where I could flourish. I worked in Pilsen at Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy, where the population was mainly Latinx aged 16-21. Many of our students were affiliated with a gang called the Satan Disciplines, so we had to keep an extra ear to the ground to ensure everyone’s safety.

It was the middle of the afternoon when 3rd period started. I taught an Integrated Math 1 class with 18 students, and we were learning about analyzing different representations of data for a school to prison infographic project. I remember teaching while hearing some of the students whispering over me. It was my 2nd year teaching, and class management was something I struggled with. Two students start talking across tables to each other loudly. Ronaldo turns to Julio and starts throwing down the crown, a signal meant to affirm their alliance against a rival gang. I tell him that I can see what he is doing, and that he knows better. He stops for that moment, and I continue teaching. We were looking at an infographic on the rate that Latinos get incarcerated in the U.S.. I read the statistic “1 out of every 6 Latinos will be incarcerated in their lifetime”. Ronaldo turns around and starts talking about drug sales, and my blood boils.

I don’t understand how he has the nerve to do this. I’m doing my best to teach math in a relevant way. Many of the students in the room have a record with the Juvenile Detention Center on Ogden and Roosevelt. Some of the young people in my room have a record with Cook County Jail, which is the largest single site jail in the United States. Both of these places were located no more than 10 minutes away from our school. I couldn’t understand why they would make this choice in front of me. They know what I have to do, what I’m forced to do because of my role in this room. As my blood boils, I lose control, and I shout “Pretend that I’m a cop. You shouldn’t say anything in front of me that you wouldn’t say in front of a cop. DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THE KIND OF TROUBLE I COULD GET YOU INTO IF I FELT LIKE IT?! DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO BACK TO A CAGE?! ARE YOU LISTENING TO THE RATIO THAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW, AND WHAT YOUR CHANCES ARE?!

Ronaldo answers me by standing up out of his chair violently. He hits the desk, and pushes back his chair with a deep anger. An anger that I wouldn’t understand, because I have never been incarcerated. An anger that in the moment that I saw it, I felt the tears coming from my eyes, because I felt the guilt of losing control. The dark blue walls felt like an ocean pulling me down into reality. Ronaldo curses me out and storms out of the room. Class continues and I have students work in pairs. I stay quiet for most of the rest of the class, but I feel the students eyes on me. Class ends, and I have my planning period.

What would you have said to Ronaldo? How would you have addressed the class? How could the class have been structured differently?

Part II of this story comes out next Wednesday at 9 AM. Subscribe to our blog and check it out. Comment below!

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