At the risk of having rotten tomatoes thrown at my blog, I’m going to just say that I’m not a fan of that latest dancing video from Ron Clark. There are a number of obvious reasons for my discomfort, and some that might not be as obvious. I’m sure that I am in the minority here, both literally and figuratively…but I’m not going to shy away from the really important discussions that can be had when rethinking that 30 second snippet.
If that was a black principal with the same black students in a regular public school, it would be received completely differently.
I’ve heard lots of people say that it looks like a lot of fun. Ron’s totally killing it with his dance moves. He does lots of things like this at his school with the kids, and they seem to like it. I’m not saying that all of that is not fine…I’m just saying…what works for him…doesn’t work for all teachers…and it’s important that we evaluate why.
Collegiality and relationship are hugely important, but they don’t trump showing off students of color as academics.
What is the difference between the Southern U dancers, and the kids at RCA? The dance team is wearing different clothes. This is one of the schools that I am SURE will be interested in many of the graduates of RCA. If we are going to look at these girls and say this is ‘too much’….what is it that stops us from saying that about the young ladies in the RCA video? Both sets of girls are smart and articulate. Both are well educated. What is the difference here? Well, they don’t have a white principal backing them up. All of a sudden, the dancing is cool? It’s not the kids that are cool…it’s Ron Clark that is cool. It’s the idea that he connects with his kids…or a myriad of other things. It’s not about the kids.
As a teacher of color, I have long known that the standards for me are different than the standards for many of my colleagues. I think teachers of color (TOC’s) have many discussions about this kind of thing privately, but are afraid to bring these thoughts out into the open. I know that there will be tons of teachers that really don’t like this post, because…they see it as ‘against’ Ron Clark. They will think I overshot my feelings on the dancing. The saddest thing to me is that the teachers that are willing to take a shot at me, or defend the video won’t stop to say…what is it about that video that would make you uncomfortable? How is teaching different when you’re a TOC? A black English teacher dancing like this with her students to celebrate an achievement would never have gone viral. Most likely, if she were supervised by a white principal she would be at the least questioned…at most reprimanded for not ‘elevating’. I’m not saying Ron Clark is a bad guy. I’m not saying that what he does with his kids is bad. I’m just saying, as a teacher of color, it gave me pause. Is this how the sheen starts to rub off? Is this the beginning of the end of my admiration for his ability to inspire teachers? I don’t know. I certainly hope that it’s not the only exposure that people have to him. Teachers, we must be mindful that there are many ways…including music that can reach our children. Don’t just use that because it’s easy. Let’s start having more discussions about the actual relevance of some of these pop culture lessons.