Teacher Of The Year Tells It Like It Is

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling is a teacher at Tacoma's Lincoln High School and the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year. A recent post on his blog is getting a lot of attention - even appearing reprinted by the Washington Post

"I want to tell you a secret," the post begins...

America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.

Questions of charter schools, McCleary, Common Core, and other hot education issues are secondary to what Gibbs-Bowling calls "the immutable core issue:"

much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding. We have the schools we have, because people who can afford better get better. And sadly, people who can’t afford better just get less

In sharing his view of the state of the poorer end of the spectrum of America's schools, he makes references to the gun control debate (including the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook), to debates over torture at Abu Ghraib, 

In a year  decade  century  world where racial tensions are a constant subtext of current events, as an African American teacher of Tacoma's black, brown, and low-income kids, Bowling seems well situated to have opinions on how American society treats these kids - and he doesn't like what he sees:

Middle-class America would never allow the conditions that have become normalized in poor and brown America to stand for their kids. ... We aren’t in this together.

So what's the answer? Gibbs-Bowling says it has to be a focus on what happens in the classroom - including the systemic racism built into our current education system. He gives his start to it in all bold: 

If you ain’t talking about the teacher in the classroom, I ain’t listening

Then goes on to say where his focus will be:

  • Fighting the impacts of systemic racism and white supremacy in our schools and among teachers.
  • Helping, through my speaking opportunities, to recruit passionate people, especially people of color into the profession.
  • Supporting policies aimed at identifying, developing and retaining effective teachers.
  • Advocating for the creation of systems that encourage our most effective and passionate teachers to stay in the profession and supporting them in working with our most needy schools.
  • Encouraging policymakers to make the work of effective teachers rewarding and sustainable by trusting them and not burdening them with new and ever changing mandates.
  • Giving teachers opportunities to lead, within the profession, while remaining in the classroom.

Gibbs-Bowling wrote down his thoughts on his blog.  (Read the original post here.) 

And he's not the only one talking about ideas of inequitable distribution of opportunity and white privilege. These conversations are going on across the country in a variety of forums - including musical. Just this week Seattle's Macklemore released a new song called White Privilege II. In discussing that song and the thoughts behind it with Rolling Stone recently, Macklemore put it bluntly: "The question is, What type of human do I want to be?"

It seems that Washington's Teacher of the Year is asking a very similar question - maybe one we should be asking in a local context: When it comes to Tacoma's schools, what type of a city do we want to be?


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Comments

Carl Allen

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling was a student teacher in my 8th grade History class at Jason Lee about 10 years ago.  He was a great teacher.

January 27, 2016 at 10:42 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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