As the end of the semester nears, I self-reflect on my second year teaching introductory biology lab courses. I’ve taught a variety of lab courses, and it makes no difference whether the students are majors or not. Neither does it matter the caliber of the student at the beginning of the semester. There is something empowering about seeing the growth in your students. Something in seeing the light in their eyes when they have achieved understanding. But what is more, these moments are rare. Instead, you are often left with heartbreak in seeing a failed system as students file into a college level lab without ever being taught to think.
Week after week, worksheets half complete and answers half composed. Little do they know; their future is not secured just because they are enrolled in a university. The promise of a degree at the end of these four years, is contingent on their ability to rise above the statistics. Some students have the benefit of privilege working in their favor. While the rest are under the delusion that the same privilege will be granted to them. They lack the understanding that the world is harder for them. More so when they are uneducated and lack skills. The skills and education acquired by these students must be much more than their peers.
I have heard too many times my black students say, “I could never go to an HBCU!” I only imagine how these exclamations would change if they were to be in an environment where they are celebrated instead of tolerated. To feel the love and appreciation for YOUR culture not an appropriation or a fetish. Yes, I work to see change in ALL my students. A change from doe eyes eager to be told what to think towards thinking on their own. However, I know the struggles for my black students. Especially, the black women.
To inspire thought and spark that first initiation into understanding the whys and hows has been the most difficult part. Every semester I start the cycle over again. Tired and drained, I cannot give up and abandon the future. I hold my hopes high that there will be a time when students won’t need the “scared straight” wake up call. Each semester I aim to connect with my students. I want them to focus on finding themselves. Flourish in the security of knowing that they CAN be and they CAN do whatever they WILL to do. If only the will could be nurtured, not concerning whether it is mainstream, whether it aligns with the teaching, or whether it aligns with the teacher. Every day I embrace the challenge to correct the shortcomings of K-12.
As this semester ends, I prepare to be better to inspire better. When my teaching time comes to an end, I want to look back and know that I was able to fulfill my role. I want my students to remember me, remember their biology lab, and remember they CAN because they WILL.