33 Microaggressions That Educators Commit Daily
First, let’s begin by defining what microaggressions are. They are the daily verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, brushoffs, or disrespectful comments; deliberate or accidental, which convey threatening, pejorative, or damaging messages to people predicated exclusively upon the fact that they belong to a disenfranchised group. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on how microaggressions manifest themselves in the classroom.
As teenagers, my friends and I complained of the unfair rules and routines that our school authorities forced us to comply with. We found ourselves being sent to in-school suspension for dozing off in class or wearing a hat in the school building. It was like being in the “Twilight Zone” where the things that were important to our teachers made no sense to us.
They seemed obsessed with teaching us “black boys” how to conform to and act according to middle-class values. To no avail, as we merely developed situated-identify conflict, behaving one way at school and another in our community. For some reason, they couldn’t conclude that these acts were microaggressions, and deliberately or accidentally discriminated against children of color.
Our teachers didn’t see the negative impact that this had on their relationships with minority students and the distrust that we formed for them. While I write this article, millions of teachers throughout the world are committing heinous microaggressions, that in the end will stifle student performance. Because of this, I want to discuss what microaggressions look like in the classroom, in the hopes that it will help educators recognize what they are doing, and ultimately stop them from committing these acts of discrimination. Now, let’s look at 45 microaggressions that teachers commit daily.
- Seeing a student’s dialect or way of speaking as an issue.
- Punishing Students for sleeping in class.
- Punishing students for wearing hats and hoodies.
- Pronouncing student’s name incorrectly, even after they have correct you.
- Scheduling assessments or due product dates on religious or cultural holidays.
- Ignoring religious traditions or their details.
- Having low expectations for students from particular groups, neighborhoods, or feeder patterns.
- Focusing on, or engaging and validating one gender, class, or race of students while ignoring other students during class.
- Giving student tasks or roles that reinforce particular gender roles or don’t allow all students flexibility across roles and responses.
- Interpreting students’ emotional responses based on gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity.
- Conveying inappropriate humor in class that degrades students from different groups.
- Conveying racially charged political opinions in class assuming that the targets of those opinions do not exist in class.
- Use of the term “illegals” to reference undocumented students.
- Having debates in class that place students from groups who may represent a minority opinion in class in a difficult position.
- Calling students out in class because of their backgrounds.
- Requiring students of any particular group to ‘represent’ the perspectives of others of their race, gender, etc. in class discussions or debates.
- Refusing to acknowledge the experiences of students by questioning the credibility and validity of their stories.
- Giving class projects or creating classroom or school procedures that are heterosexist, sexist, racist, or promote other oppressions, even inadvertently.
- Use of sexist language.
- Conveying heteronormative metaphors or examples in class.
- Categorizing the gender of any student based on your opinions or traditional gender norms.
- Misusing pronouns even after a student, transgender or not, indicates their preferred gender pronoun.
- Facilitating projects that ignore differences in socioeconomic class status and inadvertently penalize students with fewer financial resources.
- Believing all students have access to and are proficient in the use of computers and applications for communications about school activities and academic work.
- Believing that students of particular ethnicities must speak another language or must not speak English.
- Praising non-white students on their use of “good English.”
- Not allowing students from working on projects that explore their own social identities.
- Requiring people with hidden disabilities to identify themselves in class.
- Requiring students with non‐obvious disabilities to “out” themselves or discuss them publically.
- Turning a blind eye to student‐to‐student microaggressions, even when the interaction is not course‐related.
- Making assumptions about students and their backgrounds.
- Using pictures of students of only one ethnicity or gender on the school website.
- Requiring that students engage in required reading where the protagonists are always white.
I could go on and on, but I will stop here. What did I miss?