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Learning While Black: A Message From a Mother to Her Son

Reflecting on her own history as a black child in slowly integrating schools, a mother shares her hopes for a better future for her son.

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Son, I end this letter by sharing a story that Grandma has told me many times, that I hope will one day resonate with you. On the first day of kindergarten, many of the kids were crying and clinging to their parents. But not me. I was ready! I wanted to be like my three older siblings and go to school. So I gave my mom a hug, let go of her hand, waved goodbye, and found my teacher. And remember how I told you that my oldest sister taught me how to read before I went to school? The teacher found this out and used this skill, along with my desire to be at school, to teach the other kids the alphabet and help them learn how to read. I believe, in part, that is why I became a teacher. She saw something in me and encouraged me to develop my passion—even at this young, sweet age.

That, my son, is my hope for you. I hope your teachers will love you for who you are and the promise of what you’ll be.



Dyan Watson ( is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education and Counseling at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. She is an editorial associate of Rethinking Schools and co-editor of Rethinking Elementary Education.

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