Thursday, June 8, 2017

Janice Gilmore - From Student to Educator to Collaborator: Creating Change

Janice Gilmore is a columnist, educator, popular motivational and inspirational speaker, and author. She took early retirement after a 31-year career in the Omaha Public School District (OPS) as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Janice writes a column for the Omaha World Herald newspaper and Revive, an African-American lifestyle and community empowerment magazine. She is also a consultant for Innocent Classroom, a part of the OPS - Minnesota Humanities Center professional development partnership.

I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska in the 50s. My experiences as a little black girl during that time were many — not all of them good. And, unfortunately, many of the unpleasant experiences I had during that time were based on race.

I remember when I was in second grade the white teacher in a classroom with mostly white students and a few black ones read the book Little Black Sambo. The book’s illustrations showed exaggerated features of Sambo including huge red lips, big white eyes, and skin the color of coal — an offensive portrayal of any person of color. After the teacher read a page, she would turn the book around for all the children to see the picture. The white kids would snicker and point at us; the black kids would feel ashamed. The teacher seemed not to have a clue on the impact it would have on us black kids. And of course, there were no black teachers around, as black teachers were few and far between during that time.

When I became a teacher, and ultimately a principal, I wanted to guarantee that all children were treated fairly. I still carried some hurts from childhood, so I was especially sensitive about ensuring that these little children were not subject to some of the experiences that I had.

Then about five years ago, after I had been enjoying my early retirement from OPS, I became affiliated with the Humanities Center. I was so impressed with their professional development program that I was eager to become a part of it if possible. The passion that Humanities Center leaders Dr. David O’ Fallon, President and CEO, and Dr. Eleanor Coleman, Education Strategy Consultant, have exhibited concerning this program is contagious. And being a part of this organization has been exciting to me.

Not only am I a consultant for Innocent Classroom, but Increase Student Engagement Through Absent Narrative workshops, School Action Team, Story Circles, and Reconstructive Curriculum, are other workshop offerings that I have been able to see or participate in over the years. There are other programs that are touted by educators that I have not personally witnessed, but my understanding is that they are superbly designed to help teachers better educate students.

If my teachers had access to professional development of the magnitude that the Humanities Center provides, I would venture to say that no little child would have had to sit through the humiliation of Little Black Sambo as my friends and I did.  And that would be a good thing!              

No comments:

Post a Comment