With multiple parents and guardians around the nation attending school board meetings to complain about the teaching of sensitive topics, Ball State’s Teachers College is trying to prepare current students for what they may face in their professional careers.
As Ball State’s Spring 2022 commencement ceremony approaches May 7, Linda Martin, chair of the Department of Elementary Education, said Teachers College faculty have emphasized the need for inclusive and accurate teaching.
In Indiana, House Bill 1134 proposed to allow parents to have more control over what their students learn in the classroom before it died in the Senate in February 2022. Though allowing parents to review classroom material before it’s taught isn’t the reality in Indiana, Martin said concerns among parents and lawmakers over sensitive topics in the classroom are still prevalent.
“It is affecting how you look at the children in a classroom, and it’s a mixture of all kinds of people,” Martin said. “Those children all have a right to be respected and taken to feel pride in who they are. That should be a teacher’s responsibility.”
Tavyn Smith, senior elementary education major, said she wants to make sure she makes all of her future students feel appreciated. Smith said she knew for most of her life she wanted to become a teacher, but after a six-week program she attended at UCLA the summer before her senior year of high school — which was aimed to help “historically underrepresented students … become competitively eligible for admission to UCLA and other flagship universities,” according to its website — she knew for certain she would be an educator.
“I learned of the inequalities that occur in the education system between minority students and white students,” Smith said. “I learned that this system wasn’t built to see Black and brown students — especially African American girls — succeed. That is my driving force in wanting to be the best teacher I can be, the best role model and supporter for all students no matter their background.”
Martin said each department within the Teachers College has discussed how to support students graduating into a field parents and lawmakers want to regulate more.
“We’re working together but also individually within our departments with our faculty — everyone has their own concerns,” Martin said. “No matter how difficult or challenging the circumstance may be, we are here working together through it.”
Smith said the Teachers College faculty and staff have prepared her and her classmates for entering a variety of school systems.
“They have provided us many opportunities so that we will be successful in districts no matter the environment,” Smith said. “One piece of advice that I have gotten from a professor here at Ball State is to always remember your ‘why’ for going into education.”
In addition to inclusive and accurate teaching, Martin said Teachers College faculty are trying to instill the importance of kindness and understanding where each student is coming from.
“We try to teach our new teachers here to be reflective and to be sensible about what you're teaching,” Martin said. “Be sensitive and sensible about what you teach — consider all the children in your classroom.”