UPDATE June 16th: Since I published this blog, the teacher and vice-principal who supported him have resigned (link to latest newspaper article.) Gladly, Mr. Currie has already gone on several interviews and I am sure this outstanding teacher will find a great position.
This blog is a follow on to my blog of May 17th titled “Some Princes Don’t Care Much For Princesses – So What’s the Big Deal?”
This news story in rural Efland, North Carolina continues to drag on. After a boy in his third grade class was bullied for exhibiting some feminine characteristics and “gay” was used in negative sense, third grade teacher Mr. Omar Currie used the episode as a teaching lesson. He read the children’s fable “King and King” in which a prince falls in love and marries another prince instead of a princess.
After a few parents (and even non-parents who have no children at the school) protested and filed a complaint, the principal took the middle road; she established a new policy that teachers must notify parents of all books they read in class. Instead, the principal should have been more bold by standing 100% behind Mr. Currie and facing these critics with strong words that the world is a diverse place and people cannot expect everyone to be just like them.
Let’s examine Mr. Currie’s record. We read so much about the lack of male minority elementary school teachers in our classrooms. Now we have a bright graduate from one of the best education undergraduate programs in the country (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) teaching third grade in a rural school. At the beginning of the school year, only 2 of his 24 students were reading at their grade level; at the end of the year that improved to 18 being at grade level, and two are even reading two grades above their level. And when a name-calling and bullying issue emerged in his classroom, instead of ignoring it, Mr. Currie taught his children through the reading of a fable that there are all kinds of families in the world, and that all people should be treated respectfully. What a fantastic lesson to help prepare our children for global leadership in business, education and the community!
Instead of adding a new arduous rule which will add to teacher workload and open up disgruntled parents to complaining about books read in school, the principal (and the superintendent and the school board for that matter) should show some courage.
First, they should submit Mr. Currie for North Carolina teacher of the year! Here is a minority male elementary school teacher and role model who delivered astonishing improvements in his class’s reading level and addressed tough issues in a modern enlightened way.
Second, they should issue a strong statement to this minority of local people and call them on their bigotry…. perhaps a statement such as, “We stand 100% behind Mr. Currie and his decision to read ‘King and King’ to his class. He is an outstanding teacher who is delivering results in the classroom, and he addressed a tough situation with the appropriate action. Futhermore, we firmly reject these complaints from a minority of detractors; they need to address their own bigotry and understand we live in a diverse world with many different types of people and families, and our children need to grow up with that understanding. Their complaints do nothing but undermine the work of our educators and harm our children and community.”
Let’s stand strong in the face of small-minded bigoted people; and instead of waffling let’s educate them on diversity in our community. And let’s support Omar Currie for Teacher of the Year!