I can’t stop thinking about it. Instead of cultivating and celebrating, Lyn Rushton, an art teacher* at East Nashville Magnet High School used an alternative Twitter account to mock and spew hatred for her students. I imagine some of you will protest my use of the word hate and I get it — it is a strong word. So, I’ll do you a solid by providing you a set list of this teacher’s* greatest hits and allow you to decide:
“The ghettoness of some of my students just sickens me beyond belief.”
“I wish I could carry around a stamp at school to put “worthless a*******” across their heads.”
“I take fashion advice from my students. If they wear it, I don’t.”
According to a friend, a parent at East Nashville, a student discovered the art teacher’s* tweets after a search revealed his name as the subject of one of her hate storms. This particular tweet went after students with creative names like, say, Vesia.
A little background: East Nashville Magnet High School is one of Nashville’s shining examples of success with an annual graduation of 100%. The student population is 45% economically disadvantaged and 85% Black. I only mention the last two data points to inform my earlier assertion of hate.
If you are black or poor or black and poor, society does its dead-level best to devalue you. How many advertisements promoting social, physical, and financial success include brown women, men and children? Then add a layer of community distress where there are few, if any, glimmers of hope, examples of resurrection.
But when society and the community lets them down, generally, the babies can count on their schools to get it right for them. After all, schools are safe places filled with adults who are there because they choose to be, because they love working with children.
Teachers have enormous power over students’ personal and educational lives. We all have a story within us about the teacher who pushed us toward success and loved us in spite of ourselves. So if a great teacher has the potential to have a lifelong positive influence, imagine the power of a dud.
I can’t shake the idea of those students entering Rushton’s art class fully expecting an adult who will help them realize their greatest potential and provide the instruction to get them there. Instead, they were saddled with a fraud who used them as some kind of social experiment to mock and use for Twitter content. How effective a teacher could she have been?
The Students, Though
In an authentic act of resistance (unlike the hashtag), the students did something rarely seen or celebrated. Those beautiful babies realized the very power the teacher* worked so hard to extinguish and called out her hate by celebrating their worth.
“I don’t want a name like everybody else! I love my name… I don’t care if I walk into a job interview and they don’t like my name because it’s a black name. I love my name!”
And that gets a resounding AMEN from this chick named Vesia. A loving shout out to the students at East Nashville Magnet High.
* denotes that the teacher is both fraudulent and former.