A student told me I “couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.” Here’s what I did then.”

 November 24, 2015  The Washington Post

Emily E. Smith is a fifth-grade social justice and English language arts teacher at
Cunningham Elementary School in Austin, Tex. She was just awarded the 2015 Donald H. Elementary school classroomGraves Excellence in the Teaching of Writing award given at the National Teachers of English Language Arts Convention in Minneapolis.  Smith created and founded The Hive Society, a classroom that inspires children to creatively explore literature through critical thinking and socially relevant texts.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.07.41 AMIn her speech accepting the award, Smith talked about a seminal moment in her career when she realized she needed to change her approach to teaching students of color, one of whom told her that she couldn’t understand his problems because she is white. The following is an excerpt of the speech in which she discusses her transformation (and which I am publishing with permission).

Continue reading and view video of Emily Smith’s acceptance speech.


Editor’s Note:  Listen to podcasts created by her students for their classroom radio station, HIVExRADIO, which is amazing, thoughtful, emotional, creative—and gives me the itch to return to the classoom.)

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