Most teachers were born to educate and they often credit their own students for inspiration. In today’s educational system, teachers have many ways of providing lessons for their students by using real-life examples, and creativity is certainly a trait that serves educators well.
Unfortunately, one teacher in the Bronx took her real-world experience a step too far and in an attempt to teach her middle school class about the horrors of slavery, she did a big no-no and called upon the black kids in the class to use them as an example.
Middle School 118 teacher, Patricia Cummings is in the spotlight for some major scrutiny, as she asked the black kids in her classroom to lie down on the floor during a social studies lesson geared toward slavery. The unit, in particular, was on The Middle Passage, when Africans were kidnapped and brought to America as part of the slave trade. As if that wasn’t enough, Cummings proceeded to step on the black students’ backs to show them exactly what slavery felt like.
Students were traumatized by the alleged lesson, that occurred more than one time in different classes. The population of the middle school where Cummings teaches is only 3% white and 81% black and Hispanic.
The offensive lesson drummed up a whole lot of criticism from students, parents and fellow faculty members.
“It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade,” said an anonymous student from one of Cummings’ classes. “She picked three of the black kids, and instructed them to get on the floor in front of the class. She said ‘You see how it was to be a slave? How does it feel?’”
According to the student, when one of the girls was lying on the floor she made an uncomfortable joke and said she felt fine, and Cummings proceeded to step on her back.
Following the lesson, the students were shown a film that showed slaves being beaten, tortured and thrown over the side of a ship.
“She had students like on the floor,” another student said. “She was measuring the length and width to show how little space slaves had in the ship. It was strange.”
Cummings, who had worked in the city schools since 2016, was removed from her class for a couple of days after the incident, but then returned. She was again reassigned to a post that was away from children, according to the city’s educational department.
Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness shared the following statement regarding the incident…
“While the investigation has not been completed these are deeply disturbing allegations, and the alleged behavior has no place in our schools or in society.”
This isn’t the first time that a teacher has been criticized for teaching an inappropriate lesson involving slavery. In 2013, two teachers from Manhattan Public School 59 were caught teaching a lesson that used whipping and killing slaves to teach subtraction and multiplication. Those teachers were required to take a training in cultural sensitivity.
So, while it’s important to use creativity when educating others, there are certain boundaries that must be applied before taking those lessons to a classroom.