I Convinced My Teachers to Walk Our Students’ Neighborhoods. It Changed Our School.
August 7, 2019
By: Rann Miller
The tour almost didn’t happen.
It was my first year as an administrator at an independent charter school in Camden, New Jersey where I had previously taught social studies. For five years, I had been the only Black teacher in the high school building.
I remember sitting in a room with other school leaders, and the room was divided. I had raised the idea that our teachers should tour the city of Camden. By “tour,” I didn’t mean take pictures and stop at a local restaurant to eat. I meant that teachers should walk on the same streets as their students to and from school. They should see the coexistence of pride and poverty. They should smell the amalgam that was food from the corner bodega and the air pollution from the city’s cement and sewage plants. They should touch the ground as they tried to avoid uneven cement and drug paraphernalia. They should hear the screams and laughter of children playing, the old lions reminiscing on when they ran in the wild, and the music blaring from cars sitting on shoes — tires on rims 20 inches or higher, that is. They should feel the heartbeat of the city with each passing step.
I wanted teachers to internalize the essence of the city.