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Teacher Calls Students “Punk A** Ni**ers”: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood



by G. Brown

Teaching is hard…long hours, low pay and all day long you’re serving as surrogate parents of sorts trying to help mold young minds and pour in all the knowledge you can.  It would be easy if the students were all eager to learn, but part of growing up means being childish and not understanding when to goof off and when to be serious—especially when you’re in 8th grade.  It is the teacher’s job to handle all this and more—they know that going in.  But knowing it and handling it are two different things.

A Baltimore City Public Schools teacher shows us exactly how not to handle students. A Black student was being reprimanded for a reason that’s not exactly clear. The teacher escorts him to the door yelling “get out” along the way. Once that student is removed, the teacher  just couldn’t dial it down and became  completely unhinged telling students, “You are getting zeroes for doing nothing...” The  White, female teacher later calls them “idiots” and continues her rant to the point of yelling  at the students calling them,”Punk a** ni**ers who going to get shot.”

If we expect our kids to know how to act in school…then shouldn’t we expect the same of the adults who are teaching them?  Christopher Emdin says, “when you have to threaten the students with a zero, you’ve already lost the class,”  Emdin was a teacher in urban schools and knows that many teachers simply are n’t prepared for the challenge of teaching… especially in urban areas. Emdin’s seen meltdowns like this before where a teacher loses control of the class and resorts to anger. He’s seen so much of it that he’s written a book about it entitled  “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too.”

Emdin says a lot of teachers are  not educated in educating children from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. He also says he could tell from the video that the students were not engaged in learning because they were issuing a “challenge” to the teacher to get a reaction. If this were a battle, the students won because they got the mother of all reactions from this teacher  Emdin says when students get restless or are not engaged, they “challenge” the teacher, “If you’re not teaching me then I’m going to push you to give me some fervor to get to work…They want you to give them some life. They want you to give them some soul.”

Emdin travels the country teaching future teachers how to teach.  He says teachers have to do more than pass out worksheets, they have to do some homework and learn how to engage students in a new, better way; “They really need to think about who is going into that classroom to teach…If education is their profession, if that’s what they love, then they have to do a lot of unpacking of their personal biases and strategies.”

As for the teacher in the video, it’s obvious she was out of her depth and became emotional and angry when she realized she was losing control of the class. Her outburst also caused her to lose her job, she was fired after the video came out.  Others describe her as a “good teacher” who just lost it.  We all have biases and opinions that can cause us to shoot off epitets like bullets when we get angry or tired or overwhelmed.  And like bullets, those harmful, hate-filled words can kill a child’s enthusiasm, spirit and belief in himself..

What do you think, should the teacher have been fired or  were the students were wrong for pushing the teacher to the brink? Should schools and teachers take more courses like what Emdin is offering to learn how to be good teachers?

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