Take A Knee

I beat Colin Kaepernick to the knee by a cool twenty-six years. 

Before the former 49ers quarterback literally took a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality and social injustice, I had already begun the practice, albeit for a far less political purpose. 

As a waiter at a local Pizza Hut, I started the unorthodox practice of taking a knee when I took orders. Regardless of who was in front of me, I just thought it was easier, and more comfortable, to take a knee and write the orders on my pad while leaning against the table. For me, it was about ergonomics because standing and writing was awkward, and because I have terrible handwriting, I needed to lean on something to ensure I would be able to understand what I wrote minutes later. 

At one point, my boss called me over and asked why I took a knee. I explained, and he just looked at me and said, “But it looks weird. I’d rather you stand up.” 

Now, at 19, I wasn’t about to make a stink. He was my boss, and I needed the part-time job. Still, as I look back on it, what difference did it make? I would argue my customers appreciated me meeting them on their level instead of making them look up at me like some deranged, pizza-wielding, megalomaniac. 

A few years later, as I started my teaching career, I took a knee all the time. When I would stop by a student’s desk to offer feedback, to redirect, or to check in, I would take a knee. Now, in year twenty-four, I still find myself on bent knee, despite one of them being ravaged by arthritis and a torn meniscus, and I make sure to start on day one. 

Whenever I meet our new kindergarteners during summer meet-and-greets, I always take a knee when I offer my hand to introduce myself. The action has become as involuntary as a sneeze; the reaction from kids invariably features disarmed smiles and enthusiastic high fives.

As conversations in education continue to focus on equity and access, we need to be mindful that our students first associate equity with their access to us. Providing a model of those two complex concepts ensures kids can see and feel each Immediately. 

But it’s much more powerful than that when you consider that children are forced to look up to grown ups as a matter of course, their little necks perpetually craned to get our attention. Taking a knee flips that script in such a way that balances power, something children experience rarely. 

Ultimately, we are all just grown up versions of the children who once had to look up to people all day. Some of us still do. But no one should have to. 

Take a knee. 

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