This year I have been sitting with this thought for quite some time. There has been a lot of deep reflection in a good way about who I am as an educator and I am thankful for those moments. Now I know you can take this phrase in numerous ways and though it has implications for learning in general I am currently reflecting on the ideas around equity and the shifts that have thankfully taken place because of the pandemic and the most recent Black Lives Matter protests. Because of these two pivotal events there has finally been a shift or a reckoning that has been needed to happen for quite some time. I also want to say that what I am saying is not anything new and has been said by many before me. Many that have fought long and hard for injustices, equity and dismantling. I am forever thankful for the learning that I have done and continue to do because of these individuals, many who may not even know that they have shifted my reflection and affected me so deeply and I am forever in their debt for that learning.
This year I was reminded of Glenn Singleton’s 4 agreements around having Couregous Conversations about race (I have linked a quick PDF for reference).
- Stay engaged: Staying engaged means “remaining morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue” (p.59)
- Experience discomfort: This norm acknowledges that discomfort is inevitable, especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to bring issues into the open. It is not talking about these issues that create divisiveness. The divisiveness already exists in the society and in our schools. It is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.
- Speak your truth: This means being open about thoughts and feelings and not just saying what you think others want to hear.
- Expect and accept nonclosure: This agreement asks participants to “hang out in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue (pp.58-65).
Though I love all of them, the two that I have been reflecting on the most is the second and the fourth and it is the second agreement that has caused me to write this post.
There has been a lot of change happenning this year and much of it (we could have done without a global pandemic) has been needed and called upon for a long time. Equity should be the main vechicle in which we support and pursue our lessons and I will admit that I have not always been doing this. Though I often thought I was putting students forward, or even building inclusive places to learn, I also know that I was part of the problems that have been raised this year. This year in particular I have sat with many uncomfortable moments as I reflect back and try to remember my students, the parent communities and how my practices have negated voices from being heard.
Equity work is hard work but important work. It is a lot of wadding through many uncomfortable moments as you listen and reflect on your own bias, privledge and power in this world. It is also a lot of reflecting on unheard voices, wading through the what has been said and how I have been a part of that trauma. Now I could have easily said, “hey that has nothing to do with me” and left it at that but to be honest that just isn’t true. One of my biggest reflective moments is that we as educators have ALL been a part of the system and ALL have a part in its dismantling. We all have our biases and the ways in which we see the world and we ALL as educators have privledge over those that we serve. To often I have seen defenses going up, a lot of “not me” or that is unfair to say. I understand, it is easy to feel like this is an attack, but I ask, why do you feel attacked? I ask that uncomfortable feeling you have when you hear things that question your way of knowing, your being, your history, is it wrong to feel? or is it something we need to sit with for a time and honestly think about before we react. That sitting goes back to number 4. It has been the hardest part for me, especially with ADHD but being quiet is a good thing. Listening and not responding is a good thing. Acknowledging yourself and where you are at is a good thing.
This is why the second agreement has stuck with me. For this work, this important work of dismantling and rebuilding, to work we all need to be ready for uncomfortable moments. We need to think about the ways in which we have caused and possible will cause trauma. We have to sit and listen with voices who have been marginalized and surpressed for what is an eternity. We have to be ready to learn and not question. To listen and not defend where we are but to listen and grow. We have to be comfortable with those uncomfortable moments. The moments that have us question who we are as educators, our why, our purpose and if we have caused harm. We have to be ready to accept that there is growth and learning in everything that is said. We have to be okay with those who question, power, priveldeg and authority. We have to be ready to question the practices, the history, the things that we have been taught as truths for so long. Why? because this is the only ways in which we will dismantle, the only ways in which we will grow and the only way in which we will create a system that is free from racism and predjudice.