Fifteen years in business, five years in a classroom, and two years training to see things through an administrator’s eyes has led me here. My personal teaching and leading philosophy has always been about giving my BROWN and BLACK people of the DIASPORA the precise language to advocate for themselves. On my end, my policies place success within the reach of every kid. My policies are non-punitive, and are grounded in action, because just like love is not merely emotion, equity is not merely talk.
Since the school I joined this year is moving towards being about that life, walking into today’s Professional Development has me feeling hype for all types of reasons. For one, talking about racism embedded in the school system is one of my favorite “get your life” discussions and this PD is also going to let me know with whom I work alongside.
The big man opens the PD talking about how uncomfortable he is with this topic and that it has taken him a year to be able to say “WHITE male privilege” out loud.
Okay, I’ll take it.
I’ll take it as a sincere attempt except I also know that the superintendent is a home down LATINA and is responsible for pushing this onto all admin but I don’t know why.
Is she about that life or has she buried her triple consciousness and only aligned with her WHITE-facing societal identity?
But I digress.
The reading for today’s PD is titled, “Disrupting Inequity” by Rick Wormeli. After reading it and engaging in a short conversation with a few staff members (who all look like me,) I have come to the conclusion that this is an apt title, not for it’s approach to engaging in anything related to education or racism but for it’s veiled attempt to codify decolonization in education. There is still an inherent value and “firstness” on European culture and the manners in which people “should” think and emote.
At first, Wormeli encourages everyone to sit with the discomfort of racism and talks about how everyone involved in education has played a role regardless of intent. Reading through it and not being able to shake I got loyalty and royalty inside my DNA from my inner ears, reminds me that Wormeli isn’t getting granular enough. I want someone to challenge teachers to examine how and why they allow biases and internalized media caricatures to not only invade but pervade their practices.
Rick, you needed to explain how and why a teacher’s practice is a dog whistle that makes Columbus roll over in his grave with a resounding YAASS. After reading the list of bulleted “how to engage in candid discussions and redirect inappropriate comments” I sat back and thought NAH.
I was done.
Why would I redirect inappropriate comments by a colleague or student and tell them what to say? First, this work doesn’t need redirection, it needs deprogramming and no amount of redirection fixes generational social programming and indoctrination.
Appropriation is a colonizers word and a survival technique. What this section of the reading is trying to tell me to do is listen and be open. Okay. And then what? I would really appreciate an article or a series of PDs that allow us to name what we see and give us the language to articulate what we feel and why we feel it.
Why do we want silence and compliancy every step of the way? Because that’s how the colonizers wanted it.
Why do we appreciate talk in the socratic seminars? Because we have been indoctrinated to love, value, and respect European style education. We get pepperings of Native American and Buddhist practice, but not much else.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that this PD provided me with a reading that makes really great points and provides valuable tools for open and productive dialogue. Wormeli asks us to “avoid language that blames” and even gives teachers sentence starters such as: “It’s been my experience that ___,” “Tell me more about___,” or “How did faculty at your last school respond to ___?”
“Avoid associating the quality of a colleague’s teaching with exploratory comments offered in conversation about racism. A peer can be a neophyte in such conversations but effective in the classroom.”
Time to stand up and throw up the two-finger beef hand and say nope, Nope NOPE!
Sidebar: Thank you to the Professional Black Girl Evelyn Alvarez who reminded me when you see two finders coming at you, that means we got beef!
I challenge that statement with a GTFOH. I challenge the use of that word effective. Effective at what? Effective for which students? Can we have some precision here?
Rick conflates skilled conversation and conversations that effect change and equity. They are not the same thing. Racism in schools is pervasive and endemic in America and the disenfranchised CHILDREN of the DIASPORA deserve a more precise article for their teachers that doesn’t mansplain and whitesplain.
I took a break and while sitting in the staff bathroom with vents that connect to the student’s bathroom, I overhear N words and MF words weaved together with chemistry and physics vocab. Maybe the next PD will include a protocol that asks us to transcribe student conversations in the classroom and ask everyone to identify what they hear. I know I would hear physics; what would other teachers hear?
The PD closes with some contrived opportunities for reflection where you see some wyteashers (yes this means white teachers. Hispanic accents drop the CH sound and replace it with the sh sound.) nodding disapprovingly to one another when I talk about the punitive measures around the educational policy of banning headgear. What better place to talk about the inequity of these rules? On day 1 I tell my students to be proactive and talk to the deans about winterizing, oiling, locking, twisting, or brushing the curls for that wave. The last thing WE need is more of OUR mamis and papis in the holding room because of a silk scarf or DuRag.
I said earlier that I wanted to know with whom I was working. Well it’s too soon into our year-long PD series to know but the side eyes during the student town-hall where the students gave me a standing o did the job. When the next PD rolls around, I’ll report back and let you know if these same side eyes match the disapproving nods I saw in the PD.