The Woke Cypha: Alchemy

So, I was sitting in on an instructional focus team in one of the schools that I work with. I’m new to the school. I haven’t presented to the staff yet. I’ve only met the administrative team and the other consultant who works with them.

The topic for the 2 hour meeting was about assisting teachers with developing strong essential questions for an upcoming unit.

So the team talked through how they could facilitate this learning experience so that it was meaningful.

I watched, listened, took notes and (hopefully) only interjected when it was helpful.

But I was struggling y’all.

My team’s approach to curriculum is to literally start with the root of the tree.

We ask teachers who are you?
What is your world view?
Are you an anti-racist or assimilationist? Do you know the difference?
Do you recognize that teaching is NOT neutral?

And finally, are you an alchemist? Do you see yourself as powerful enough to take pain and turn it into power?


—”The alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands.”

-Beyonce, by way of Warsan Shire

My team and I have realized that you don’t move teacher practice towards an anti-racist stance from talking to their minds.

You must instead, talk to their hearts, you must talk the language of their soul.

I mean, why do people become teachers in the first place?

I don’t care how corny it sounds but I became a teacher because I wanted to change the world.

I teach teachers today for the same reason: I AM GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD.


If you want to get all metaphysical and ish, changing your world, your reality, your habits, yourself is in fact changing the world, because we are all connected.

At our second session of our Woke Cypha we discussed the story of Kalief Browder. We intentionally took his story and put our teachers through a learning experience intended to evoke pain, anger, and frustration.

We wanted to embody the experience of taking pain and turning it into power.

We wanted to show them that WE are alchemists.

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As Bob Marley sang to us, there is so much trouble in the world and our charge as educators is to give a little (actually a lot) in order to support the development of young people who will change the world.

And for us, the road towards becoming an alchemist starts with an interrogation of the soul, the individual, the identity of everyone who calls themselves a teacher.

We break ourselves and our participants open (or at least we try.)

And then, after that is done sufficiently, we start talking about the technical aspects of teaching.

Our next session: In Formation, is all about summative and formative assessments, objectives and essential questions and unearthing teachers’ pedagogical philosophy because that will undergird their technical development and refinement.

Wanna develop your pedagogical philosophy? Cop the book below or reread it.


This school that I was visiting today, they say, they’ve done the ideology work and so now it’s time for the technical work.

I’m curious. I’m going to continue to watch and take it all in.

In solidarity.

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