Dear bp,

Will you let me write to you this summer as I "persevere through a tough problem"? 

I don't expect to have it all wrapped by September, but I hope we will have made some progress. To be honest, I'm struggling (as any mathematician would) in first just trying to understand the question(s). I feel gravitated to seek for answers.

I thought you might understand this feeling. I have too many thoughts rattling around in my head. Yet when I write them down, they find their way into making a bit more sense. (I'm not planning to edit much, so you'll have to let me know if what I'm saying is unclear.)

I've been grappling, as many people are in this moment, with the pervasive racial injustice in our country. I have been realizing in the past week or so that it is not enough to LISTEN and LEARN (though these are also important), but I must also SAY and DO. I'd like you to hold me accountable to what I can SAY and DO with my - our! - students and school.

Recently, I saw a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) post on Instagram that referenced their Values. What caught me was this phrase:


"Um, isn't that what I say all. the. time. to my students??" - was more or less my reaction. Cue the slow dawning.  I have let perfection become the enemy of the good. Because I can't imagine how to overhaul my curriculum to be more culturally responsive (which I feel is what I should do), I don't do anything (or VERY little) in my math classes. But this is BAD. I hesitate to act because I do not want to make a mistake. (A tiny voice says, why bother to do it if you can't do it "right"?)

In math classes, students feel this way. They don't see how it ends, so they don't begin. With math, I have been willing to pick up my pencil and start poking around - even when I'm unsure where to start or where it might lead.  I may make some false starts, but they aren't unproductive.

Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I have found several thousand things that won't work. - Thomas Edison

I'm ready to take on Social Justice with this same attitude now. I know I will make mistakes. I know I will say things wrong, and do things wrong. I will try not to hurt anyone. Yet, if I remain inactive, that will also hurt people. When I make a mistake, I will learn from it, apologize when needed, and keep going. 

So it seems fitting to send you "more questions than answers." And trust me, I have a lot of questions.  The questions will change as we go anyways, but it seems to me perhaps a place to begin.

Here are some of the questions I would like to try to answer for myself.

  • When did I become aware of my white privilege? (Maybe a place to begin is the beginning... )
  • What are my personal story, reasons and commitments for this cause? 
  • What are the mistakes I've already made, what can I learn from them? 
  • Why do I think it is important to incorporate social justice / culturally responsive pedagogy  in my classroom? 
  • What are the "risks" of SAYING and DOING? What makes me hesitate? What is lost if I don't? 
  • What tangible action steps can I take right now? 
  • What about next fall? What about next year? The next 10 years? How do we (cue Hamilton) make this not a moment but a continuation of the movement

Do any of these speak to you right now? What has been on your mind? 

Thanks for listening. Write back soon. :)

Sincerely, in solidarity,


PS. I was tempted to "Save Draft" but I am trying. So here goes. Publish.


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