Not New News (BP Letter #3)

Good morning BP,

Thanks for your letter. It's funny... I hadn't been on Twitter or your blog for awhile. Then, I found myself wondering.. wait, do I owe you a letter? I went online to check and saw you had just posted your letter to me. Synchronicity. Interesting.

Thank you for sharing part of your personal backstory. I really appreciate that peek into your past.

Revisiting your recent posts took me down a great new rabbit hole of resources. (Thank You for always being someone I can count on for a wealth of resources!)  One of the many things I found down that rabbit was this tweet by Brian R Lawler of the quote, “If you were quiet... you helped the authorities maintain order. Once I understood this, I was never quiet again.” –Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin

I've been thinking a lot about the merits of "fighting while we learn" verses a slower, measured response. As I've said before, I'm worried that my default has been to move slowly - listening and learning without much action.

I also worry that our work is with children, a precious and impressionable population. What if I say or do the wrong thing? You mentioned in your most recent letter, "One of my biggest fears is that we rush to find solutions that are answering the wrong questions. We teachers are conditioned to be results-driven and want answers fast, but because of the deep-seated biases we carry into this work, prudence and self-reflection is crucial. " This is a valid concern, and I share it.

The dichotomy of both approaches "fight while you learn" and "slow and measured" isn't something that can be easily resolved. Like many things in education, it seems to be a scale. There are moments for action, and moments for learning. Maybe learning is part of the action? Certainly learning in our RSJ group seems to be a form of action. I'm still living this question.

Thanks for sharing the information about abolitionist teaching. I've been able to tear through my summer reading list at a faster pace than I thought so far.  Here's what I said I would do before and an update on how I'm doing.
  • reading White Fragility and - Currently on my Kindle
  • Crest of the Peacock and  - Currently in a box at my apartment where I will be July 16
  • whatever other book our Anti Racist school book club chooses.  - Currently in Chapter 6 of Ibram X Kendi's "How to be Anti Racist"
  • So You Want To Talk about Race  - Done
  • Abolitionist Teaching - Newly added to the list
Hm. maybe I'm not as far along as I thought. I bring up that "To Read" list since I'm now interested in adding We Want to do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love to the list. I've just added it to my NYPL List.

It was also recommended to me that I read The Invisible Man and The Other Wes Moore. The former has been interesting so far, though I've only read the intro. The book was written in 1952, the intro was written in 1981. Something that has really been striking me is how The Work is not new. It is only new to me. It is humbling, and I need to stay humble. 

I've always loved quotes (can't you tell?) and one that your post reminded me of was this line from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, “One must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.” The first time I read those words, I remember being drawn to them. They have bounced around in my head for years. I saw myself as living them as I moved from one place to another, trying out different lives and different jobs. Yet for the last 8 years I've been teaching math in the Bronx and I'm not sure I've kept up with evolving over this time. 

Its a trait of more than one great teacher I've known, and I count you in this group for certain, that you consistently keep trying new things and make big changes. As you recounted your shifts with standards based grading, flipped classrooms, and problem-based learning... I wondered what have I done to transform my teaching? Most of the changes in my teaching have been thrust upon me. In my first 5 years teaching I taught under 4 different principals in 3 different schools. Each of those changes required me to make changes. Some I agreed with, some I did only to check a compliance box. Maybe it's an easy cop-out to tell myself that if I had more consistency - same school, same leadership - I'd have taken on more changes myself. Certainly, its no longer an excuse I can use. I'm so grateful to have had 3 consistent years at our school with the same leadership. It's time for me to make my own transformations. 

Mr. D and I spent a good deal of time in January making posters for our classroom. Sadly, we didn't have them up for long before we transitioned to remote teaching. We brought back our decor by including some images like this one in our Zoom classes. It feels relevant to me now.

I've been spending time recently in conversations with white people who don't yet understand their "role in racist systems." It's a very different conversation about race than the ones we've had with our staff. It's a very different conversation about race than I imagine I will be having with my students. Preparing for each of these conversations takes different work. I'm tempted to lean-in to my teacher-role and created this discussion protocol. I'm not sure this is the way to go. I might be making a mistake suggesting it. But perhaps it is worth trying and making a mistake.

Your letter forced me to write and reflect. I should be doing this regardless. I hope you won't mind a quick turn around response. Take all the time you need for your response. I'll keep working as well.

A small child here is waking, so I will jump off now and send. Wishing you and yours well.



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