Just The Beginning (BP Letter #5)
As always, thanks for your letter. As I read your letters, I am always moved to new thoughts, ideas and questions.
One question has a quick answer: Yes I'm 100% for continuing this letter writing. I'm worried about petering out, losing steam, and slowing down or that I may have already. Having commitments that keep me accountable is necessary and good. Thank you for holding me accountable.
Maybe I've mentioned this before, but I am also trying to hold myself accountable by writing down every day what I have DONE to help dismantle white supremacy and fight racial injustice. I have been writing these in perhaps an unlikely place. I share pictures of my daughter on a locked "baby social media" platform that is only shared with close family and friends. I've done this everyday since she was born. There, I've started including with my baby photos what I have been doing.
What I'm taking away from this exercise the most is.. I do NOT do much most days. I am learning/reading/listening. I am talking/writing. I am having some of the hard conversations - calling out my white family and friends. It is very hard for me to pin point what I am doing to change policies. It is even harder to say what outcomes, if any - which is likely, I have affected. It is disheartening. But perhaps this is the point. People who feel satisfied don't continue to seek change. I need to do more. The first step is knowing it.
I've still been thinking about My Why. It seems to me there are more than one Why question I am trying to answer.
- Why do I teach?
- Why do I teach here?
- Why do I teach students of color?
- Why do I want to change my classroom to "incorporate Racial and Social Justice"?
This phrase, "incorporate Racial and Social Justice" could also be "Reality Pedagogy" or "Culturally Relevant Pedagogy" or "AntiRacist" or something else. I'm still not sure what it is I want to change in my classroom, but I'm leaning into your suggestion that when I figure out the Why, I will be pulled into the What.
Please feel free to use that 13th activity. I'm not that proud of it. It is very flattering that you liked it enough to want to steal it. I certainly steal enough of your ideas. Consider me an open book for anything you'd like steal!
I love seeing what you've developed in your problem-centered Algebra 2 class. I look forward to seeing how you incorporate antiracism into it. I think your model might lend itself well.
There is much in white supremacy culture that I have subscribed to, lived by, and certainly brought into my classroom. Reading this is (appropriately and necessarily) humbling. Thank you for providing more fuel for the fire.
In regard to your "Future Educators Club" .. I say, "Go! Go! Go!" This seems like really important work. I don't think we talk enough as a staff about the racial imbalance between our staff and students. There must also be short-term solutions, but this club is a great long-term solution. I also think it has the ability to give students power, and this is great.
In discussing your Why, you said, "approach every minute of every period of every class as if my son or daughter were on the roster." This is powerful. My daughter is still very young, but I've already asked myself what I hope she will get from her teachers. Mostly, I want her to love learning and feel happy at school. What she learns isn't as important to me, as her learning how to learn. This already has implications for changing my perspective on my classroom approach.
When it comes to Antiracist teaching though, I wonder.. is it different for my White daughter than for our students of color? I will need to teach my daughter about things that are sadly and readily apparent to students of color. "If my kid is old enough to experience racism, your kid is old enough to learn about it," I read recently. My daughter will not experience racism, so she will need to be taught about it. Sometimes when I think about bring RSJ into my classroom, I think I need to teach students that (1) racism exists and (2) the scale and scope of racism. This seems fool headed, for a White teacher to students of color.
So we are back to my Why. Why do I want to be an AntiRacist Teacher? Let me start with some Why Nots. There is a tendency in me to want to seen as a "Nice White Person," one of the "good" ones. This is not a good Why. My Why cannot be performative. The shortest answer is, to make the world a better place. We cannot succeed as a human race without the full power of each of us. My answer feels big and amorphous, and I would like it to be neat and succinct. I'm not there yet.
I'm being interrupted, but I want to get this back to you. Thank you for keeping me going and growing.
- White Fragility - Up to chapter 8 ish..
- Crest of the Peacock - Haven't gotten back into it since our Book Club met, but I packed it
- How to be an Anti Racist - Done
- So You Want To Talk about Race - Done
- We Want to Do More Than Survive (Abolitionist Teaching) - On the list now, but not yet in my hands.
- Me and White Supremacy - Added, and we planned to write about this together when we get there. (Noting as well that you mentioned it is marked as “Always Available” as an NYPL ebook.)