Some other beginning's end (BP Letter #6)
Sometimes I start my response to your letter with a burning idea, thought or question I need to get out. This time, I'm coming up blank. I'm picking up the metaphorical pen with no idea where it is going to go. Let's see what happens.
I want to publicly acknowledge my agreement that "performative activism," trying to look good in front of others includes these letters. I worry often that I am "virtue signaling" rather than being a true ally or co-conspirator. Focusing on outcomes rather than feelings feels like a good way to avoid this trip. And also makes me think (again) I have not been doing enough.
This reminds me there is much of white supremacy culture that I have internalized. I have received praise for my "perfectionism" and "sense of urgency." I certainly have "worshipped the written word, " and believed myself to be "objective" while "power hoarding." These hit home, and remind me there is much work to be done. As you reminded me, we are not there yet.
I loved your post on "Teaching as a form of protest." This helps keep me going, and as you said, not killing myself. I made a bullet point version of your paragraph about "I can protest by.." I think referring back to this will remind me there are specific concrete actions I can take daily in school. I think adding to this list and personalizing it for me will be helpful.
I love the idea about a department wide promoting mathematicians that are not White men. I think we do need to think about how we can adapt it for a digital environment. I'd hate to see it fall to the wayside as we grapple with Hybrid/Remote models. Maybe we can use our Google Classroom themes? Or email closings? A general wondering I have about hybrid/remote teaching is how to create a SPACE that does what a classroom can do -- be welcoming, and perhaps informative.
I'll be honest, I have done very little to tangibly prepare for this upcoming school year. The mantra that keeps repeating in my head is "love them first, teach them second." As you know, I love to plan and am often thinking many steps ahead. Most years I have calendared the entire year of lessons before it starts. It is starting to feel wrong to plan before meeting students. Like maybe that's putting the horse before the cart. How can I meet them where they are, if I don't start there?
There is so much uncertainty and newness in the days and weeks ahead. It is also striking me that this is always the case, has always been the case, and we just ignore it most of the time.
"Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that's what makes it so boring." - Edward Gorey
Maybe not planning (too much) is the way forward in light of this. My first week of school "plan" includes "teach me your name" and an "I am" poem. (Our Morningside training has been helpful. I am excited about the other outside groups you've mentioned as well.) It also feels right to honor Wendy by doing my first try at a mathography.
I know you have done them before, I'd love to what your thoughts are about my trying out this practice. I sometimes worry that I use your insights/ideas to make changes to my classroom, and then do them not as well as you. Then, when my Algebra I students become your Algebra II students they may be turned off from a practice I "borrowed" because I did not execute it well. This has been a concern of mine for sometime. I'm not sure if I've ever fully articulated it to you. I truly welcome your honest feedback here, and always.
On this abrupt note, I'll sign off here. Tomorrow starts a new chapter (as it always does, eh?). See you on Zoom from your classroom.
With admiration & eyes on the future,