Start-of-Summer Reading

The last few weeks of school slowed down both my reading and my writing, not surprisingly. I did manage to gather quite a few pieces from folks in that time, however.

Sharing those while looking forward to some slower, relaxing reading…

from Stefano Montagner’s flickr

Working backwards, Nate Bowling wrote about white supremacists and liberal apathy back at the end of May. It’s a piece that was shared on twitter and FB frequently and that it took me ages to finally sit down and read. (I have a habit of opening up a tab with something like this and leaving it there, waiting for me to be in the right headspace to read it. I need to learn to make myself be in the right headspace.)

Meanwhile, the preferred liberal approach “the best way to fight white supremacists is to ignore them” has proved ineffective. This is certainly the easiest path for (seemingly) unaffected white liberals but is also incredibly dangerous for my students and our democracy. When you ignore white supremacists, they “hear” your silence as indifference–if not a tacit endorsement.

Anytime you can ignore a problem that is a sign of privilege. I’ve come to learn that is also a sign that it is time for me to speak up. To be totally honest, I still suck at doing so. But I’m learning. And I’ll keep trying. Because…

Y’all, it shouldn’t be left to people of color to police white supremacists. Neo-Nazis may not seem like a threat to you, but they are a threat to your students, their families, and our communities.

On June 4th, Dean Dad put into words something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit. I use my public library well. I put books on hold frequently, both digitally and paper copies. I check them out. Sometimes I actually manage to read them. When it comes to professional books I buy them. Lots of them. Again, some of them I manage to read. So this piece really spoke to me and made me feel less alone! It is always interesting to learn that another language has just the right word for something you know well.

Our school district tends to start late and end late compared to many others. This means that as I’m struggling to keep my head above water in the final weeks, many folks are already finished and in their reflection-on-the-year phase. Sometimes I find that frustrating and sometimes it is reassuring. Other times, like in Jess’s piece, it is a call to action (if one that I don’t feel I can truly heed in that moment of exhaustion).

And in many ways, I am grateful for the fight. Because I should be fighting. I think that if we are not angry, we are probably not really aware of what is happening around us. I think that if we are not fighting for something, we are probably not really paying attention. And, also, I am sitting in a place of incredible privilege and if I am not using that privilege to fight, then I am as much of a part of the problem as anyone else who remains silent. So I am glad that I am fighting.

I am unbelievably grateful to all of the people who are not only fighting as Jess is doing (and there are so many) but who are sharing that fight publicly. Reminding the rest of us about why we are fighting. Serving as role models for the rest of us as to how to speak up, stand up, fight.

Heidi Fessenden is someone I have only recently begun reading and following (thanks to Tracy Zager highlighting Heidi in her book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had). Heidi writes about think time and I have many thoughts on that. Think time is something I thought I did well until I arranged my room so that I am facing the clock. It is an ongoing struggle to truly give kids the time to think deeply. However, think time is only one aspect of this piece. Heidi tells the story of a field trip that gets into issues of equity that really spoke to me.

The questions come fast and furious, and only a few hands keep up. I am paying close attention to the race, gender, and learning profile of those who are getting called on. White boys are speaking most. White girls are second.

Paying close attention to who is and isn’t participating in a classroom (or on a field trip) and reflecting on why that might be true? Beautiful. Powerful. Critical.

I think often how about how lucky I am to teach in a time when I can so easily connect with others. How much wider and broader my circle of learning is because of this. Sherri Spelic is a prime example of this. She doesn’t teach general education elementary school like do. She doesn’t teach in the US. When I began my teaching career I would have had no way to learn from Sherri. Thank goodness that has changed. This piece from her contains so much it’s hard to know where to start. Put yourself in the right headspace and then read about her reflections on her life in Vienna vs. what it would be in the US and a question asked on twitter by another educator and what it shows us. It is worth sitting with her words, I promise.

Recently a white educator friend on FB asked about Juneteenth as it was on his calendar and he knew nothing about it. He does now. And he is passing on that knowledge to others. (It was quite an interesting FB post to follow, actually, as a result.) If you are unfamiliar with Juneteenth, check out Jose Vilson’s piece. You’ll get history and thoughts on the future. It’s an interview with Dr. James Forbes, senior minister at Riverside Church in NYC.

In New York, every ethnicity has its own day, but somebody said “We need a day where we can celebrate freedom and justice for all of us!” That would be Juneteenth! In Texas, there’s a big celebration, and there’s a commission in New York City for Juneteenth, and it’s celebrated sparsely here and there, but Juneteenth should be a day in which we celebrate with praise and legislated conversation and determination to set people free. It should be the day that clemency is granted to people not threatening to society. It should be a day when we actually symbolize becoming a post-racial society.

The potential Juneteenth offers as a day of celebration goes far beyond anything I had considered before.

Finally, I am always amazed when people are willing to share personal stories that seem to me to be painful. This one, from Franki Sibberson, really got to me because it is about both music and reading, two of my greatest loves in life. Franki generously reflects on how teachers impacted her feelings about music and about herself and what that means for us when it comes to teaching reading (although we could take her thoughts even farther because I think they teach us a lot about what it means to work with children in any way).

Looking back over these pieces gives me such hope. There are so many brilliant educators, brilliant people out there, who are willing to share and teach. I am grateful to them all.

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