More Thoughts from EduCon

For a number of years now Jose Vilson, usually alongside another, has led a session discussing racism.

  • 2019: Whiteness: The Elephant in the Room
  • 2017: The Privileged Voices in Education 4.0
  • 2016: The Privileged Voices in Education 3.0
  • 2015: The Privileged Voices in Education
  • 2014: The Privileged Voices in Education

I believe I’ve attended all of these (although the years blur and I can’t be certain of that). Jose’s copresenters have included Val Brown, Audrey Watters, and (if I remember correctly) Rafranz Davis. All of whom have been phenomenal. They have been prepared with questions that provoked difficult conversations and have been willing to ask the question and then step back and allow the conversation to happen. The facilitators mostly jumped back in to push the discussion with an additional question. Seeing their ability to lead these sessions has been worth the time alone. However, the actual discussions have been amazing.

from Andrea’s flickr

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens next. What change comes from having been at EduCon, from having had these conversations. I accept that some of the change is not truly visible. Some is internal, is in the ways I think that begin to push my actions in some new directions.

This session, this discussion of whiteness and how much it impacts everything in our society and most definitely our educational system, is one that will, I think, keep changing me as I reflect on it. That’s not a bad thing but it also isn’t enough.

In the past few days I’ve had multiple conversations with friends and colleagues about racist, sexist, discriminatory comments we have all heard. One of the common threads is that we have all been so shocked to hear these statements that we have not had a response.

First of all, I think we have to stop being shocked. I would guess any EOC in those situations would not have been shocked. We are shocked only because we are unwilling to face reality. Our shock also becomes our excuse for not taking action.

For each of these stories I am now thinking in my head what should have been said in that moment. I want to have a script, lines prepared to say when this happens again. Because it will happen again.

When an educator says that teachers have lower expectations for children of color and children living in poverty not because of bias or racism but because the statistics show that those children don’t do as well in school, I want to be ready to speak up. When an educator says that we need to rethink our writing instruction because students of color don’t have that many ‘small moments’ to write about anyway, I want to be ready to speak up. When an educator is concerned that a school with 85% of the students receiving free or reduced price lunches doesn’t have any role models, I want to be ready to speak up.

I know these statements, or some very similar, will be made in my presence again. I may not know when this will happen and I may not know the exact words, but I know the sentiment and I will work to be ready to counter such ideas.

3 replies on “More Thoughts from EduCon”

  1. Jen, thank you for this. I missed Educon this year, but JLV’s sessions from past years stick with me as well. A recent conversation with the head of Lincoln University talked about building deep, reciprocal relationships with diverse groups of friends- and I think that is part of it. The relationships we need to build with students need to be reciprocal- trusting, and not just learning about them without letting them learn about you and where you may be vulnerable at the same time. This is what makes the difference between friendly and friendships.

  2. Jose says:

    I first want to acknowledge the work that both Val and Shana put into that workshop. I take zero credit for the proposal, the slide deck and / or the format of the workshop. I’m just glad I can amplify both Val and Shana everytime I see and work with them. And for whatever reason, Room 204 and I have had a strong run of workshops, which I’m also appreciative of. There’s like only one other room that I did a workshop in, but that was a packed house, too.

    As for the other elements, it felt like it came full circle. As you know, I’ve had a ton of discussions about whiteness and how EduCon became a harbor for it for a long while. I’m equally grateful that folks like Chris and Diana and Zac and so many others not only heard me out but sought to make SLA Center City a transformational space that shifted with these recommendations.

    Did other folks leave as a result? Surely. Was it a more welcoming place for people actually doing “the work?” Absolutely.

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