More Catching Up

I have somehow been blessed with a lack of anxiety or stress, as a general rule. I don’t tend to feel those emotions often (which means when I do it really freaks my husband out) and I am grateful. I also feel like an anomaly in many ways as people around me seem to face plenty of anxiety, stress, depression, and more. The Bloggess is one of my favorite writers because she is so open about herself, her struggles, and her life. She is amazing. And funny, which is such a gift. This post is a conversation between her and her tween/teen (I can’t remember for sure) daughter about mental health and suicide. She’s advocating for having these sorts of discussions with kids. I couldn’t agree more.

Having a talk with your kids about sex doesn’t make them have sex.  Having a talk about llamas doesn’t make them llamas.  Having a talk with your kids about suicide won’t make them suicidal.  Having a talk with your kids about mental illness doesn’t give them mental illness.  It does, however, give them tools to help recognize things that might otherwise confuse or terrify them.  It may help them to recognize things in themselves or in their friends.  And that can save a life.

Our two daughters are just older and just younger than her daughter. I’ve watched them and their friends and peers and I am more certain every day of the need for such conversations.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sherri Spelic can write. Seriously write. This post, What Silence is For, is one of the most powerful, poetic pieces I’ve read lately. I’m not pulling out a quote because it wouldn’t do it justice. Please go read it and think about how silence can be a cage and a barrier. (I’m currently reading Austin Channing Brown’s book, I’m Still Here Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. I wasn’t reading it when I first read Sherri’s post, but rereading it today I am finding so many connections.)

It is important to me that I’m reading the words of people of color and others whose lived experiences can be so different from my own. It is the only way I can gain any understanding. In addition, I am grateful to the white folks who are doing the same and sharing their journeys with us. I struggle with how to be white in this society and not harm others. I appreciate mentors, others who are white who are working for racial justice. They help me determine a path to do better. Christie Nold is one of those mentors. This piece, for Teaching While White, address both her own journey and the work she is doing with students. Both are invaluable to me.

This story has made me think more deeply about the “equity lens” metaphor. I am struck by the realization that adding a new lens to my pre-existing way of thinking has the overall effect of simply tinting my way of seeing the world. While this new “tint” might move me closer to equitable ways of being, it’s not enough for the level of change our society, and my classroom, requires. It enables an intellectual understanding of the issues related to equity and justice in society and schools, but it can keep us at an emotional distance. It is for this reason that, instead of just “adding a lens,” I think more about shifting my worldview and perspective entirely. I’m trying to develop a much deeper cultural fluency.

(If you aren’t reading Teaching While White, I highly recommend it.)

Jose Vilson is another one I link to often because he can write and he has things to say. (These math teachers, like Jose, and P.E. teachers, like Sherri, who can write my socks off really challenge my preconceived notions about content area teachers.) I’ve never taught in a district that had choice in the way NYC does so understanding the high school application and testing process is challenging for me. Recognizing the ways such a process holds back students of color is not a challenge at all. Jose has written quite a bit about it and this piece really pulls it all together.

Liberation means not having to choose between test prep and meals to get into a school that loves you back.

(I wanted to pull a different line for the sheer poetry of it, but this one is more to the point. And also poetic.)

My 3rd graders probably didn’t all play Fortnite last year, but they definitely all knew about it. Kevin Hodgson wrote about Fortnite from a perspective I hadn’t considered. I don’t know enough about the game (I mostly know about the dances I see regularly!) to see the positives and negatives. Kevin probes some of the negatives here in a way that helped me.

All the things one may worry about — bullying, peer pressure, profanity, etc. — now seem to play out in the Fortnite battlefields, and sometimes spill over into the school day.

It’s important to note, if you aren’t familiar with Kevin, that he is in no way anti-gaming.  It makes his take here even more weighty for me.

One of the books I started to read as soon as I got it was Cornelius Minor‘s We Got This.

We Got This.

I gave up because the book is so dense, in the best possible way, that I decided I needed brain space for it. I put it aside for summer. I’ve started it again just recently and am taking it slowly. I need it to sink in. I need to mull it over. Reflect as I read. A few months ago Angela Watson talked with Mister Minor about this book and even this is something that shouldn’t be read quickly or lightly.

Jefferson began to ask the question, who could we be if we were more inclusive? I think that’s a really powerful question. He began to theorize that if we want to move away from a monarchy and to have a democracy, one of the things that a democracy needs are strong public schools. That if people are to vote on the issues of the day, those people need to be educated. I think that that’s a pretty radical idea because basically, Thomas Jefferson was positing that a strong public education is our greatest defense against tyranny. And, for me, that’s huge. That means that the work that we do as educators is hugely disruptive. It keeps us free.

Rereading all of these pieces is a bit overwhelming. In the best possible way.

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