Still Working on the Backlog

Okay, after three posts so far I think I’m about halfway through everything I’ve saved in my Instapaper for the past several months. I know how important it is to me to have routines and I let this routine crash for a while. It is tough to get it back but I’ll be glad when I’m on track again. There are so many brilliant folks out there sharing generously.

The idea of consent is one that i believe in strongly. It is also a place in which I fail daily. I spend my days around young children, my students and my own daughters (although as they’re teens/tweens, young children is probably not the right term for them). I know I touch them, a hand on a shoulder, a hug, or a hand on the back guiding them in some direction, without consent all the time. It’s something I am trying to change. I have gotten far better at asking children if I can give them a hug, or more often, if they would like a hug. It’s not a habit for me yet but it is a goal. As well as helping children see that they should do the same and get consent from their peers before physical contact. This piece, Conditions of Consent: Teaching Children Bodily Autonomy, by Jenn Jackson, was a great to help me clarify my own thoughts on this idea. I think it matters a lot, long term.

Fundamentally, these instances are about our collective avoidance of consent and the rape culture that overlooks its importance. Because of this culture, children in elementary school, especially girls, are socialized into non-consensual touching, unwanted physical intimacy, and deeply misogynistic notions of bodily autonomy.

Jenn Jackson really gets at why we need to be sure children understand that they are the ones in control of their bodies. And that requires we fight against messages they hear again and again.

On a totally different note, Tim Stahmer wrote about homework. I have strong feelings about homework as well. Even before my own daughters were in school I had begun moving away from homework. I realized I was assigning it to my fourth graders because it was something teachers did. I hated going over the homework and would often quietly recycle it rather than spend my time with it. Once I realized that I knew it didn’t make much sense. I send home books with kids every night so they can read. Other than that I hope their afternoons and evenings are spent in ways that they (and their families) choose, not ways I choose for them. As a parent this has been strongly reinforced for me. Homework causes serious stress for my own children at times and certainly interferes with things we want to do as a family. Tim’s references, his thoughts, and his questions are worth reading if you assign homework or not.

I’m not suggesting that every teacher should eliminate homework from their practice.

Only that every teacher should take a long, hard look at what they are asking students to do at home and why. Does the work really benefit the kids? Are those assignments valuable to their learning?

Today is Gary Stager‘s birthday so I love that one of his pieces showed up in my list. The Subtlety of Prompt Setting addresses language and how much it matters. He explores a prompt given to a bunch of teachers at a workshop and the wording one participant used when describing it. Gary explains why the prompt was worded in the way it was originally. I love seeing the thought process behind something, especially something that seems as simple as a prompt. Having thoughtful educators lay out their processes helps me grow in ways that might not even have been on my radar. In this instance, thinking about the language I use with students has been on my radar. I spend a surprising amount of time thinking through how to word questions so as to give students the flexibility, freedom, and range to respond rather than to set it up in ways that suggest a specific idea or strategy.

Why quarrel over such subtle differences in wording?

  • Words matter
  • My prompt was an invitation to embark on a playful learning adventure complete with various sizes of candy eggs and a seasonal theme. Posing the activity as a problem/solution raises the stakes needlessly and implies assessment.

Words matter. I think that gets ignored far too often.

Apparently I can’t write one of the collections without a piece from Sherri Spelic. In this one she reflects on a conference she attended and at which she presented. I fear anything I write is going to take away from her beautifully written piece so suffice it to say that she reflects on this conference, the good and bad, with such clear eyes and thoughtfulness that it gave me new thoughts on how to make reflections more meaningful in the future. (I believe strongly in the importance of reflecting and am always trying to do so in ways that are more useful.)

I struggled with an internal need to defend my right to be present as a real live teacher without a leadership title. And yet I persisted.

It’s a challenge to balance praise and criticism of an event when both are necessary.

Three months ago this piece from Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz was all over my social media. (This piece is still his pinned tweet suggesting it is still important to him.) It’s not a short piece but it is another of those by a white person working on how to be in our society in a way that does not harm others. It requires effort for white folks to be anti-racist as our society is built on racism. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s worth the time.

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.

Coming at this from a different direction is this piece from Kelly Wickham Hurst. The title is Racial Identity and a Certain Looking White Woman. White women are in the interesting place of being women, and therefore at a disadvantage in our society in many ways, and being white, and therefore having power in our society in many ways. This often results, I think, in white women feeling they need to save BIPOC. Kelly writes about how quickly she can identify a “Certain Looking White Woman”.

I share this part of my identity work because there are far too many white women who assume they’re safe for me. Many are shocked when I identify them as the source of my fear and anxiety. Often, they’ve never considered the danger they pose to me. Some will ask, once I’ve told this part of my story, “Do I look like a Certain Looking White Woman? Is it me?”

If you, like me, are a white woman, you have likely been that woman before. I am certain I have been (although without any confrontation because I’m too wimpy for that – just the looks and ‘concern’). Not being that woman and raising my daughters to not be is the goal. Learning from BIPOC, especially women, is what I am doing to reach that goal.

On the whole I share these pieces in the order in which I read them. It is fascinating to me to look back over what I collected. What did I choose to curate to share? Whose writing did I save? Sharing these helps me reflect on the reading I am doing. Time is finite and I want to know I am spending it well.

2 replies on “Still Working on the Backlog”

  1. Jen, I’m so glad you take the time to do these round-ups. Of course, I’m honored to be included but even more so I’m glad to see someone not only take the time to read blogs but to also share them in a meaningful way, letting people know what struck and stayed with you. I always appreciate looking up the other posts you found interesting. It’s a particular form of community care that you practice here, a kind of magnet that brings different folks in proximity with each other. Thank you. It matters greatly.

    • jenorr says:

      Sherri, you are very generous. I do hope people discover new folks and ideas through these posts but I write them as much to force myself to reflect in meaningful ways. That’s what blogging has been for me from the beginning. Other people reading and finding something useful is just a bonus!

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