Building the Habit

Day Two of catching up on all my sharing! Yay!

from LWYang’s flickr

To kick it off, here’s a blog post from Teaching While White entitled Admit You are Racist? Three Reasons Why This Is a Good Idea by Lori Cohen. I work to read many people of color to help me learn and grow when it comes to issues around race. I also work to read white folks who are ahead of me in this process. This blog is one of those. I have no trouble admitting to being racist. It doesn’t bring me joy but I recognize the truth and can face it. But I see many white folks who are not yet able to admit their racism. It’s awfully hard, probably impossible, to improve situations and structures that are racist if we white folks can’t even see them.

Those of us who have grown up white in the United States have been conditioned to hold a racist worldview. There are many things we can and should do to help break this system, but as a starting point, it would help immensely for us to acknowledge our own racist behavior rather than spending so much energy convincing ourselves and those around us that we’re not part of the problem.

You should read the entire piece and that paragraph really gets at why it is worth your time. At least for us white folks.

Kass Minor‘s piece is another one by a white woman addressing issues of race. In her story of a former student I see myself and so many of my former students. That mirror hurts a little, but her honesty helps me see these memories as learning tools and ways for me to do better in the future.

Like so many other young Black boys, Rashid was recommended by the team of adults who worked with him, including myself, to be evaluated for special education services. I remember one of our school leaders scheduling a meeting with me and my co-teacher, imploring us to reconsider the recommendation, saying that Rashid would be at great risk for being pummeled into the school-to-prison pipeline if he was given an IEP. Yet we insisted that he would not survive his sixth-grade year if he did not receive special education supports.

Not only does Kass help me think more deeply about race and racism and what that looks like in education and schools, she writes beautifully.

I frequently think we, as adults, underestimate children. We do this in many different ways. Reading Teacher Tom‘s piece, Unsolicited Do-Gooding, reminded me of that. His point is much larger than that but it definitely reminded me of how we do not trust kids to be able to know or do things far too often. I think I love this piece, at least in part, because it’s the kind of writing I like to do – taking a personal, unrelated-to-education experience and connecting it to education. It’s lovely.

I read Recommended Reading: “No one noticed, no one heard” at a really low point for me professionally (something I’ll share more about soon) and it was really hard for me to read. I read it and then marked it unread in my RSS reader because I knew I needed to spend more time with it, but I couldn’t do it just then. Alex Shevrin Venet highlights some information from a UK report about children disclosing child abuse. I’m not going to quote any of it here because it is really hard to read (although not as hard for me now as it was when I first read it) but please go read it. And then you can follow the link to the study to learn even more.

At EduCon I attended a session, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, that I really needed at that point. That may also be why I keep coming back to this piece from Fawn Nguyen, Serenity Prayer (and Teaching). Fawn begins by pointing out some things teachers can’t change. Then she goes on to discuss things teachers can change and how they can do it. Some are huge:

  • Know that parents are sending us their best.

That’s it. End of story. Just like the customer is always right, the parent is always right. They may have funny ways of showing it — like being belligerent and crazy — but they do care about their babies. Also, no matter what color skin the parent has, he/she cares about his/her child as much I do about mine.

Others are smaller, but also meaningful. Fawn doesn’t write nearly as often as I’d like her to, but when she does it is always worth the read.

Finally, for this post anyway, is a poem from Michelle Haseltine. Michelle is one of those wonderful people I get to read and interact with online but that I’ve also gotten to know fairly well in real life. It is a gift. This poem struck because it is so personal, so honest, so open. Alone vs. Lonely is just one example of what impresses me so much about Michelle and her writing and is such a wonderful model for me.

I’ve made a dent in my Instapaper collection! Either I need to do better at keeping up with this regularly or I need to read fewer brilliant folks.


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