Thanks for your patience as I delved headlong into my work this semester. Two issues to report.
First update: A fellow colleague and I conducted our first race and culture dialogue after our Convocation last month, the first time I’ve been part of a multiracial team on campus. We had 28 individuals attend, which was our largest group yet. It was clear that this new change is moving us in the right direction, and I’m happy to report that the gentleman who joined me as a facilitator is willing to continue doing this work with me!
I’m still working on getting out of my office more to initiate those one-on-one conversations. I know I need to make time. But, something else has been also been calling for my attention…and this is the next update.
Second update: My new classes have begun. Two sets of students: one just beginning a preliminary teacher credentialing program, the other a group of veteran teachers. Both courses attend to issues of equity, diversity, and how that can and should affect a teacher’s pedagogical approach.
Specifically, I’d like to share with you what is inspiring me at present. My students. I just completed reading personal narratives from the veteran teachers. I was blown away and grateful that I am working with them.
They are a diverse bunch. At least half appear to be children of immigrants, and a good number of them are first generation college attendees. They are Latina (with heritage from Mexico, El Salvador, and/or Cuba), African American, Irish, Scottish, and more. They are from the mid-west and the west coast. They are Catholic, public, and private school teachers. They recognize ways that they either have or have not felt advantaged and/or disadvantaged by the multiple social positions they occupy. They are individuals, first and foremost.
But there are also some themes that are so striking that I want to share them with you. In the midst of their sense of self as individuals, they are also keenly aware of themselves as members of a society that often does not offer an equal playing field. They are, as a group, absolutely committed to responding to the injustice they see within our education system. Whether they learned to use their voice as young women, challenging unfair wage discrimination, or as children watching their parents make sacrifice after sacrifice to send their children to Catholic schools where they felt they’d receive a high quality education, these are a group of highly self-reflective and insightful teachers.
Whether they challenge stereotypes by refusing to let any negative message about a lack of potential due to their racial background settle into their psyche or chose the teaching profession to ensure that they are positive and uplifting role models for those who are may succumb to negative messages, these are a group of highly dedicated and inspiring teachers.
And then, much to my joy, those students who self-identify as fitting into the category of “white” or “light skinned” are open to naming how that has or has not offered privileges. The sense of responsibility to serve and act in order to open doors (and perspective) for those they teach struck me. They teach in a diversity of settings. Those who teach primarily black and brown students speak of ensuring that they learn the cultures of the communities served. Those who teach primarily affluent, white students speak of bringing consciousness to them regarding race, class, and culture so that the young ones will be better able to navigate the world in a way that respects difference. They have learned much about power, privilege, and opportunity from their years spent in the field of education so far, and they are responding by taking up a course of study that will help them become leaders on their campuses. And, I’m so glad.
I don’t want to overstate anything here. These are primarily individuals I’m just getting to know, and I am responding to introductory papers 3-5 pages in length. That said, I just can’t help appreciating the position I occupy….and the students with whom I feel privileged to spend this semester.