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1. Teaching Anti-Racist, Anti-Bias Themes in a Racial Pandemic
Fund for Teachers - The Podcast
In her essay “Don't Say Nothing," Jamilah Pitts exhorts educators that teaching as an act of resistance and teaching as an act of healing are not mutually exclusive. That when teachers choose to remain silent about moments of racial tension or violence—violence that may well touch students’ own communities or families—these children are overtly reminded of their inferior place in society.
1. Racism - The Pandemic That Never Went Away
Thinking About Day 1 - The Podcast
Our second episode is a conversation with Jamilah Pitts, an educator, consultant, and contributing author to Teaching Tolerance. Our conversation addresses how "teaching as activism, teaching as care" can help us all better support students of color and ensure our classrooms and schools are spaces of and for anti-racism.
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Students Lose When Black Women Aren’t Supported
Date Published: 11/15/2021
I made the abrupt decision to resign from my position as school leader—in the middle of the school year. Since then, I have been on my own healing journey, sitting deep in self-reflection, working to heal the trauma and PTSD that I regularly experience as a result of my time in schools. Friends, family, coaches and mentors helped me to see the ways in which leading in schools stripped me of so much of my power that has taken years to reclaim...
Chauvin Was Found Guilty. Now What?
Date Published: 4/27/2021
It’s been one week since Derek Chauvin, the officer who brutally murdered George Floyd in broad daylight, was found guilty of all three charges against him. You and your students, colleagues or staff are likely still experiencing a flood of emotions. Some of you may be feeling relieved or hopeful, while others might still be feeling the continual exhaustion that comes as a result of ongoing violence, vitriol and hate. It has been a hard year—and perhaps this verdict makes some educators feel that our nation has finally arrived at a point where justice is being actualized…
The Role of the Teacher in the Work of Liberation
Date Published: 10/22/2020
Teachers are among the most notable and essential professionals within any society. A teacher, James Baldwin writes, “deals with the hearts and minds of young people, and must, therefore, ‘be prepared to go for broke.’” With our country at a time of high division, when brutality against Black bodies persists and wars continue to rage around the role of education in this country, where then should teachers sit? How might educators...
Self-Care Can Be Social Justice
Date Published: 09/29/2020
We live in a time where the terms “self-care” and “treating ourselves,” albeit well-meaning, are common and commercial language. The terms bring to the forefront the ideas of placing oneself first, caring for our mental and physical health, and—in many cases—affording ourselves the pleasures that will allow us to feel good. But Audre Lorde’s popularly quoted phrase about self-care means much more than that for me, a Black woman who has worked in schools with mostly Black children...
What Anti-racism Really Means for Educators
Date Published: 09/11/2020
Anti-racist work in all schools is essential. It is the exercise of hope, the practice of undoing and dismantling systems of oppression, the practice of freedom and of truth-telling. Anti-racist work is the practice of healing and of restoring; it is a practice of love. We live in a time where it is increasingly clear that Black lives are deeply undervalued and violently treated. And as the words anti-racist and equity become dangerously trendy, educators should pause and grapple with what they truly mean...
It’s Time to Move Beyond Buzzwords and Radically Re-imagine Schools
Date Published: 06/16/2020
Educators have to move beyond the buzzwords and trends circulating today if we are seeking to truly transform schools. The terms “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” simply are not enough. And I fear now that the radicalism tied to anti-racist work is being watered down. Educational trendy buzzwords pave a destructive road for the commodification of otherwise transformative action. This era of “trendiness” is a distraction from the truth of how we got here: intentionally crafted systems...
Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care
Date Published: 05/15/2020
I have begun to feel helpless during this time. But I never felt helpless as a teacher. Teaching, for me, has always been a vehicle. A vehicle for freedom, for truth telling, for hell raising. It has long been my understanding and approach to solving complex problems that diseases and illness must be dissected, studied and understood so that we can act upon them. The classroom was, for me, in many ways a sanctuary, a laboratory and a place where the helplessness that I might begin to feel as a person who belongs to protected classes was put to bed...
Black Girls and Mental Health: An interview with Dr. Kimani Norrington - Sands
Date Published: 06/25/2020
I had the opportunity to have a necessary and enlightening conversation with Dr. Kimani Norrington - Sands, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Owner of Lifting As We Climb Consulting. We discussed the importance of mental health in communities of color, and focused specifically on mental health, wellness and blackgirlhood. This interview offers deep insight into the unique challenges that girls of color may face with regard to their mental health and wellness, the ways that myths around “angry” black women and girls...
"Woke" language is not a substitute for the deep work anti-racism requires
Date Published: 06/16/2020
Educators have to move beyond the buzzwords and trends circulating today if we are seeking to truly transform schools. The terms “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” simply are not enough. And I fear now that the radicalism tied to anti-racist work is being watered down. Educational trendy buzzwords pave a destructive road for the commodification of otherwise transformative action. This era of “trendiness” is a distraction from the truth of how we got here: intentionally crafted systems of oppression that have sustained inequity in this country...
How are our girls?
Date Published: 05/18/2020
How are our girls? Are they breathing? Writing? Have they been allowed to dance and to share what they might be thinking? In this time of great pause, of wonder, of worry, of fear and illness, have we paused to consider the wellness of our girls? The conversations around the COVID - 19 global pandemic today are much like the contemporary and historical conversations around crises that our world has seen. There is great coverage in the news about politics, about leadership...
Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care
Date Published: 05/15/2020
I have begun to feel helpless during this time. But I never felt helpless as a teacher. Teaching, for me, has always been a vehicle. A vehicle for freedom, for truth telling, for hell raising. It has long been my understanding and approach to solving complex problems that diseases and illness must be dissected, studied and understood so that we can act upon them. The classroom was, for me, in many ways a sanctuary, a laboratory and a place where the helplessness...
Urban Teachers of Color Pushed Out: Why I Left the Classroom
Date Published: 01/07/2019
Recently, a close friend sent me a news article about our childhood neighbor and elementary school classmate who was set to be arraigned on significant drug-trafficking crimes in our city. While my friend and I had gone on to earn advanced degrees and certificates, our classmate had succumbed to the pressures of the environments we had grown up in. This happens all the time. I hear from a friend, a classmate or my sister about the devastating trajectories of our peers, children I shared meals, toys, games and laughed with: They’ve been arrested, given life sentences in prison or murdered...
The Black Church Cannot ‘Pray Away’ Mental Illness
Date Published: 08/29/2018
Last week, actress Taraji P. Henson launched her own foundation for mental health awareness. This comes after singer Michelle Williams shared a courageous statement about her battle with mental illness and how she is seeking treatment. In an age where black women are lauded for being strong, carefree and magical, Henson and Williams show there is strength in vulnerability and seeking help for our mental health...
Have Your Feelings for Black and Latino Students Lowered Your Expectations for Them?
Date Published: 05/23/2018
For years, I have taught in schools with black and Latino students from mostly urban backgrounds. I am infuriated and overwhelmed by the countless issues affecting our kids that we as teachers have no control over: racism, poverty, budget cuts, and teacher turnover, to name a few. I cannot protect our boys from police harassment. I cannot protect our girls from the intersection of silences that consumes them. They are young women in a society that still objectifies their bodies and places limits on the ways in which they can speak out...
Appreciation for My Fellow Teachers
Date Published: 05/09/2018
To my fellow teachers: As you find time to read this, I imagine that you are tired, your feet likely sore, but your heart must be full because you have spent the day working with young people. Still, you find time to think about your students. Maybe you wonder if you said the right words to the student who cried endlessly to you after school, or if you did a disservice to the student whose pains from their home life resulted in an eruption during second period today...
Teach Your Students About Black Women This
Women’s History Month
Date Published: 03/28/2018
It is easy to celebrate black women when it is convenient or comfortable. Americans appreciate black women when our voter turnout leads to necessary victories in Congress. We loved Beyoncé, until she said to stop killing us, and we love Oprah, so long as her messages do not become too radical, of course. But rarely does American society acknowledge the contributions of black women or their role in our history...
We Can’t Teach Black History in Isolation
Date Published: 02/21/2018
In his 1963 address “A Talk to Teachers,” novelist and social critic James Baldwin cautioned that one of the paradoxes of education was that “precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.” Educated individuals, he continued, then have a responsibility to make change. Decades later, Baldwin’s sentiments are still relevant...
Black History Month Teaching: Miseducation or Empowerment?
Date Published: 02/06/2018
Given the political, racial and social climate in which we are operating, teaching about black history in 2018 might be frightening, controversial even. You might be unsure of how to talk about race with your students, especially if your race or ethnicity differs from theirs. Or you might be concerned about responses from other educators, people in the community and even your students' families...
Why I Will Not Be Teaching About Charlottesville
Date Published: 08/17/2017
Like many teachers, I returned to school on Monday, August 14, after being saturated by the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. As I had done post the Zimmerman trial, post Ferguson, post Charleston, post Sandra Bland, post Philando Castile and post the 2016 election, I went to work. My decision to turn off my phone, unplug from social media and avoid futile internet searches had not been enough to ease my mind on Sunday, so I pulled myself out my bed the next day and went to work...
Bringing Black Lives Matter Into the Classroom | Part II
Date Published: Summer 2017
In my article “Don’t Say Nothing,” I warn about the dangers of teachers being silent on the issue of racial violence. And what I love about this profession is that, when teachers do speak, when we take a stance and choose to engage in the political, we plant seeds for the next generation. When we teach in ways that promote respect, love, empathy and understanding—despite the difficulties we may face in doing so—we have the power to influence young people who will eventually become doers and leaders in this world...
Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matters | Part I
Date Published: Summer 2017
For Trinity Thompson, the decision of whether or not to address high-profile killings of black people with her second-graders was a no-brainer. She was teaching in Harlem soon after Eric Garner was killed by a police officer in a nearby New York City borough. “How do I respond to this?” Thompson recalls asking herself. “And then from there, it was like, How do I respond to this—again?” Each time news reports covered another black person dying at the hands of police, her students—most of whom were black—asked more and more difficult questions....
Don't Say Nothing
Date Published: Fall 2016
As educators we (sometimes unknowingly) step into roles of advocate, caretaker, guide, and even mother or father to students. Students pay attention to everything we say and do. They particularly pay attention to our silence. We may be uncomfortable talking about race, but we can no longer afford to be silent. We have chosen a profession, which—like parenting—requires that our comforts come second to those of children. Many black and brown students are educated in school systems and classrooms where they, despite making up the racial majority, are taught how to understand a world by a staff comprised of a powerful minority....
Art as Resistance, Part 2
Date Published: 04/12/2016
After spending the previous few weeks analyzing social issues in the Dominican Republic (DR), my students brought in projects that expressed their resistance to issues like sexism, racism and poverty through the performing and visual arts. Projects ranged from body sculptures representing standards of beauty in the DR and Latin America to mini-films on common types of high school bullying. I was simply blown away...
Art as Resistance, Part 1
Date Published: 03/17/2016
I’m from Ohio, but I teach high school English literature at an international school in the Dominican Republic. As I returned for my second year in this role, I was both overwhelmed and excited when thinking about how to get my students to read their worlds more critically. Too often, I feel burdened by the disparities that plague this unbelievably beautiful island. While it boasts undeniable beauty and charm, the Dominican Republic is simultaneously affected by self-denial and rejection, educational and economic disparity, sexism, colorism and racism...