NOTE: This post was originally published and written for Literacy Today, a publication of the International Literacy Association (ILA). Click on the image at the right to download or print a PDF of the original article (and click here browse the entire issue).
In May 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its Hate at School report. Using information gathered from teacher questionnaires and news media reports, the SPLC found an alarming uptick in the number of incidents of hate and bias occurring in U.S. schools. Teachers reported that the most common driver of these incidents was racial or ethnic bias, with anti-LGBTQ bias a close second. Furthermore, a majority of these incidents occurred in spaces where adults were present: 32% in classrooms and 37% in shared spaces such as hallways, bathrooms, or other parts of the building.
Think about what that means. The majority of incidents of hate and bias occur in the presence of adults.
Advancing the false idea that teaching through an antiracist lens and developing students’ reading and writing skills are mutually exclusive is a gross misinterpretation of the work I see many teachers do—teachers who engage students in deep learning and support them in developing the skills necessary to be active, informed participants in a democracy.
Excellent teachers know how to help students to develop the reading, writing, and communication skills they will need to be successful in the world and how to put those skills in service of a more just society.
These are not mutually exclusive.
We teach more than skills. And furthermore, we teach more than content, too.
After all, currently there are many people in power who have rich content and disciplinary knowledge. But what comprises that content? What types of knowledge (and whose) is deemed valuable? There are also many people currently in power who also have excellent reading, writing, and communication skills. The question is: how are they using those skills? To what ends? For whose benefit? And at whose expense? Read More
“Your racial consciousness determines how you show up.”
A few weeks ago, a small group of teachers—all of us teachers of color—gathered for dinner with Tony Hudson, an Equity Transformational Specialist from the Pacific Education Group (PEG). This year, our district partnered with PEG to facilitate the courageous conversations about race that our schools—and really, all schools—need to have in our classrooms, buildings, systems. During our conversation, Tony pointed out this simple truth: “Your racial consciousness determines how you show up.”
I wrote that line down and have been turning it over in my head ever since.
What does it mean to “show up” in anti-racist work? What does it mean to “show up” in educational spaces—educational spaces which (of all places) should be inherently anti-racist but are often not? And why not?
As long as teachers continue to show up in classrooms racially unconscious, educational institutions will continue to be spaces that perpetuate racist systems and inequities.
Because your racial consciousness determines how you show up.
Daniel was the son
raised in the valley. A bucket for a
swimming pool. Air conditioning was
hosing down the cement porch,
waiting for a breeze. Him and Mom,
Granny and Papá Romulo.
Then Dad returned from the war. That’s all
I know of the war.
Raul was raised in San Antonio.
Daniel & Raul,
speaking Spanish, singing boleros,
eating raspas, and parting their hair on the side.
Los hijos de Junior y Noelia.
Tan joven, tan guapo.
They knew the valley, they knew
__________I came late. Learned late.
I ended our first full week of school by writing, and reading aloud, a letter to my students. There’s so much more to say, but it’s a start. This weekend, they write back. 🙂
August 31, 2018
Dear 10th graders,
One question that I often get from students is why I decided to become a teacher. I’m not sure, but I think kids ask this question because maybe you’re at a place in your life where you’re starting to wonder what you’ll do with your own, what college you’ll go to and what you might want to study. And maybe even if you have no plans to become a teacher, maybe when students ask, it’s because they’re curious about what goes into making a decision like that. Why do people choose what they choose? How do people end up as teachers, accountants, doctors, business people, sales workers? Read More
This summer, when writing’s been challenging for me, I’ve started to use Twitter as a place to draft my thoughts in series of Tweets and then revisit later as blog post. There’s something about limiting myself to the small writing of just 280 characters that makes it feel a little more manageable.
Yesterday, my friend Julie Jee Tweeted about her teaching life, specifically how her concerns as a teacher have changed over time: Read More
What I’m working on this week includes too many things. And whenever I get into “too many things” territory, I’ll follow the advice I always give to students who find themselves similarly overwhelmed: make a list, prioritize, take on one thing at a time. Read More
Reading a few conversations online recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the urgent need for us as teachers to do some hard, internal work of unpacking the identities we bring to the classroom. More and more lately, I’ve seen teachers get defensive in conversations about curriculum, which I’ve come to realize are often really conversations about racism, sexism, classism, and other issues in which arguments about books and the canon have become a proxy.
Teaching is an intensely human activity. The best teachers are those who know that teaching—and students—cannot be standardized. Giving two teachers the same curriculum and asking them to follow it “with fidelity” is an impossible task. Not only are the teachers different individuals, but they’re also charged with the care of dozens of individual children. We teach who we are. This is what can make our practice so powerful—even transformative—but also potentially dangerous.
We bring all of our identities—and the experiences that informed them—into our teaching. So we have to interrogate the ways in which these experiences have shaped our practices and our relationships with kids. These experiences are those that gave us opportunities to be educated ourselves, which eventually led to our teaching “credentials.” It’s this professional learning and all our years in the classroom that we draw upon when we make decisions. We draw upon our years of kid-watching and theory-making.
But I would argue that it’s often our personal identities and experiences that have the most profound effects on our teaching, and that which most often—and most dangerously—go unexamined. Read More
One of the wonderful things that the #DisruptTexts chat has brought is opportunities to talk with teachers about what disruption can look like in the English classroom. Yesterday was one of those days as our team was invited to talk with teachers at an NCTE Summer Institute workshop run by Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury called “Continuing the Journey: Becoming a Better Teacher of Literature.”
Yesterday at the workshop, Ken opened with the question, “What does it mean to
#DisruptTexts?” My initial response was to frame it within the context of our classrooms. And so #DisruptTexts for me involves at least two related and necessary moves: Read More
I‘ve been in a serious writing slump over the last year or longer. I don’t know what it is. I joked with a friend that since I’ve been engaging and thinking more on Twitter that I’ve only been able to think in 240 characters at a time. It’s become a real problem.
But someone suggested seeing the micro-writing I’m doing on Twitter as small, rough drafts—pieces of thinking, some scrappier than others, that I might be able to reflect upon, cobble some thoughts together, and then explore a bit deeper. A few days ago, I posted a thread reflecting on the diversity of my own reading life, so I want to include those thoughts and expand a little on them here. Read More