I look around and notice more and more conferences paying more and more attention to race, class, and multicultural competence. Last year’s Teaching and Learning Conference was a great example of a huge step forward, and this year, they consolidated that step forward with a good number of awesome and thought-provoking keynotes, panels, and sessions with noted educators of colour such as Renée Moore, Pedro Noguera, and José Vilson, and perhaps most significantly, 11-year-old Marley Dias. Ms. Dias found herself frustrated by the dearth of books featuring Black girls in her school; when her mother asked her what she intended to do about it, she didn’t hesitate for a second. In November of 2016, she launched the wildly successful #1000BlackGirlBooks drive, more than quadrupling her initial goal. (Teaching and Learning 2016) You can find her website here.
The total feminist failure I am, I haven't planned anything for International Women's Day. Help. - Queen Lilipop (tweet posted Monday, March 7, 2016)
Well. The total feminist failure I am, I hadn’t even known International Women’s Day was upon us. It wouldn’t have taken me long to realize it, though, as my timelines today have been flooded with tweets and posts (many of them from Queen Lilipop!), and as Facebook offered up a memory of the year I went to Radnor University to demonstrate on the bridge in support of Zainab Salbi and Women for Women International. One of my first clicks was on this video posted by The Global Goals and shared by Girl Effect which laid out four major areas for global goals over the next 15 years. Their goals led me to reflect on the progress we are making and the work yet to be done.
As the new year begins, for whatever reason, countless teachers have been jumping on the #oneword bandwagon - in fact, it was the topic of a #satchatwc conversation just this morning. Actually, it was also the original topic for this post, until I saw my friend Rusul Alrubail write, “I don't have a #oneword this year. What shall a girl do?” and I quickly decided (resolved, if you will) to reorganize.
As it turned out, Alaine Jolicoeur, our French teacher-intern, and I wanted to attend the exact same sessions at Saturday’s GLSEN-Massachusetts conference and, as it turned out, we both had good instincts as that made for just about the perfect flow for the day. It began with keynote speeches focusing on affirming the wonderful spectrum of people attending as well as the inclusive theme “both/and,” moving on to a morning session dominated by trans and non-binary kids telling their stories and sharing methods of self-care, lunch, a session on intersectionality with a mix of kids and adults, a session attended entirely by educators on supporting K-8 kids, and finally a closing moment written and performed by those attending Trenda Loftin’s final workshop session.
The National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) held their Annual Conference from June 22-24, 2015 at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia. The theme was “From STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way.” Sally Mixsell, Head of School, attended along with science teachers Andrea Tehan Carnes and Meghan Lena, and Bill Ivey, Middle School Dean. Over the weeks following the conference, we are sharing our thoughts on what we learned and what we did.
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, I was both encouraged and unsurprised to see that Shawn Durrett, Dean of Faculty, had shared links to an article on the creation of a website called #CharlestonSyllabus and to the website itself. On Twitter, I had witnessed the ongoing emergence of #CharlestonSyllabus, designed to provide resources and support for teachers who wanted to follow up in a meaningful way, and had wondered how I would ever be able to keep track of everything. The website was exactly what I needed, and I wrote Shawn immediately to thank her for sharing the much-needed resource.
(originally written on May 31, 2015)
I’ll be honest - this is not normally the time of year when I feel the best about my work. As much as I try hard to make every minute count (a refrain I share with my students throughout any given school year), the sudden absence of the cushion of “Okay, she did better in these ways, but she’s still got to work on this. That’ll be for the next unit!” hits hard. Luckily, the sadness my students generally express as we prepare to go our separate ways over the summer, and the kind words they say about my class in the process. go a long way toward helping me keep the faith to some extent. And with time, and rest, and more time, perspective returns.
One of the dominant themes of the 2015 Teaching and Learning Conference was cultural competence, and for good reason. Students of colour are systematically underserved by our system, with systemic racism within our society leaving schools whose students are predominantly of colour underfunded, underresourced, and subject to a far higher teacher turnover rate than average. As Renee Moore has noted, post-Brown desegregation arguably served black students less well than the separate and not-remotely-equal system that preceded it, and we have not yet repaired that wrong. And as José Vilson has noted, the profession is becoming increasingly white even as our student population is becoming increasingly of colour. The percentage of black male teachers in particular has fallen from an already low 3% to 2%, with no signs of an imminent upsurge.
In the movie Parenthood, there’s a scene in which Dianne Wiest, as single mom Helen Buckman, comforts her 16-year-old daughter Julie, whose boyfriend has just left her. Smoothing her hair, she says, “Men are scum.” Just as she repeats, “Men are scum,” her younger son Gary walks in the house and overhears her. Caught in the moment, faced with his hurt and stunned expression, desperate to smooth things over, she looks up at him with a big smile and says... “Hi, Gary!”
Imagine the scene (and its aftermath) if Helen had said “All men are scum.” Now replace that with “Some men are scum.”
Now imagine the scene and its aftermath if Gary had screamed, “Not all men.”
And as you do so, don’t forget Julie.