Every day, when I walk into my classroom, I’m thinking “Who are these kids, what do they need in general, and what does it look like they need today?” To my thinking, good pedagogy is quite simply that which enables me to know the answers to those questions and fulfill those needs.
I remember the air of celebration surrounding the first GLSEN Massachusetts student-educator conference I ever attended, some years ago now. I got the sense that here was a place where LGBTQ+ kids could - however temporarily - feel safe enough to burst forth from the closet. This year, that same sense of being accepted as one’s exact authentic self persisted, but in a calmer, more matter-of-fact way. This year’s conference theme, “Undone - Undoing - Still,” undoubtedly played a role in that. And in her welcome speech, Board member Trenda Loftin further expressed the mood of the conference, quoting activist Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
When you see the world through another set of eyes, it's a more beautiful place. - Melody Brook
I had a good fortune to attend the Translating Identity Conference on Saturday, October 14 at the University of Vermont. As the website says, “The largest conference of its kind in New England, TIC is a free, student organized, non-profit conference that seeks to reach not only the University of Vermont & the Burlington community, but the nation as a whole.” As I arrived, the “Welcome” was just getting underway, and Melody Brook, an adjunct professor at Champlain College and a member of the Einu Abenaki tribe, officially welcomed us with words and song to a site that once belonged to her people.
(This post was written after encountering yet another courageous link admiring yet another courageous blog about the importance of courage. While that blog, and thus this post, is centered on the diversity of gender and sexuality, I want to explicitly recognize that many marginalized people have been saying exactly the same thing for years, be it non-white people on “courageous conversations about race,” disabled people on “inspiration porn,” and so on.)
It builds up over time. Sometimes, you ignore it. Other times, you shake your head. Or mutter, “I don’t think so.” Or suddenly close your laptop and jump up and stride away. And then, every so often, you crack.
Alfie Kohn is one of my educational heroes. His thoughts and work have infused my practice for decades, as well as that of a number of my colleagues, and from our first days in 2004, these principles have provided key foundations and touchpoints for our middle school program. I follow him on Twitter, and read nearly everything he shares.
Invocation delivered at Convocation by Shayna Appel '78
The legendary poet, writer, playwright and social activist James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
I started a blog post back in mid June entitled “Beyond Intentions,” but time and time again I would crank out a few sentences or even a paragraph and then grind to a halt, staring at my screen with an increasing sense of despair before acknowledging I was - once again - stuck. Stabbing at my laptop’s keys (apologies to our IT team, Tod and Jason!), I would erase everything in my Google Doc and, with a mental sigh, find something, anything else to do.
(title courtesy of Nancy Flanagan)During the early summer heat wave in Europe, stories were turning up all over the Internet about boys wearing skirts to school and men wearing dresses to work. Jake Steward (our English Department Chair) sent me an email one day with a link to an article I hadn’t yet seen (though it began to crop up increasingly frequently), “ Teenage Boys Turn Up at Devon School Dressed in Skirts.” At one level, these boys may not have made that choice if (in order of ease of remedy) a) their schools had a dress code that permitted boys to wear shorts, b) their schools had air-conditioning, and/or c) climate change wasn’t contributing to ever more extreme weather patterns. But at another level, there was fairly rapid and widespread buy-in to the skirt protest. I’m honestly not sure that would have been true just five years ago, no matter what the weather.
It was a beautiful sunny Wednesday. My wife was away on an administrators’ retreat as her school was preparing to start the year, and I needed to focus on preparing for the upcoming NENTS 2.0 conference (designed for inexperienced teachers who have spent at least a year in the classroom) that I was co-facilitating. I hopped in the car and drove up to Charlottesville.
“Well, maybe we'll still make the keynote,” I said to my student as we began the 10-minute walk from Wheelock's main campus, where I had attended last year's GLSEN Massachusetts Spring Conference (GLSEN being an organization that supports LGBTQ+ students and educators as well as their allies), to Wheelock's Brookline campus where, it turned out, this year's conference was held. They (the pronoun this student uses; here is a list of common choices) answered cheerfully, “Oh, it's okay. We'll get there.”