In March 2020, schools closed due to Covid-19. Educators across the country stepped up and brought classrooms online. Teachers have an innate ability to adapt and influence the world. We encourage our kids to keep learning and keep growing. So do we.
reading and sharing
Teaching Tolerance is a project by the Southern Law Poverty Center and it offers free books and resources for educators. These tools help you better understand students and create a classroom that supports and values identities, families, and emotions. If you work in a preschool or daycare, NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) has books to purchase on its website or through bookstores. Buying books can be a financial strain; Make a wishlist to share with administrators, librarians, or community donors. Edutopia compiled a number of online resources in A Guide to Equity and Antiracism for Educators.
be willing to unlearn
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia about an hour away from Jamestown, the first English settlement in the United States, and Colonial Williamsburg, another town with ties to the British Empire. I recently discovered that the land surrounding my parents’ home once was a plantation. Through conversations with childhood friends, we realized we were taught little of slavery, segregation, and disenfranchisement, though we grew up in an area once battered by Union and Confederate armies and then the Jim Crow laws that followed them. As an adult I am unlearning and learning concurrently.
I have personally experienced only minor incidents of racism. I have privilege. Asians are stereotypically viewed as “Model Minorities” and the history of Asians in America is complex and worth exploring. I will keep learning and keep growing. It’s easy to share in this lovely bubble of Instagram or blog collective. It’s hard to confront friends or family in quiet places. And sadly it really does change or sever what we once held. We can choose to build a home surrounded with fencing or flowers. I will have a house with a garden.
the teaching profession
While schools have become more diverse, our profession has not. Less than 8% of public school teachers are Latinx. Less than 7% are Black. Less than 2% are Asian. Even less are Indigenous. The majority of teachers sharing stories and lessons are white (source: NCES Survey 2011-2012).
talking about race
It is common to hear five-year-olds say: I am brown. I am tan. I am peach (source: Starting Small). I can tell if families have spoken about racial idenfities. Kids will share: I am Black. I am white. I am Mexican. This is usually followed up with a peer saying: “No you are not! No one is white.” This is age-appropriate thinking; kindergarteners recognize skin is quite different than the colors of packaged art supplies. Beautiful Skin from Sesame Street is a lovely song and video to share with young learners. It is my duty to listen, teach, or correct misunderstandings at school. I am also a mother and it is important to talk to my child at home. Last year he asked, “I can’t find my color crayon so what am I?” The National Museum of African American History and Culture has resources for educators, parents, and allies.
be open to different perspectives
We teach empathy to children by discussing and validating emotions, modeling, and roleplaying how other people may feel or interpret a situation. Bias as adults can mar our own empathy. Stories are an effective way for both children and adults to learn and retain empathy (source: Karen Young). Finding Your Roots on PBS is one the shows we watch as a family. The show helps celebrities or notable Americans piece together their family histories. Mr. Gates and researchers uncover answers to questions like: Who am I? Where did I come from? What does this mean? What will I do?
teachers of 2020
As schools plan to reopen or remain remote, teachers will face more challenges this fall and winter. I hope that we can give each other and our students and families the gifts of patience, grace, and continued health. I would love to connect with other educators and share our learning. Feel free to email or find me on Instagram.