Welcome to the Heinemann Professional Development Professional Learning Community (PLC) series. Each month, we'll share a post designed to provoke thinking and discussion through a simple framework, incorporating mini-collections of linked content.
Use these as learning modules during your professional development time, whether in a team, a PLC, or on your own!
by Jaclyn Karabinas
“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others...”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates
Spend a few minutes writing or thinking about the above quote. Give yourself a chance to think deeply about where initial responses of sympathy and skepticism have come into play with your students or colleagues.
Keep the following guiding question in your thinking as you listen, read, write, discuss, and act: If we accept that discomfort is inevitable but silence is not a strategy, what practices or systems in your school can you examine in order to confront and change outcomes for students of color?
Listen to the below episode of the Heinemann Podcast with authors Sonja Cherry-Paul, Cornelius Minor, and Sara Ahmed. Jot down your thinking, questions, phrases/terms that stick in your mind or plead for further attention.
In the episode, Sonja tells us:
“The whole intention of schooling was to never include black and brown children. To always exclude them and to make sure that they didn't have access to education...In fact, I feel that we often try to give people credit and say but we have the best intentions, when in fact, the intentions were not the best. They aren't the best and they were never the best.”
Do you find yourself falling into the traps of “canned narratives,” insistence of innocence, silence, or making blanket assumptions based on only one set of truths? Can you name these times and process how you might have listened and responded differently?
Find some colleagues to talk about this with so you can begin confronting these patterns into which you might fall. Remember, these conversations will be uncomfortable, but this is where the work begins. If you aren’t sure where to begin, explore the idea from the opening quote about treating some sub-groups of people with skepticism or sympathy. You might find yourself not wanting to admit you have done this, but recognizing and naming this will help you to unlearn this behavior.
Read the blog “If You Think Racism is Too Political for Your Classroom, Think About What Your Silence Says.” Sonja calls for us to: Do the Work, Listen, Plan, and Act. She writes:
“All teachers should be ready to work, listen, plan, and act, but White educators hold a key role in making change. For one, the elementary and secondary educator workforce is overwhelmingly homogenous (82 percent white in public schools), and 8 out of 10 public school principals are White, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics.”
How is your thinking evolving? What topics do you need to read about or discuss more? Once you are in a routine of doing your own internal work to combat oppressive practices, how do you even begin to make change in your school?
Refine your thinking further with this video blog by Cornelius Minor as he helps us through the process of identifying when change needs to happen.
Continue the work of educating yourself and listening to those who share truths quite different from your own. Join together with colleagues and regularly revisit our guiding question: If we accept that discomfort is inevitable but silence is not a strategy, what practices or systems in your school can you examine in order to confront and change outcomes for students of color?
For Further Reading:
Confronting My Privilege to Teach About Privilege by P.L. Thomas
- Breathing New Life Into Book Clubs by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen, Foreword by Cornelius Minor
Looking for more PD?
Online: We have an upcoming 3-part webinar series with Patty Vitale-Reilly and Lisa Eickholdt starting on May 8th! Join them online to get started with writing workshop or to refresh your workshop practices.
Off-Site: We have some spots left in a few of our workshops that remain this season. Check out the schedule and see who is coming your way!
On-Site: Heinemann’s Speakers & Consulting Authors are thought leaders in how to create successful classroom and school environments based on respect, collaboration, empathy, and positivity.