So I have had a bit of a writers block when it comes to my own blog. I think there is a lot of angst in the literacy world at the moment and I in no means am trying to trivialize any of the discussions and many are important but today I was reminded of a clear and present danger to our students and their ability to be seen in our classroom, in our coworkers feeling supported and in our teaching community and the culture some of us are trying to build.
I would prefer to be dedicating all my writing to the work I love with my students. They are powerful little humans (some not so little) but I would be ignoring this, that I have a voice to address, if I did only that. So while I plan to include some of their awesome work in what I discuss today I really need to talk to my fellow White educators, especially the ones who refuse to examine their practice or keep asking others to do the work for them that they are more than capable of doing themselves.
So to begin and to help out with the tone police. Yes I am annoyed and feel free to read this post that way. I am not being negative but I refuse for one more conversation to just step away to protect the feelings of those who show no care for the feelings of others. If my talking about your shirking of responsibility to analyze your libraries, book choices, classroom activities and general attitudes towards equality, representation and respecting the voices of IBPOC teachers and student makes you uncomfortable just sit in it and think. Like Dr.Laura Jimenez said this morning on Twitter
But sadly this is not what happens. So many just dig their heels in, grip that book, movie, activity tight and repeat the phrase, “I just love this…” it is almost like they don’t hear the concerns. don’t see the problem. It is almost like they don’t hear or see the person raising the concern. Today I noticed a part of a conversation, part because I muted a consistent violator of the “not all white people…but I like to teach (insert book) even though it is racist individual who was in it. But amazing and way to patient educators, all women of colour were taking the time to try and explain to this individual why they should be looking at other texts than the ones they hold dear. Again this was met with resistance. I struggle to understand how when someone tells you a particular book makes them uncomfortable there is this continued resistance but when others call you out for this act and you cry negativity and meanness your feelings should be honoured. If you are somehow in this spot and still reading I want to be clear, if you do not value and honour the voices of Educators who are asking you to please stop using damaging texts or activities I do not honour your feelings and I will most certainly be using a tone.
We so often fall to the pattern of asking those requesting the respect and understand to take on the load of teaching us as well. Why it takes an IBPOC educator to explain why books with racist messages are inappropriate for the classroom is already beyond me, but asking them to then keep repeating themselves until it finally sinks in is offensive. And distracts them from the beautiful work they are already doing.
Dr.Kim Parker is one educator of many that puts in so much time to build other teachers up but it is time we take on the work of learning for ourselves my white teacher friends. I have learned so much from Dr.Parker and so many other that I will be tagging at the end of this post because of their brilliance but they owe me nothing. I owe them. I owe them gratitude for continuing to have patience with folx who just can’t let go of privileged thinking and behaviour and helping me to see this for what it is. I owe them a coffee or books or whatever they want when I finally get to thank them in person for inspiring me to be better. But my readers we need to stop adding the work to their shoulders.
Today someone was talking about a film that featured a white teacher who “saved” her students of colour. The person was praising the wonderful story. Another person commented about the “white saviour narrative” it promoted and how too much time is given to those stories. This critique was of course responded to in the typical fashion, “Well I liked it and I won’t let some negative person ruin this story” POINTING OUT RACIST THINGS DOESN”T RUIN A WONDERFUL STORY IT TELLS US THE STORY ISN”T WONDERFUL.
White teacher friends who continue to hold on to terrible practices like making students reenact slave trades or write letters home from concentration camps, who hold tight to their “To Kill a Mockingbirds” or “Little House on the Prairie”, to the teachers that love their picture books that represent children of colour as stereotypes because it was your favourite book as a child you need to be better. I am begging you because you are hurting children. You are contributing to racist ideologies at the very least and if that doesn’t bother you then you are very likely racist and are going to call me mean and go find someone that shares your love of “The Canon” and continue to be you.
To those that have a desire to be better like I did when Dr. Jimenez called me out from my ignorance a year or so ago after an obnoxious “Hey not all white people” response to a concern, there are so many people willing to help but do not put the work on them. Do the work and support theirs. Audit your classroom libraries, novel sets, read-alouds. Be critical of your practices and aware of the message you send with what you place value on.
Do you value all the students in your room?
Do you value the voice and opinion of brilliant educators who share concerns?
Do your choices provide your students with chances to see themselves and others in multiple ways that respect them as unique people and honour them and their culture?
If the answer is no to these questions or your actions provide that answer you have work to do. Stop asking others to do it.
Feel free to @ me I am tired of being nice.
If you want to learn more from far more brilliant educators than me please follow
@booktoss @TchKimPossible @biblio_phile @triciaebarvia @nenagerman @juliaerin80 @ChristieNold and so many more. There are countless amazing educators doing the work that is needed. These are a sample that have influenced my thinking greatly. Please take the time.
Now without further delay here are some promised snapshots of class work.