classroom, live in the now, racial justice, teaching

Anti-Racism: Reflecting on 15 Years of Being a Public Educator

The murder of George Floyd and the beginning of another historical life changing world event, a racial justice movement, occurred within the last 9 teaching days of the 2019-2020 school year.

The students in my third grade class and their parents may or may not have been expecting acknowledgement or a comment from their teacher about this turning point in our country. We were days away from the “celebration” of the end of an exhausting and traumatic year that was interrupted by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Thoughts and words were shared within the classroom and the school communities during the last days of an unprecedented school year. Final goodbyes were said. Virtual hugs were given. Life went on into the transition to summer vacation.

Words.

The words that we share, read and hear, the ones that we choose to say or not to say make an impact. It may last for as long as a topic is trending. The impact of words might have the power and potential to resonate with us for however long we individually “survive” through this time in history.

The following are collections of some words that may have impacted and influenced educators in different ways over the last decade or so.

The last list, along with so many other words and names not mentioned yet, hold the power to change the narrative for educators and students.

What if these words and topics were addressed and used more frequently in structured and respectful conversations in the school setting, even at the elementary level?

What impact could these words and ideas have during weekly lesson planning, staff meetings, parent communication, and data analysis?

Would the conversations be uncomfortable?

How would students benefit from the use of these words and topics in their learning spaces?

Some teachers may agree that the topics from the first 3 word lists have always held a higher priority than the last one prior to May 25th, 2020. How important are they now, given the current state of the world?

Summer vacation during the time of Covid-19 invited many educators to get comfortably uncomfortable and take the journey of digging deep into the truths of racism.

What is one of the biggest and most important truths?

Having the choice to learn about racism is a privilege.

After the choice is made, words can either be used to try to keep things as “normal” as possible, or they can dramatically change the narrative.

Actions do speak louder, but the words are the place to start.

declutter

Talking to myself

Finally. I have channeled the inner YouTuber that exists in the depths of my soul but was too busy or afraid to summon until now. I started a personal blog as a hobby two summers ago. I created an unlisted YouTube channel out of necessity about two weeks ago.

“Hey Guys!”, as the elite YouTubers and vloggers would say with such enthusiasm. Welcome to the world of remote learning. This place is strange. On Friday, March 13th, I was not so cordially invited to the world of distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Other educators across the nation, around the world, and in my own living room, because my husband is also a teacher, have had no choice but to deliver instruction and learning guidance to our students using online platforms.

 The college course for teaching elementary students remotely during a pandemic was never offered in the credential programs. Strangely, I have a distant memory of sitting in a Saturday Seminar teacher course at Saint Mary’s College in 2005. One of the keynote speakers mentioned something called YouTube. It was described as some form of online communication. I jotted it down somewhere but didn’t spell it right. I think I scribbled down, “You Too”.  I was half listening at the time.

It is now April, 2020. I made the official decision to upload some of my teaching content on YouTube as a supplement to the other components of my remote learning model. The virtual audience for this new platform is the most important following I’ve ever had. They are the 8 and 9 year olds whose physical classroom setting and teacher were suddenly taken from them this year and they won’t be getting them back as a third grader. It’s been life-changing and heartbreaking. I wanted to give each of the kids an opportunity to still see and hear their teacher somehow.

It felt awkward at first, filming and essentially talking to myself, but it has evolved into a fun and creative outlet for me as well. I purchased a cheap ring light and a microphone. I taught myself how to edit video clips and add music and some cheesy time-lapse effects and transitions. In these trying times, I’ve actually found something that’s motivating and fun, and I thank my “followers” for this.

Imagine my delight when I found out that one of my students watched my writing videos and in turn, wrote a beautiful personal narrative based on the strategies and tips that I had demonstrated. Someone was listening! If not the student, their sweet and helpful parent who may have learned something too. I remember what that felt like within the four walls of the classroom and I’m still mourning the loss of those powerful teacher-student moments when information clicked for all parties involved.

This is a challenging period in everyone’s lives, but as I try to convey to my students often, we should keep learning, keep creating, keep documenting this historical time, and try our best to keep having fun. I’m not sure how many of my students realize it, but they’re all motivating me to do the same.

The face of someone who talks to herself and still needs to use a teacher bag while working from home.

In case you would like to read my 3rd grade level writing.