*this is the third of what is looking like 5 reflections from NAIS’ People of Color Conference in Washington, DC. If you teach at an Independent School and haven’t been here, get on it.
On the first day I went to what turned out to be the only real “workshop” session I went to. It was called “What Is and Isn’t Being Said: Interrogating Academic Expectations for Students of Color in Independent Schools.” It was put on by Elizabeth Denevi, Latin School of Chicago (IL) and Mariama Richards, Ethical Cultural Fieldston School (NY), who both seemed super awesome. They were both independent school educators who were also pursuing (or finishing) higher ed degrees which made me immediately feel for them as that time commitment doesn’t mess around.
I spent this workshop writing down quotes they said so I am going to just write them down and maybe a little commentary but in general I’m going to leave it to you. (also I missed the start of this so I have maybe only 3/4 of the session)
“The things we are telling our [students of color in their comments] mean nothing.”
“Stop saying ‘come see me’ it is useless.”
She also said that if they come twice in that vague time you gave them and you aren’t there then why should they bother?
Students are ranking the amount of time they spend on work at a 8-9 out of ten but if you ask them how they can do better they consistently say, “I need to try harder.”
“That’s where they find success.”
Here is where I may have yelled “YES!” Are you seriously telling me that we are letting them keep doing sports because they only find success there? No one is talking about the fact that they aren’t finding success at all in academics????
“I am surprised I am in honors chem since I am not good at science.”
Be specific in all feedback.
Leave the kids alone. ”What are we doing with our teachers?”
When you only have a few students of color. “The success and failure of the whole group falls on the shoulders of each of them.”
“Grades should indicate mastery.”
Again, “Get the teachers!!”
There is a lack of communication with parents of color. Things like, “Well his parents will get really mad if we call.” or “A C is not bad.” Parents who send their kids to independent schools are generally not okay with C’s.
“Diversity Coordinators need to be masters of their subject area.” They also need power, money, and cooperation.
When does code switching become too much? When students start to lose track of who they are.
(If you don’t know about code switching start googling. I would give you readings but I am not the most educated on this. Recommendations? Leave them in comments! Thanks)
“It is unfortunate that [some students] have to live this way when others do not.” -on code switching
“Over 70% of students of color say they are working hard not for the grade but for the teacher.”
Explore your expectation gap.
Watch out for AP and Honors classes as gate keepers.
“What does it mean to have a social justice focus?”
“A Diversity Director without power is White privilege.”
As you can probably tell I loved this workshop.
Here some things I intend to google that were mentioned:
easted.com and the AISNE
Patricia Gurin at U-Mich
TESA (Teacher expectations and Student achievement)
Nutureshook – a book mentioned 4 times this weekend.
The White Privilege Conference at Brooklyn Friends
And the stories flew over me like gasps
stories that made me forget the spaces that I had been in before
stories that erased the thoughts I had and replaced them with new ones
And I took deep breaths so as not to apologize for things I had never said
for words I had never even thought
and I had nothing but disbelief at the vast space that was explained to me
the space of existing in a place where you are never reflected in others
where you are never reflected at all
a space that my life didn’t approach
I heard tales of expectations and misinterpretations
I heard words like different, weird, and not allowed
and could not manage responses beyond sheer disbelief
the burdens of people I could not lessen weighed on me
and still it was nothing compared to theirs
“sassy”, “overachievers”, “rappers”, aggressive”
were words used to discribe people as though they were themselves the group
children spoke of triangles in square peg, round hole worlds
children spoke of being whole.
the words, “does is get better?” were unanswerable by me
I don’t know, I replied, I will help, I replied
I will climb towards your space
never really being there with you
I will help you build a home, here, in the place between
I will try to follow where others have led
and lead when I can’t find a path
but I will never live your stories
I will never be in your space
So I will listen as we build something better together.
**this is the second of what I hope will be many reflections from NAIS’ People of Color Conference in Washington, DC. If you teach at an Independent School and haven’t been here, get on it.
**this is the first of what I hope will be many reflections from NAIS’ People of Color Conference in Washington, DC. If you teach at an Independent School and haven’t been here, get on it.
I am writing this in a break during day two of the conference. I am writing this about my first affinity group session. I am in the white affinity group. I know this because I was told I was white in it at least 15 times. “You are white.” “How do you embrace your whiteness?” ”What does it mean to be white?” ” How do you feel about being white?”
When we showed up to the session we sat in groups of five. I don’t know that in my entire life I’ve ever intentionally been in a room with only white people. I know that is has happened, I mean my community/life was not hugely diverse but I don’t think I’ve ever been like,
“Let’s gather, white people!” Certainly not with the exclamation point. Anyways, groups of five. We sat and we discussed. There were questions, we told stories, overall it was a neat experience.
But here’s where I am at: I know I am white but it makes me uncomfortable to be continually reminded. Man, that sounds bratty. I am lucky enough to have the privilege of it not being the largest part of my identity. Of not having to think constantly about my whiteness.
I left with one main thought: I am worried about diversity being a prize to be won. ”Our school has more than 25% students of color or staff of color so we’re awesome.” ”My best friend is black.” “I run the GSA.” Are we as white people in a competition to be the least racist? To seem the least racist? When I throw out that I just read bell hooks am I doing it to seem like I am educated? Do I care that other people think that I am culturally competent? Why do I care? Why do we care?
Okay, That’s one session from yesterday I have about 3 others to write on and I need to go hang out with the other white people again now.
We told you to find yourself.
We walked with you as you did.
We hugged you and praised you
when you found yourself.
But now we’re sorry.
You make us uncomfortable.
So please come back.
An email I sent to a student with some help from Grace.
At dinner the other night you said you had had a discussion with another student about how you couldn’t think of an Asian American Shero. When you told me this I was flummoxed and angry because, you know what, I couldn’t either. Recently I have been noticing more and more the lack of conversation around racial diversity at our school and the glaring lack in the media/news and it totally sucks.
I was talking to my friend Grace today (who also happens to be Asian American) about what you said and she sent me the attached article. I would like to say the woman who wrote it is a Shero not a loud one doing loud things but writing in a way that made me think. I would like to be able to write you a list of famous Asian American Shero’s but I don’t think I can off the top of my head and that in itself is unacceptable.
If you want to read the attached article and talk to me about it I would love that. If not, that’s okay too but I want you to know that I have no doubt in my mind that you have the ability to be loud. That you will do things that will make future students dress up as you and that just for making me think, you are a Shero of mine (even though I hate that word).
I included your mom in this in case she is interested in the article and also cause I always want her to know how awesome I think you are.
Lastly, this article is written by a Japanese not Taiwanese woman, but I didn’t think you’d mind.
See you tomorrow,
The article referenced is ”Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster”- Mitsuye Yamada
I followed with this email to Faculty today with some help from Jason.
I had the distinct privilege of being on weekend duty this weekend and while out to dinner with a group of students we had a conversation about Shero day. One student said to me, “I can’t just be white, I’m Asian American and I don’t know any Asian Sheros.” As I sat there racking my brain I came to the same conclusion. I didn’t either. And, well, that was something.
I asked around to a couple friends and came out with Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama. The names themselves were valuable but as I dug deeper I realized just how important these women are. You see the women holding Malcom’s X head in this picture? That’s Yuri.
I’m sending this email because there is a documentary about Grace Lee Boggs coming out right now. It focuses around her being an American revolutionary. The trailer is absolutely worth watching. If we get a chance in the coming years the girls should really see it.
Anyway, if you get asked the question/comment you will be more prepared than me. Here are two of my (new) personal Sheros (who happen to be Asian American).
Sometimes we have all school events without educating the students. Sometimes we don’t know how. I hope that you can get a little piece of information out of this that helps your students.
and it is eating me up.
I am responsible for rape.
I mean, not the actual raping.
or the helping of all victims.
But the conversation.
the exhausting conversion that tears me apart from the inside.
the one that asks, “What was she wearing?”
“Where were her parents?”
“What about choices?”
I am responsible for yelling, “NO.”
and punching that conversation square in the jaw.
I am responsible for that.
Because I know better.
because I teach girls.
because I am a girl.
conversations about rape should be about rape.
conversations about rape should be about rapists.
not personal safety
and I know that
so I am responsible.
I am responsible for racism.
I mean but not to much.
Because my privilege is a gift
but also a card that says,
“Shut up, you’re white.”
And I’m okay with that because I can only own so much.
But in a place the color of sheets
more often then not things go unsaid
and we, the most educated, hold up our cards and say
I don’t own that.
I can’t own that.
You do it.
You, someone else, do something.
Because I can’t own everything.
So I own nothing.
So when I know something is wrong
I toss and I turn and I churn and I say nothing
because there is too much snow
and I can only yell so loud before the conversation becomes about
that white girl.
the one who won’t shut up.
the one who doesn’t know how to carry
the weight of all the things she doesn’t own.
I realized recently while doing something too embarrassing to put here (over 25? you probably get this) that I have very few pictures of myself. The few that I have are taken by friends in moments where I am almost always too sweaty, loud, silly, or excited to look like a normal human. The only times I ever take selfies are when I want someone far away to approve of my outfit.
I thought for a long time this was laziness. I could take more pictures, do more fun things, have more sharable times but the truth is I don’t want to. Somethings are mine. Some moments are not for the internet. They are not to be shared in pictures. Some stories are to be told for years and grow and change as the years pass without photographic evidence.
This summer I went to Stanley King and I wrote a little about the outcome in my last post. When I got home my plan was to write a long detailed blog of how my time was spent and what I did but I have decided not to. I am hoping the change that came from that experience is apparent to the people around me. I am choosing instead to hold tight to the day-to-day and let them be mine.
Most of the time I like words better than pictures anyway. I will probably never be a good member of my generation. Twitter will always beat instagram and blogs will always beat twitter. And I will never remember to take a picture of the sunset on my run, the snow in my window, or my friends on the beach.
I am remembering the overwhelm that comes with working where and how I do and I am breathing it in. I wrote this post because it’s been rambling around my head for a while and because it reminds me that there is life outside of these grey walls. I love this job.