I am white. I was raised in a family that while we had some financial issues they never made it to me. I have tenure. I have an aggressively strong union. I have parents who could house me if my house burned down. I am infinitely hirable. I could, if I chose, stop teaching and go back to school full time. I have less than $5,000 dollars in student loans left. This is all to say my social and life safety net is really just a bed maybe 3 feet below me. I am v safe.
I have been engaging more in the anti-racism work happening in edu-twitter (also in my school and classroom) and more specifically I have been working to engage others in the #MTBoS in this work. One big push back I get is that people don’t want to fuck up. They don’t want to say the wrong thing. I think there are two big pieces of this:
- We (white people) don’t want to be called out. I am sitting here trying to phrase this nicely but come on, DEAL WITH IT. Being called out is a chance to grow. No one on twitter expects you to say the right thing all the time. I’ve been called out at least three times in the last month by Black Women who I like and respect and want to like and respect me. You know what? I am fine. It sucked in the moment and I had to apologize but I won’t do it again which makes there conversations easier everyday. Maybe some people like me less because of something I said. You know what? That doesn’t affect the need for me to keep trying and the need for us as teachers to keep doing this work. I will keep trying and maybe people will like me again and maybe they won’t because and that’s okay, I’m an adult. I don’t need everyone on twitter to like me.
- We are afraid of being called racist. Here we go, if you are a white teacher you are racist. I am a racist. Look I did it. I called you a racist. I called myself a racist. We all survived. Now move on and do the work.
Back to the start of this: If you are a white teacher you almost definitely have a safety net big enough to get involved. So do it. Join #CleartheAir chat. Find some people on #educolor to follow and retweet and reply. As Aminatou Sow says, “read a book” but then get on twitter and share some thoughts. If you’re looking for more ways to get involved or people to follow tweet at me. I’ll help.
I might be wrong. I often am. Here is a thing I am struggling with: We had our second race and racism article group yesterday with our staff and at the end a bunch of people talked about wanting to have students come in and talk to us about their experiences. I am not sold yet. Here are some pros and cons and I would love to know anyone else’s thinking:
pro: our students know their experiences better than we do so letting them share is a good thing.
con: we have only been talking ourselves for like two weeks. we are just scratching the surface of the work we can first.
pro: impact of students speaking is huge
con: I am nervous that there will be some “that doesn’t happen here” language and it will make us think we are magical unicorns
con: I don’t believe it is the job of our students of color to teach their white teachers about racism and moreover I am really concerned about systems of oppression and I am not convinced our students know about that
pro: it might get a lot of teachers to show up
con: if they only show up for that one is it really helping anything
con: I am really concerned about power dynamics
Pros? Cons? What you got for me? Are my concerns unwarranted?
So about 16/36 of our staff members came to our first Article Chat and we are continuing the work this week! I am not ready to share how I feel it is going beyond it feel good to see a big chunk of our staff and the conversation was solid. I want to make sure I am respecting the privacy of the space.
If you are interested in following along or using this at your school here’s the email I send:
Thank you to all of you that came to article group last week! It was so great! We had 16 participants and I so appreciate each and everyone of you. If you didn’t come last week you are extra invited this week. Please join us.
Week 2 will be Friday the 21th at lunch. Attached is the reading. Suggested by Melanie we will be reading The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit. It is LONG so we will only be reading the first 6 pages (numbered 280-285)
As you read here are some questions to think about:
1. As you read the first two pages
- if you are a white person: have you had people of color share experiences like this? How did it make you feel? What behaviors or attitude shifted after you listened? Did you feel defensive? Do you feel defensive now?
- If you are a person of color: Have you had experiences like the ones shared? Have you had conversations about them? How are those conversations different with white people vs with other people of color?
2. On page 283 there is a list of five aspects of power. Looking at specifically at #1 What issues of power do you see in our school? What do you see in your classroom? How are you reenforcing the power of the dominant culture (white supremacy) in your classroom? How are you pushing back against it?
I hope you’ll join us!
This is a fast blog post. Coming off of Val’s work with #ClearTheAir. I sent this email to my staff:
I understand that we all have an abundance of things on our plates but I am interested in continuing our anti-racism work at [our school]. So, I will be holding an article club in my room every other Friday at lunch. I will send out the reading, at the latest, the Friday before with some questions to think about as you read. This will be an open space for conversations and obviously other people can select the article if that’s something they are interested in. I am hoping lots of you can and will join. If this kind of conversation makes you feel uncomfortable then you are extra invited!
Week 1 will be next Friday the 7th at lunch. Attached are two readings. #1 is Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh and the second is a collection of Racial Identity Models complied by Val Brown for the #ClearTheAir twitter chat.
As you read #1 some questions to think about:
1) What privileges do you have as you walk around in the world?
2) How are your privileges different than those of your students?
3) Are there privileges you read about that you hadn’t thought of before on the list or ones that you feel are missing?
4) What privileges do groups of students have [at our school], in your classroom?
As you read #2 some questions to think about:
1) Where do you fall on these scales?
2) Where do you feel like our students fall?
I hope you’ll join me!
That’s it. We’ll see how it goes.
You didn’t believe me did you? I didn’t believe me. But let’s try two weeks without getting too excited.
Things I Read
This article by Melinda Anderson called The Secret Network of Black Teachers Behind the Fight for Desegregation it’s an interview with Vanessa Siddle Walker as an intro to her new book The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools which I am excited for.
This article about a woman who almost died just trying to tough. It reminded me some of the book I read this week called Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle which I have very very mixed feelings on. I don’t actually know if I recommend this book but I totally recommend following her on instagram.
Beyonce’s Vogue article is awesome. “During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. After six months, I started preparing for Coachella. I became vegan temporarily, gave up coffee, alcohol, and all fruit drinks. But I was patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves. My kids and husband did, too.”
Then there is a great piece about Tina Knowles’ art collection.“When my kids were growing up, it was really important to me that they saw images of African-Americans,” Lawson tells me. “I’m so happy that I did, because both of them are really aware of their culture, and I think a lot of that had to do with looking at those images every day, those strong images.”
I am listening to A Discovery of Witches which is so far really really good.
Things I watched
I am LOVING Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. It is one of the most enjoyable shows I have watched in a long time. I definitely only cried a little.
Also, I’m pretty sold on World of Dance. I just get sad that J.Lo doesn’t have as many outfit changes as I want her to.
Things I bought
Hey Friends! This a new thing I am going to try called “What if I did this every week?”
Remember when I had a season of a podcast and I would include things to read and look at? Literal quote from my mother, “Why do you do that Anne? I doubt anyone clicks.” Thanks Mum, you the best. Well y’all this is essentially that. But without the podcast. So basically things I’ve listened to, read, watched, bought, or talked about this week. Maybe some questions I have?
EDUCATIONY OR JUSTICE STUFFS
First I have been reading Trouble Makers by Carla Shalaby. I’m 1/2 through and it is outstanding. It’s a study of four students who are basically “troublemakers” in their respective classrooms. It has me thinking about freedom and love in my classroom. I keep coming back to the fact that just since being at DLA I have been more often telling kids I love them. Which was NOT a thing I did my first 4 years of teaching. Why?
I reread this old piece from Teen Vogue about the use of Black reaction gif. Teen Vogue is doing the work y’all.
I listened to these two Podcast episodes about FX’s Pose which I intend to watch this week. They are all different and super interesting. Still Processing, “We Chose Our Own Families“. Latino USA, “Portrait Of: 80s Ball Subculture in FX’s ‘Pose’”.
**On the recommend of a friend I listened to Nikole Hannah Jones on Why is This Happening with Chris Hayes talk about school segregation and it was deep and painful and so so real.
Maybe you should order this for your classroom? I will buy you one if you message me.
NON EDUCATION STUFFS
I am also reading some of my comic books from comic con! First Women’s World which I like to joke is Y: The Last Man without the last man. But really it’s much funnier and silly. And I am in the middle of Bizarre Romance By Audrey Niffenegger (one of my all time favorites from Time Traveler’s Wife) and illustrated by her husband Eddie Campbell. It’s weird and interesting and reminds me of Roald Dahl’s adult stuff.
I absolutely LOVE tv and although I didn’t watch much this week I read this article from the ringer about the 100 best episode of this century. Please read it and talk to me. I SO need to discuss this!
And since I love when other people include stuff like this: I bought these shoes for the school year. I have bought a pair each year for the last like 4 or 5 and I wear them 2-4 days a week. They go with everything.
**one thing you should most read/listen to this week
small goal for the week: read more of Troublemakers. Also, what if I do this again next week?
I come from a place of privilege. I am a 9th year white teacher lady with a permanent contract and a pretty strong union. I am also an excellent teacher with a solid track record. This is all to say, I am not afraid of losing my job.
There is work to be done in education. There is work to be done in this math teacher community. There are white teachers in schools across the nation still pretending they don’t see color. There are white teachers in schools across the nation knowing race exists but having no idea how or no avenue to address it. And there are those of us with an avenue and some idea how and a solid amount of job security. This post is for the last group.
HELLLLLLOOOOO many of my #MTBoS friends, particularly those of you with lots of followers. Welcome to the conversation!! There have been a lot of conversations (as always) after TMC about equity and social justice and math. Usually those conversations fade out after a couple weeks when we all get busy with school. When we are teaching and we decide what we “really” need to know is if anyone has a good lesson for simplifying radicals or solving complex equations. We don’t have time for critical race conversations. Well not this year friends! I refuse. I just refuse. There are lots of good ways to do social justice work. (I love Dylan‘s and Sunil‘s stuff) but what I want to work on and come back to this year is mistakes white teachers make.
Mistakes white teachers make. That phrase is a little scary isn’t it? It hits hard. It implies that there are things you are doing wrong that have to do with race and since it has teacher in it, it also implies that these mistakes are probably (definitely) affecting kids.
In the same way we work to make teaching mistakes public I want us to work to make our social mistakes public. This could include: a wrong thing said to a student, a conversation with a colleague handled poorly, or a blog post or twitter exchange that we are less than proud of. We share these things in hopes that others learn from us and that we can help each other.*
It’s hard to know exactly what this looks like and I know that. So I’m going to give two examples. The first is from Tom Rademacher he first wrote a post that ignored the experiences of people of color, then he was called on it, and so he wrote really solid public apology. You should click through and read it.
Thanks to the work of others who offered thoughtful critique and conversation, I realize that I messed up on my most recent piece. I’ve spent a day reflecting on how it happened, how it felt, and how to be better, with special thanks to @mochamomma @Ed2BeFree @ValeriaBrownEdu https://t.co/RpLxyJ5z81
— Tom Rademacher (@MrTomRad) July 16, 2018
Second, here’s mine. I messed up the other night. I got super white and fragile. I like to think of myself as a person working for justice. I got called out on methods which I deserved and instead of taking it in I got defensive. Here we go:
— Anne Schwartz (@sophgermain) July 27, 2018
José nicely replied:
I mean, sure, but also we need co-conspirators in this fight so having more voices that speak to that experience would be critical. #EduColor
— José Luis Vilson (@TheJLV) July 27, 2018
Y’all here’s where I get embarrassed. I then said:
Honestly if I haven’t made it clear at this point that I am a co-conspirator at least in the twitter space then I don’t know how.
— Anne Schwartz (@sophgermain) July 27, 2018
José, very nicely, didn’t call me on my white fragility but guys, it’s right there. You can click through if you want to read the rest but José is right and kind and I come off looking like a white person without enough cookies.
I was hurt by being called out. I was scared he was right. I was being a lazy ally and I got called on it. So publicly I want to say sorry to Jose and also hope that this stops other white teachers from snapping back before you think. Being called out is not inherently bad. It is almost always a place from which you can look for for growth.
So this is my first post in the Mistakes White Teacher Make series. I am hoping other bloggers will want to join and share. Doesn’t have to be a current story but anything you look back on and know you should have done better or anything that changed you looking forward.
Lastly, if you are in that first group of white teachers who are “colorblind” or just looking for an entry point into this conversation reading Dr. Tatum’s “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” is a great start AND Julie is reading it and would love to chat.
*i have been in three separate conversations about how to add a private piece to this work and i promise i will share as soon as i have the logistics there
Preemptive Warning: Some of this will be wrong. Some of this won’t apply to do you. But if your immediate reaction as a white educator is to get your back up and decide this isn’t about you then it almost definitely is.
Here is my list (collected with the help of twitter members cited below) of reasons…
Why white teachers don’t like talking about a lack of diversity*
*in their classrooms, schools, districts, friend groups, lives
- I am afraid of looking like a racist.
- Good, you shouldn’t want to look like a racist! This is a great first step.
- But… you know what racists do? Pretend racism doesn’t exist. If you have never had a critical conversation about race then I’m sorry to report you are perpetuating racism. Which unfortunately makes you a racist.
- You know what doesn’t make you a racist? Occasionally messing up these conversations and then listening and doing your best to fix and repair.
- I am well liked by my students and colleagues of color so I am a “good white”
- Good, I am glad your students and colleagues like you. Likely this means you aren’t an asshole.
- But…Not being bad is not the same as being an ally. It is not the same as fighting systems of oppression.
- We should all probably let go of the idea of being a “good white” and just try not to be trash people.
- I am not in charge of hiring/diversity/student placement so I can’t do anything anyway
- Good, so you recognize there is a problem somewhere in your school or district. That’s a solid first step.
- Now, get on a committee! Most schools have hiring committees. Get involved in placement. Be radical and figure out how to eliminate tracking in your school.
- But Anne, I am so busy. I refuse to believe there is something more important than equity for all students. Make it work friends.
- I think I’m fair so I don’t understand why some kids would need special treatment.
- It’s nice that you think you’re fair. But honestly no matter how fair we feel in our classrooms how they students ended up there and where they are going after have to be our concern, too.
- How are they treated in the hallways? What opportunities are they being presented with? Is everywhere in your school “fair”?
- We either need to get over the idea of special treatment or really invest in it. Every kid is different. Every kid has needs. Some of those needs come from fighting societal oppression. Find ways to help them with that. Meet the needs of your students.
- Cause I feel guilty
- Good. White guilt is a fine thing. I have heaps of it. Do something productive with it. Learn about restorative justice. Follow more people of color on twitter and for the love of god READ SOME BOOKS. Here’s a list from Crystal Paul at Bustle.
- I’m still learning and don’t want to say the wrong thing and offend or even hurt someone or I want to do the right thing and support my students and my colleagues of color but worry that I’ll come off as disingenuous.
- Dudes, I have said at least one wrong thing this week (probably ten). I screw up all the time. Hear what you did wrong when some corrects you. Learn to apologize. Mean it. Then move on and keep doing the work. Would you let a student never do math again because they screwed it up? There are a bunch of you that could explain to me the learning theory around making mistakes. This is the same.
- As for seeming disingenuous, just keep doing it til people believe you. Fighting for justice isn’t disingenuous, it’s your job.
- I’m worried that increasing diversity will threaten my job.
- DUDE. This one is rough. Maybe it will? You should probably then become the most valuable teacher possible. The teacher that most pushes the school in the right direction. The teacher that serves the most kids.
- I’m not racist and I’m not a person of color so I’m not the one who should be talking.
- Good. God job being not racist. I’m going to believe you there. I understand this is a tough line to walk. So I’ll give you some tips.
- Don’t talk over or put your experience in front of people of color. That’s a bad time to be talking.
- Do be the person who brings it up in big groups.
- Do be the person who pushes for change on committees or in meetings.
- Do cite your sources when you make points.
- Last night José pointed out we need co-conspirators and recently Shana called for accomplices, dismantlers, disrupters, margin fillers, decenter-ers, and action minded people. Be those things.
- If you need help deciding when to talk, ask. Preferably ask a white ally. Don’t make the people of color do your work for you.
- Good. God job being not racist. I’m going to believe you there. I understand this is a tough line to walk. So I’ll give you some tips.
- I don’t care about the speaker’s background, I just care about their message.
- This one was specifically about hiring people to speak at conferences.
- First off, if you don’t think who we are is part of the message you don’t understand speakers. If you only hire white man speakers you are sending a very clear message.
- Second, dig a little deeper and look at why you think race and gender don’t matter. Is it because acknowledging that they do might make your accomplishments not as great? That’s hard. I hear that. But if you have enough merit to get to choose speakers for conferences then use your accomplishments to benefit everyone. That’s when you are leveraging your privilege.
- We take shortcuts with our thinking so we think already ARE talking about a lack of diversity.
- Y’all solved racism? RAD!
- But actually, just like you are never done learning to teach this work is never done. Don’t let people around you pretend it is.
- I was just hired to teach.
- Cool. You are part of the problem. You are a racist.
Yesterday I presented at CMC Central and I told the lovely group of humans I would up load the presentation here.
Here’s the description I sent in:
BUILDING CLASSROOM CULTURE: SOCIAL CONTRACTS, CIRCLES, RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
It’s relationships that make our students want to perform. The quick end of class question. The deeper outside of class conversation. Research shows that students work harder for teachers that they perceive care about them and well all of us do our caring is not always evident to the students. This session gives educators a model for building positive classroom culture using a social contact, restorative justice, and circles.
First, participants will have the opportunity to build a social contract using the same process that is used with students in order to construct social norms that foster a productive learning environments.
Participants will then join in circles. Learning how to structure them including good questions to ask and how to assess the trust level in their classrooms. Mod- els will be shown on social development and curriculum circles.
The last portion will focus on restorative justice. Traditional discipline suspends relationships which leads to further behavioral problems and decreased learn- ing. It also disproportionally punishes students of color. Some simple restorative methods can lead to an outcome that repairs instead of suspends. Using restorative justice teachers will send students back to work and productive much faster than traditional discipline. We all know that students who are not in our classrooms can’t learn. Let’s get them back and learning as quickly as possible.
Here are my slides. 🙂
Let me know if you have questions. 🙂