Teacher as Warrior in Racialized Post-Election America

 

Dear Reader: Below you will find what I consider to be a battle hymn, written by my brilliant friend and teaching colleague Katy Ramón. It may surprise you to know that Katy does not consider herself a poet, and, while she doesn’t publish her poems often, I am always love  when she does. This poem gave me hope and strength in the days after the election, yet it is also a cry for deep personal examination. Last week was a difficult one in our schools, and Katy’s poem shows the warrior strength that so many educators possess and display in a time of turmoil for our students of color.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-5-34-17-am

Every Ounce of My Strength

by Katy Ramón

That some of you can scroll on, that some of you won’t understand, that some of you will be angered and confused, that some of you won’t care, is heartbreaking.

I don’t need you to comment with acceptance. I don’t need you to comment with dissent. Let it marinate and digest it as you will. This is my story.

To hug and comfort crying and fearful children at school and at home was heartbreaking and took EVERY OUNCE OF MY STRENGTH. To hug and comfort grown adults, was heartbreaking. 

I refuse to pay a dime for cable, and I always have been that way. But I read. I read transcripts, quotations, and opinions from various sources. From there I form my opinions. I believe that a person is directly responsible for the words that come out of their mouths. A person is directly responsible for their actions, as actions and words are the expression of their ideas.

If you support a person that has proved through quotes and documented action that he is a bigot, then you also, sadly, are part of the bigotry.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect women, including myself, my daughter, my sisters, and my mother, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect Mexican ancestry, including myself, my father, my family, my children, my students, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect black people, including my son, my friends, and my students, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect people with different sexual identities, including my family members, my friends, and my students, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country, including family members and long time friends, hold a bigoted world view, is heartbreaking.

If you find yourself aligning with intolerance, go get to know people that are not like you. Expand your world view. It is courageous to identify your own personal ignorance and work toward understanding. I will look into my own as well.

In the meantime, I will dedicate every day to education, understanding, and tolerance.

 

Katy Ramón teaches middle school mathematics and Algebra 1 at the Gardner Pilot Academy K-8 in the Boston Public Schools.  She holds a graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership from Boston University, Boston.  Katy holds a Masters in Education and is a graduate of the Boston Teacher Residency program, University of Massachusetts, Boston.  Katy also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from the University of Washington, Seattle.

Be The Light: My Personal Anti-Racism Action Plan

On the evening of Wednesday, September 16th, I will be walking in Be the Light, a candlelight walk of solidarity and support in response to racism and racial violence in America. I encourage you to walk with me alongside adults, children, families, students, and all Boston-area residents to who choose to act against racism.

I must admit – I feel nervous to participate in this event. I am not one for crowds or demonstrations; I prefer quiet to noise. And who do I think I am anyway? I am a white woman; my face may be considered the profile of an oppressor. Yet, as an educator, parent, and friend who works, raises children, and maintains relationships in a multi-cultural setting, it is my responsibility to take this public stand against racism.

Be the Light Flyer REVISED FINAL-page-001

 While considering my participation in this event, however, I felt the need to clarify my own commitment to racial justice. Yes, I can walk alongside member of my community for two hours; this act is bold and powerful on its own, but I wondered: how can I be deliberate in serving the cause of standing up to racism and racial violence in the long-term?

While large events are far outside of my comfort zone, I feel quite at home in front of a notebook, organizing words into sentences and molding sentences into discourse. Guided by the Action Planning Worksheet in Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, I decided to craft a personal plan of action that enumerates three specific ways in which I will work to combat racism in my life as an educator, as a parent, and as a friend.

Below, you can find my action plan, and I strongly encourage you to create your own. Your action plan may use words in sentences, like mine, or it may use lists, poetry, images, movement, or music.It can take any form that expresses your personal commitment to racial justice.You may want to keep this action plan to yourself, or you may find it powerful to share this action plan via social media.

If you would like support to craft or to publish your personal action plan, please contact me at jenniferdines@gmail.com. I am happy to publish and publicize your work on http://www.literacychange.org or to help you publish and publicize your anti-racism pledge in another online format. You may wish use the hashtag #BeTheLight in sharing your plan online.

Jennifer Dines: My Anti-Racism Action Plan (PDF Download)

As an educator, I commit to combating racism by keeping children, including children of color, engaged in the classroom because I know that each move to the hallway or to a school disciplinarian is one step that a child moves closer towards the streets. In order to achieve this goal, I must take the time to collaborate with my colleagues in the Boston Public Schools in creating and implementing curriculum that engages the students in our classrooms in meaningful and relevant ways. I must also maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit in order to have the energy to sustain myself and my colleagues as we must engage in deep and thoughtful problem solving. I will measure my success when I witness children sharing personal pride in scholarly acts – reading, writing, speaking, researching, creating.

As a mother, I commit to teaching my three daughters how to recognize and respond to racism. I will begin conversations with my children that center around issues of race in books, media, and real-life situations. I will continue to seek out children’s books that portray diversity to share with my children, and I will continue to encourage, maintain, and respect the friendships that my daughters have made with children of other races and cultures. I will be deliberate about teaching my children about discrimination. In order to achieve this goal, I will revisit it as my very young children grow and develop. I will discuss this goal with my husband and engage his support in following through on this goal. I will measure my success when I witness my daughters engaging with my husband and I in dialogue about race.

As a friend, I commit to being my true and authentic self when engaging with people of other races. I used to maintain more neutrality in expressing my opinions and beliefs when in discussions with people of other races for fear that disagreement may be considered racist. However, as I have developed long-term professional and personal relationships with people of other races, I have realized that authenticity is not only possible, but preferable in my interactions with other races because it gives them a chance to know me and understand me for who I am, not as simply a guarded version of myself. In sharing my true self with others, I believe I invite them to share their true selves with me. Taking the risk of being real is worthwhile because there is the possibility of developing an authentic and deep connection across racial boundaries. In order to achieve this goal, I will recognize and reflect upon how race impacts my words and actions when engaging in relationships. I will discuss my reflections with my close and most trusted friends. I will measure my success when I witness the engagement of my authentic self, through words and deeds, in cross-racial communication.

Be the Light Flyer REVISED FINAL-page-002