#72 – Equity, Culture, and Community with Tricia Ebarvia

This is the fourth and final episode in our exploration of the theme community this month, and I want to say from the start, that this conversation you’re about to hear on equity, community, and culture has been one that I’ve been struggling with recently.

There are many challenges and tensions that we face in schools and education today, but none may be more complex than the one surrounding equity in terms of race and gender. There’s no question that white male privilege is finally being challenged in many healthy ways, and around the world I think what we’re seeing is perhaps the last gasp for white males attempting to maintain power over the narrative of society. That’s long overdue, but we have a very long way to go.

“I Don’t Know What to Do”

For me personally, that struggle hit home about a month ago at a workshop I attended in Pittsburgh put on by Education Reimagined, a non-profit group out of Washington, DC. It was, in a word, transformative for me. As we were discussing ways that we could bring the idea of learner-centered education to schools as a way of changing the experience of school for the better for all kids, a number of people of color in attendance gave impassioned reflections on what it was like to live in a culture and a society that is still dominated by primarily white narratives. They argued with great emotion and frankness that these issues of equity reached well beyond schools and classrooms, and that there was still little widespread understanding of the injustices and fears that People of Color still carry with them today. It left me deeply moved, and to some extent speechless. I was almost happy when the white education secretary of a Central US state stood up at the end and said, “I don’t know what to do” because she took the words out of my mouth.

Since that weekend, I’ve been reflecting deeply on my own biases, on the societal narratives that re so rooted in white history, and on what I can do to not be complicit in perpetuating them. I know I’m at the start of a journey, one that for me begins with reading the book White Fragility, and also begins with bringing more voices of people of color and sexual orientation into my networks and my interactions.

Creating Cultures of Community

Which leads me to today’s interview with Tricia Ebarvia. Tricia is in her 19th year teaching high school English, and she’s the department chairperson at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA, located outside Philadelphia. She was a Heinemann Fellow from 2016-2018, where she wrote regularly about creating an inclusive literacy classroom, and she’s developed into a leading voice around anti-bias, anti-racist pedagogy. She co-founded the #DisruptTexts conversation on Twitter and elsewhere, and she’s the co-director of the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project.

Tricia and I talk about the difficulties of creating cultures of community, the many biases that educators bring to their work, and some ways in which we can begin to build more understanding of equity, race, and gender issues into our personal lives and into our classrooms. I learned a lot from our conversation and I hope you will as well.

Don’t forget, if you like what you hear today, please head on over to iTunes and give us some love via a review and rating, and I hope that you’ll continue the conversation around story with us in our modernlearners community.

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