This is a question that has been raised in a number of our community conversations. Gary Stager mentioned it just last night in a chat with Will and Bruce. It’s posted on classroom and school walls to inspire and promote a reason for learning that’s something grander than ourselves. If we truly and honestly believe that the goal of an education is to help students do just that, where do we start?
We are wrapping our month-long exploration of Belonging inside Modern Learners Community. The content, questions, and dialogue shared have sparked several a-ha moments among members in thinking about how belonging is truly established in our schools. Are learners seen? Do they feel as though they have a place learning within the classroom walls? Do they see themselves as an integral component of the life of the school? Do teachers feel a sense of belonging among colleagues? Do they feel seen? Is their school culture one that embraces and celebrates individuality?
Our work with belonging this month was purposeful in that we hoped it would set the stage to better prepare us for the work that lies ahead, as we introduce our May 2019 theme in MLC: Equity.
Honesty alert: The Modern Learners core team is comprised of privileged, white individuals. While our community at large includes educators from over thirty countries around the world, representing a number of ethnicities and nationalities, it’s our team that is charged with visibly sharing our work around equity in education and what that means to modern learning.
For too long, educators of privilege have relied on educators of color and those who work primarily with underserved populations of students to do the work. We’ve felt uncomfortable inserting ourselves in these spaces. Due to our own inherent biases and cultural competencies (or incompetencies), we’ve observed from the sidelines, with great respect, this advocacy work being done by others. It’s with regret that I say that, and it’s with hope that I share that our team and our community are reading, learning, and acting in ways that will help us better serve all children in regards to equity.
How do we make the world better than we found it?
Our efforts aren’t going to be perfect, and we know we’re going to screw up. We might say the wrong words or underestimate how our privilege shapes us as leaders and learners. But we know that we can use our privilege to amplify important voices and work that can influence our community and followers. Starting with an interactive exercise in our community exploring our cultural narratives, we’ll reflect deeply on our own stories and how they impact our work with students. We’re kicking off a literature-circle-esque book study in May where members can choose to read Cornelius Minor’s We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be
along with Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,
and we’re coming together in live Zoom events to have difficult conversations around equity in those texts along with other supporting materials. Have other recommendations for us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Wait, more than that – we want you to be part of this community
. Come inside MLC and give us a try. There’s no commitment required, just an email address and a willingness to learn. Click here to join!
One of the first things we need to do, as we stay true to our commitment to modern learning, is define equity in this context. What does equity mean, what does it entail, how do we know if a community offers equitable learning opportunities for all? How do we know when it doesn’t?
How would you respond?
We are choosing to embrace discomfort in this learning because we acknowledge the power we hold, and that unlearning and redefining priorities, beliefs and practices that potentially can hurt kids is far more important than maintaining our existence inside our pre-established comfort zones.
Equity in modern learning doesn’t have to be a district initiative, or a book study topic, or a master’s thesis, or a graduate study required read, or something your eduTwitter network has to embrace before you jump into this space.
What we’ve come to terms with is that we can’t possibly reimagine the school experience for all children unless we’re committed to learning more about how to best serve all children.
As you continue to connect, collaborate, and stretch your thinking in the coming weeks, remember that you have the influence to restore power and agency to the learners and teachers in your care. You have the right and the responsibility to identify inequities in curriculum, class offerings, student groupings, hiring practices, literature selections, resource distribution, levels of financial support, opportunities for agency, and emotional support provided among varying groups of learners in your classrooms and stakeholders in your organizations.
Before you focus your efforts on rallying together in the name of school spirit, think about how to honor the identity of every individual soul in your school community.
Before spouting off about how important it is to promote “student voice and choice”, think about how to acknowledge hierarchies of power and restore democracy to kids
So… how do we make the world better than we found it?
In the words of Gary Stager: “Maybe we need to do more to cause some trouble.”
Let’s get uncomfortable in learning. And let’s raise a ruckus. For all kids.
Again, we invite you to join us inside Modern Learners Community – it’s a safe space where all voices are valued.
Let’s make some modern learning mischief, together.
More For Your Consideration
Clear the Air now has its own Twitter handle and website, and, if you’ve not before taken part in the literature studies and discussions that are hosted by the #CleartheAir chat on Wednesday evenings, this is a great place to have your eyes opened. You can see archives of past discussions here.
The National Antiracist Book Festival was held last week and shared this list of must-read books. Jennifer Ansbach turned the book list into a bibliography with links to access and purchase the titles.
The term ‘people of color’ erases black people. Let’s retire it by Nadra Widatalla. “The idea of different groups of minorities working together to fight racism of all sorts is fantastic, but any effort that sees the struggles of all minorities as a single movement is actually harmful.”
“Now you see me, Now you don’t.” by K.A. Holt. A heartbreaking indictment of the influence of “soft censorship.”
Trauma-informed as a buzzword: where do we go from here? by Alex Shevrin, who presents 6 key truths underscoring the crux of trauma-informed education.