Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Over Due and Properly Developed...

     When I went on medical leave, our district was still in the "growing pains" stages of making a focused effort to eliminate the racially predictable gaps in achievement and discipline that, sadly, exist in so many schools around the nation.  I was a leader in this moment, first unofficially and then officially, as we tried to open our eyes and hearts to the realities of our own biases so that we could root them out, identify our personal and collective strengths and weaknesses in working with non-white students, and transform our entire school system into one that provides an equitable experience for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background.  If this very long sentence sounds intense, that's because it is.  If it sounds like it might make teachers uncomfortable, that's because it can.  But in the two and a half years while I was unable to work, we have made marvelous strides toward more open dialogue with students and, crucially, each other, about what it looks like to be a culturally proficient educator-- one who can make every student feel like a welcome contributor to the learning environment. 

     On Tuesday, I was honored to lead a professional development session which I'd previously designed and facilitated in 2012.  Over three years ago, every teacher in my high school saw what I had put together, as teachers and administrators worked with small groups to present scenes of actual situations that had happened at our school.  Audience members were then asked to enter the scenes as the teacher, and replay them so that the racially charged or sensitive comment was handled in a way that would make the person who said it, and everyone in the room, understand the power and potential damage in saying such a thing.

     This time, it was tweaked to include scenes that had happened at the middle school level, and my co-facilitator brought her energy and passion to it during all four of our 90 minute sessions, each of which was attended by the maximum number of teacher-- 35 in the room.  A culinary arts room better served for baking cakes than improvising how to respond when a kid blurts out a racist, albeit positive, stereotype about Asian students.  But we made it work.  We received marvelous feedback.  And I felt like, once again, I've taken another step toward being the fullest version of who I can be with these new lungs and the restored life I cherish each day.

     Was I exhausted at the end of the day?  No.  I was exhausted two-thirds of the way through it, but the adrenaline of improvisation and the passion I have for this topic kept me going.  A great reality check about my current physical limitations-- wrapped inside a chance to show my colleagues, many of whom hadn't seen me in over two years, just how far I've come. 
Our session was conducted in the culinary arts room... My wife works at the district too and took a few photos when she attended. Clearly I've mastered the clicker-- and my posture is better than ever. :)

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