Monday, September 6, 2010

Notes from my field

Update #2

Thanks for your patience as I delved headlong into my work this semester. Two issues to report.

First update: A fellow colleague and I conducted our first race and culture dialogue after our Convocation last month, the first time I've been part of a multiracial team on campus. We had 28 individuals attend, which was our largest group yet. It was clear that this new change is moving us in the right direction, and I'm happy to report that the gentleman who joined me as a facilitator is willing to continue doing this work with me!

I'm still working on getting out of my office more to initiate those one-on-one conversations. I know I need to make time. But, something else has been also been calling for my attention...and this is the next update.

Second update: My new classes have begun. Two sets of students: one just beginning a preliminary teacher credentialing program, the other a group of veteran teachers. Both courses attend to issues of equity, diversity, and how that can and should affect a teacher's pedagogical approach.

Specifically, I'd like to share with you what is inspiring me at present. My students. I just completed reading personal narratives from the veteran teachers. I was blown away and grateful that I am working with them.

They are a diverse bunch. At least half appear to be children of immigrants, and a good number of them are first generation college attendees. They are Latina (with heritage from Mexico, El Salvador, and/or Cuba), African American, Irish, Scottish, and more. They are from the mid-west and the west coast. They are Catholic, public, and private school teachers. They recognize ways that they either have or have not felt advantaged and/or disadvantaged by the multiple social positions they occupy. They are individuals, first and foremost.

But there are also some themes that are so striking that I want to share them with you. In the midst of their sense of self as individuals, they are also keenly aware of themselves as members of a society that often does not offer an equal playing field. They are, as a group, absolutely committed to responding to the injustice they see within our education system. Whether they learned to use their voice as young women, challenging unfair wage discrimination, or as children watching their parents make sacrifice after sacrifice to send their children to Catholic schools where they felt they'd receive a high quality education, these are a group of highly self-reflective and insightful teachers.

Whether they challenge stereotypes by refusing to let any negative message about a lack of potential due to their racial background settle into their psyche or chose the teaching profession to ensure that they are positive and uplifting role models for those who are may succumb to negative messages, these are a group of highly dedicated and inspiring teachers.

And then, much to my joy, those students who self-identify as fitting into the category of "white" or "light skinned" are open to naming how that has or has not offered privileges. The sense of responsibility to serve and act in order to open doors (and perspective) for those they teach struck me. They teach in a diversity of settings. Those who teach primarily black and brown students speak of ensuring that they learn the cultures of the communities served. Those who teach primarily affluent, white students speak of bringing consciousness to them regarding race, class, and culture so that the young ones will be better able to navigate the world in a way that respects difference. They have learned much about power, privilege, and opportunity from their years spent in the field of education so far, and they are responding by taking up a course of study that will help them become leaders on their campuses. And, I'm so glad.

I don't want to overstate anything here. These are primarily individuals I'm just getting to know, and I am responding to introductory papers 3-5 pages in length. That said, I just can't help appreciating the position I occupy....and the students with whom I feel privileged to spend this semester.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Shelly,
    Hello, there, Shelly! A happy, happy Labor Day to you, Shelly! You are doing your best, you work so incredibly hard, I know that you are amazingly busy as you are so creatively, efficiently, productively, and sensitively engaged in your witnessing whiteness in your Radical White Community among other white folks in your white community, and in your honest full of integrity quest toward racial justice in working with all people of color and communities, and being the bridge between these folks, groups, and communities!

    What great and wonderful news this is to hear that the race and culture dialogue was so productive, and that 28 people came to it! This is just spectacular news! I am so glad that you are doing your multiracial and multicultural outreach, and that you are working with your colleagues of color! You are trying so hard, Shelly, in your advocacy and outreach, I know that this is very hard and challenging work, and your are very courageously stepping up to the plate and to the challenge! You are doing so excellent, and your best, with such diligence and integrity! I am so happy to learn of the diversity of the teachers and of the students! This just goes to show that we all can work together as beloved community to make our country and our world a much more improved and a better place! I am very heartened and inspired by each and every one of you, Shelly, and I like how you and the other white teachers and students are so open to looking inward at white privilege and racism, and their effects,and toward witnessing whiteness in Radical White Community among other white persons, and how the teachers and students of color are enacting their agency and empowerment in facing and challenging racism, discrimination, and oppression in seeking racial justice. I love how all of you folks are open to reaching across the bridge to work together, and to aim to work together, as the beloved community toward racial justice and equity which I always envision in my mind and in my heart!

    Shelly, I thank-you so dearly, deeply, and kindly as the true sister who you are for all of your diligent work, and for your powerful witnessing whiteness and quest toward gaining racial justice and equity for all people of color, and ultimately for all people! I am so inpired by you, Shelly, and by all of you marvelous white antiracist folks! I believe truly so, so much that what you, Shelly, and the others are doing is so well worth it, so well worth the effort! I am sending so many good thoughts and positive energy toward you toward your way, Shelly! My spirits within my spirit and soul have been so lifted up by you, Shelly, and the other superb white antiracist people! Keep up the great work, Shelly, and remember always progress not perfection, it is perfectly alright and normal to make mistakes along the way in this lifetime process and journey! Blessings so, so much to you for always, Shelly!

    Sincerely always,

    Sherry Gordon