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Our Collective Lesson Plan (On Teachers of Color in This Moment)

by Kim Grant about a year ago in teacher
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This is how it was supposed to be after last summer

This is how it was supposed to be after last summer.

Conservatives have launched an aggressive assault on their rendering of critical race theory through state and local legislation in the recent weeks. There's the actual critical race theory was developed in 1970 with two pillars. They claim that white supremacy is embedded directly into our country’s laws, and that we can and must change the relationship between laws & racial hierarchies. Many in the media have noticed that the low-hanging fruit is that it is part of a multi-pronged attack on the Biden administration, and those who voted him in. None of the criticisms made about President Biden have had an effect on his approval ratings. Nor does his messaging. Evidence also suggests that the country's temporary support of the Black Lives Matter movement's goals has led to higher voter registration. This is a clear indicator that a party that views more voter participation as a problem will be more successful.

But, I beg your pardon if you dig deeper.

As per the newer bills, there's also a second, absurdly broad definition of critical-race theory: any mention of race is critical-race theory. This definition means that anything that smells like a courageous discussion could be the subject of a criminal investigation. There is a lot of evidence that our schools are rife with systemic racism, including teacher evaluations, textbooks, budgeting decisions, and school perceptions. We can affirm that racism exists in the system. However, given all that we know, simply declaring that racism exists is a very low bar. With critical race theory, the multitude of parties that once railed about social injustice math, disruptTexts and the 1619 Project have now formed an anti-racist coalition.

This is the perfect circle in the Venn diagram.

This could be a problem for efforts to increase diversity in teacher ranks across the country. People may not be aware that at least half the teachers in each of four major school districts are teachers of color. However, their surrounding communities, yes, suburbs, don't usually reach even 10%. Research has shown the benefits of more teachers of color. It is tempting to focus on outcomes and narrow assessments, but this misses the larger purpose of schooling in the country. Schools are the hub for society's transmission of rituals and traditions. These buildings are not neutral for humans. Teachers believe that they can make an impact on students' lives and are capable of doing a good job. This becomes more complex when society demands that teachers adapt to changing worlds and both teach society's standards. This makes it more difficult to find better ways into teaching, as we layer on race, gender, and other identities.

When it comes to recruiting and retaining teachers of color, the problem is not in test scores but the way our society places emphasis on narrow measures and "outcomes" at the expense of students' individual and collective humanity. We are refusing to allow these teachers to teach. How can we attract teachers to a human-driven career? How can we expect teachers to interpret the racial uprisings in America and white supremacy our students are constantly asking about? Who is more likely to have a wider range of books for students to help them understand racial dynamics in a text? Who is more likely to ask students to introduce numeracy concepts from Mayans and Persians to their students?

Is it more common to laugh at the "In 1942 Columbus sailed on the ocean blue" nonsense than someone else? Recognize how many slave-owners used both their mouths to suggest that all men are created equal. To enter the classroom believing that Black people made democracy possible in America and other countries.

We would need to see a greater movement than the one we saw last summer, one that moved away from black squares and statements, and one that dealt with human rights with more precision and courage. I know and fear that many teachers will revert back to teaching subversively, or be retroactively harassed, if not fired, with these laws' permission. Your first instinct is to claim that teacher diversity doesn't matter because test scores have not increased, then you've lost sight of the real meaning of teaching and learning. It is important to question what we are passing on to our children in a country that made it illegal for Black people reading and writing a century ago.

These laws would make schooling a more inequitable and painful process. These legislators, pundits and writers have to feel the pain of suggesting that sharing is equal to replacement. Our collective lesson plan is the blueprint to create an education that brings us closer together to a just, compassionate, and shared humanity. You won't clean the wounds if you push our country away from healing the ever-bleeding wounds. This is something that all of us who are committed to justice and equity in our teaching know instinctively.

These laws can't touch everything. This is how systemic oppression works. We will be more successful for the change we seek. I look forward to a time when everyone can appreciate their differences and build society together. We will continue to use our classrooms to model the kind of governance that we want to see in the rest. This is the only hope I have.


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Kim Grant

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