An approach to our current circumstances.
Goes without saying, much has happened in the world, communities, households, and within our spirit. The past few months have pushed the nation and the world to adjust and pivot from the “normal” and transition deeper into the “reality”. Personally, I am in a transition. I am moving away from a place I knew to be very familiar, even though there was a very inconsistent sense of security. This place gave me the ability to reach, teach, and connect with hundreds of young people, their families and community members. Ultimately, this place I am leaving gave me a platform to become the best version of myself.
The last 13 years of my life were spent making memories with young people and providing them with an educational experience that they can be proud of. I would market the school house by saying,
“Yes, we can have the best sports teams, greatest dances, vast amounts of extracurriculars, languages and represent multiple nationalities, plus we make sure our big school has a small school feel because… relationships matter.”Dr. Darryl S. Diggs, Jr.
As I reflect on my speech…I wonder about those two last words…”relationships matter”. If they do, and they should, I want to share a message about relationships and how each of us have a responsibility to reach each student and adult, even if it’s uncomfortable. At the time of this blog post, we are on summer break and across our country we are experiencing a pandemic, massive injustices, countless killings and the recorded death of an unarmed black man by a law enforcement officer. This can be uncomfortable to watch, hear and experience. As leaders in spaces of education, I challenge you to use your influence and jump into ACTION. Use your position to join the revolution of reconciliation. Use how uncomfortable you feel about the tension in our schools, community and nation as fuel for a MOVEMENT of sustainable change. Our relationships matter, feeling uncomfortable matters and growing our communities will take both.
Hear, See and Share
If schools were in session I would first let students know, I hear them. I see them and I share the same emotions with them that can eventually become a bridge to allow for communication that incorporates rich dialogue. Then, I would empower my students to DO SOMETHING and MAKE CHANGE. Essentially, be a solution to the problem. While we are away from each other physically due to the pandemic, we still feel pain, hurt, and can be lost in our human disconnection. They need to know that sometimes the “system” can either work alongside them or be an intentional and constant road block. Our students need to see each other’s hurt and in turn be vessels of compassion and empathize with each other’s pain. In order to do this effectively, young people need a space free from restraint to express themselves.
During the unrest from the killing of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, our students need to be encouraged and allowed time to ENGAGE and MOBILIZE. This looks like engaging their problem solving abilities and mobilizing their peers to enact change to their teaching/learning environment and community. Our students need to feel free. They need to be challenged. They also need us to guide them to fully understand their responsibility to humanity. Furthermore, they need guidance, direction and a model. How are we modeling voice? Action? Protest? Discourse? Without proper guidance, they are at risk of harm, violence or even their death.
Looking back on the last eight years, I would reiterate to my staff, that we have a long way to go and stress that we are the “system”. Our implicit bias and educational structure has and can perpetuate racist outcomes for our black and brown students. We would discuss and make clear that our educational system contributes to the cycle of oppression at the same time our government systems grease the wheels of continuous poverty and injustice. Too often, well meaning teachers believe they are relating to students and their plight due to the subjects they teach. Instead, anti-racist and anti-bias development are disregarded. As educators we must do more…we must be proactive, educate, guide and support the groups that have “taken racism” on the chin repeatedly over the years.
Again, we have a responsibility to respond and provide equitable spaces for young people to learn, grow and express themselves. We can do this, people. To overuse a very popular quote by Gandhi…”be the change you wish to see in the world.” How about this, be the change to prevent our houses from burning due to policies that encourage and promote destructive actions that impact marginalized communities.
Message to School Leaders
School leaders must be able to respond quickly to unrest with details and how our schools will move forward with conscious and deliberate actions. Sending a letter or tweet is the least we can do. The true mark of a leader is their ability to create a vision and then articulate steps to support that vision with measurable goals. My communication to the community would quickly denounce violence, hatred, racism and discrimination of all forms. I would also incorporate a brief history lesson to explain how the tensions seen today are representative of a larger picture that requires a deeper conversation.
Our parents need to know that our world and local community is made of diverse cultures and backgrounds. This diversity makes us stronger because our kids benefit greatly by the experiences and perspectives of all. I would solicit help from our community and create a task force to address hot topics such as health and wellness, trauma informed care, parenting, community building, race and equity. My parents need to know they are sending their kids to a school that will provide them a world class education in a safe environment, free from adolescent pressures such as bullying and hate. It is our responsibility to pave a path for young people to have a voice in an environment where they can safely express themselves without ridicule. Our students are the way forward. How are you lifting them up?
“It is a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life.”Ahmed Ali
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