People have always told me that I have the gift of encouragement, and I do believe that to be true. Sometimes that means sharing a positive, feel good truth about someone else. For example, I've always given compliments easily and they come from a true and authentic place. But sometimes that means my place is to encourage others to grow and change. That doesn't always feel as good, but it is a necessary part of our development as human beings if we want to grow.
Today I want to encourage you to think about race and what role it might be playing in your classroom dynamics. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it's possible that race is affecting how you teach and how students receive from you.
I will use myself as an example. I am a white female, middle class. I have the privilege of seeing myself represented in this country in a positive manner. I see others who look like me and sound like me on TV, in books and movies. I also see others like myself doing well in schools, teaching and even in leadership as principals, coordinators, etc.
But not all of our students have this privilege. Some students do not see themselves represented at all, or if they do appear in media, it is through negative stereotypes. In fact, as World Language teachers, some of you might feel marginalized if you are here from a different country or background, if you have an accent or are still learning English. Sometimes in classrooms, students of color, students who struggle financially, or English Language Learners are marginalized and quieted. While we are a loving, well-intentioned group of teachers, we all hold implicit biases. What does that mean? "Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner" (Kirwin Institute for more info click here).
Last week I had the privilege of attending a workshop on equity. As part of our preparation, we were asked to watch a TED Talk by Verna Myers, called "How to Overcome Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them". Click HERE to watch.
Those of you who know me well, know that I love TED Talks, and this one is no exception. Ms. Myers challenges us to stop pretending that we are color blind, and instead to actually look at race and consider how it might be affecting us. As teachers, I believe we must do this work. It is not easy to examine ourselves, but it is worth it. This video gets a little personal for me because she is talking specifically about black males and how the media has helped to create a negative bias toward them in our country. My son happens to be black, and so I have been forced to consider how this might affect him both now and in the future. I believe that we will all face challenges in this life, but as a momma, I can't help but want to minimize some of the negativity that I know he will face. Will you walk with me on this journey? As I confront my own implicit biases and begin to move toward them in order to make change, will you do the same?
World Language Teacher Support Specialist (and Language Enthusiast)