These last few months have been challenging for just about everyone. Like most schools around the world, ours have been teaching remotely due to the pandemic. We peer at students through a screen, or not at all, missing the joy and intimacy of face-to-face daily interactions. As we prepared to close out the school year, we remained unsure about next school year: Would we return to in-class instruction, continue online learning, or explore a hybrid model? Stress and uncertainty were high.
Then another crisis erupted. Events in Brunswick, Louisville, and Minneapolis have once again highlighted the grave injustices that exist throughout our country, ones with deep roots in our history. As a teacher, my compass needle spins towards action: How can I help students process these events and their context? What learning – or unlearning – needs to happen? How might we ensure equity and a culture of acceptance within our school and community?
Silence, in the form of willfully ignoring injustice and refusing to take any action, is not an option. Like a virus, this type of silence is contagious, harmful, and potentially deadly.
Here are three actions I intend to take this summer. Maybe you will join me in one or more?
- Learn all I can
“[Learning] is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
I have always loved to read. My earliest memories involve books: a stack brought on a family vacation, an exhilarating visit to the local library, a reading fort built out of blankets behind the living room couch.
Books provide me with both a connection to others, and a chance to explore other lives and places. They are both mirrors, reflective of our own lived experiences, and windows, allowing a glimpse into others’ worlds. This summer, I intend to gaze through many windows as I increase my knowledge base, with a special focus on African-American and Latinx experience.
- Recommended authors of books for young people: Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, Varian Johnson, Elizabeth Acevedo, Christopher Paul Curtis, David Barclay Moore, Sharon Draper, Meg Medina, Jerry Craft, Jewell Parker Rhodes. Kwame Alexander
- On my reading list: From the Desk of Zoe Washington, Stamped, Harbor Me, Genesis Begins Again
- Reading lists to explore:
- Articles and resources
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”
2. Engage in conversations
Our school conducts weekly Community Circles to build connections and to provide a safe space to discuss challenging topics. Even during remote learning, the circles have continued, drawing an astonishing 300 participants last week as we came together to discuss George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. I value these conversations and the others I’m having in person and in virtual spaces. These conversations help me to become a better listener, and to understand the vast range of experiences and perspectives we each bring. Talking About Race is a great resource to help navigate these challenging, but necessary, conversations.
3. Support black-owned businesses
The pandemic has strained small businesses across the country. Many have had to close temporarily or reconfigure to adapt to health and safety precautions, and nearly all have lost revenue since the pandemic started. Supporting local businesses, especially black-owned businesses, can help ease those financial hardships and affirm their importance in our communities.
- Supporting black-owned businesses in Salt Lake City (my summer home)
- Black-owned restaurants in Maryland (my school-year home)
- Black-owned restaurant list (Bon Appetit)
- Montgomery County, MD black-owned businesses
By no means is this list comprehensive. It is a starting point, one person taking some small actions. And it is through action, I believe, that we can finally start to heal and change for the better. Thank you for reading, and for being here.