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Silence is a virus

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Preparing to attend a local protest.

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?

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“The Weight of the World Around Me” by Troy Boddy

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?

  1. 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.”

T.H. White

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.

Krista at 18 months working on book report Feb 1977

Me at 18 months old. Not much has changed.

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. 

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”

Jason Reynolds

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.  

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.

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Resources for uncertain times

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Every March, the forsythia tree near our driveway transforms, seemingly overnight, from a brittle bundle of sticks to an explosion of sunny yellow. This year, the bloom corresponded with an onslaught of troubling news about coronavirus, resulting in the closure of our schools and much else in our community.

Like millions around the world, I am mostly homebound for the foreseeable future, compulsively checking news updates, worried about those who are suffering and those who are medically and financially vulnerable.

As I write from my dining room table on the first day of spring, I can see a branch I’ve cut from the forsythia. During this most uncertain of times, that branch in bloom provides me both visual stimulation and some welcome stability. It reminds me of the cycles of nature and the hope of brighter times ahead.

Below I’ve collected some resources that I’ve found useful this week as I’ve searched for ways to help out, support students, and find peace and purpose. Contact me to suggest more…and be well.