I began writing this post September 22, 2016 after many conversations and an email sent from the former superentendent of a district I hold dear to my heart, the place where I received my primary and secondary education and first knew I wanted to be a teacher. Fear of failure has kept me from posting this along with many other ideas and thoughts that have been swirling in my head. This has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year, and I just decided to place post today. I am striving to live without fear, choosing to spread my wings and tell my story, my way, on my own terms. I know that if I fall, I have so many who are there to catch me, give me feedback, support me, and help me get up again. I am also excited to post this because the person who ignited the anger that pushed me to first post this is no longer leading this district. They now have their second superentendent of color, and I am hopeful for the school district that shaped me into the educator I am today, first as a student and many years later as a new teacher. The lessons I learned there will remain with me forever. Seeing the direction they are heading in today gives me hope, and for that, I am proud.
Over the past few months, many events have taken place to cause me to pause and reflect. Turning on the television to see violence isn't new. Seeing bad news nightly isn't new. Racial profiling and mistreatment because the color of one's skin, personal beliefs, sexual orientation, or religion isn't new. However, the images and events I have witnessed in the last few months have hit close to home. The images of men and women being slaughtered by those sworn to protect and serve have caused me physical and emotional anguish. Before anyone says a word, I understand every policeman isn't prejudice. I respect their authority and believe their jobs are some of the hardest on Earth. Although I do, this post is not to "back the blue", but rather to think through how I can use my voice to make a difference.
Today, I received word that a person in authority and making decisions in my former school district gave injudicious advice to the students, faculty, and staff. There was talk that students in the district were thinking of using their united voices to stand for what they believed in, and the response was meant to stifle them, encouraging educators in the district not to support their efforts to exercise their first amendment rights. This person said the students "do not have a clue about all the implications of their actions". He then went on to say it was our job to ensure students understand why we respect "public servants, our flag, and other national symbols of freedom" as privileges we have in this country. As educators, we should teach students how to reach out to those in authority to build relationships and to "withhold judgement about public and private events until they have all the facts" because "positive change comes from proactive behaviors, not looting and protesting". As in this instance, people often do and say things that make me say, "What were you thinking?!?!?!" When this happens, I try to look through the lens of "They just didn't know." I can't say that I am an expert in the subject matter of helping students organize and use their voices. However, I am a member of EduColor, a movement dedicated to "elevate the voices of public school advocates of color on educational equity and justice". This group is full of experts in this area. In times like these, we need a source, a group, someone to lean on and ask questions when things are just too out of whack for us to make sense of them on our own. Connect with them. You won't regret it.