Yesterday, as I sat GLUED to my TV while simultaneously scrolling through Instagram, completely and totally absorbed. Sucked in. I knew immediately, my students were too… I knew their social media channels would be littered with the same. I knew MOST of their families would have the news on… I knew by this morning they’d have at least heard about what was happening at our Nation’s Capitol. I also knew that I had to throw out ALL of my plans (which …. we all know… I hadn’t REALLY planned yet anyways… LMAO) and allow a space for my students to process. I knew I couldn’t continue with business as “normal”.
First, I would like to acknowledge a privilege I have. I work at a school that is committed to being an anti-racist one. We devote time to understand what racism is, explore how it manifests, and take actions to dismantle it. We invest in antiracist education and I knew I wouldn’t get push back by allowing a space for my students to talk and process.
Second, I want to acknowledge that doing this in a virtual setting was unnerving. I am well aware that virtually, anything I say or my students say could be recorded, and then it is just “out there” forever. I know I had to be cautious. But I ALSO knew it was important for me to be vulnerable and acknowledge and voice the fear, and unsettling feelings I felt yesterday. La famosa AC Quintero has a GREAT video about this… it isn’t long and it is valuable to hear her insight. Watch it here.
I grounded ALL of my conversations in this powerful and VERY important post from Matthew Kincaid of Overcoming Racism. He is who does all of our antiracism training. I HIGHLY recommend your school looking into hiring him. He posted this to his Instagram and it was just what I needed to read. I hope it helps you too:
His caption read: “I wish people would stop comparing what is happening at the capitol to BLM. Even to point out the hypocrisy of how black protestors are treated in comparison to white protestors by law enforcement. This is how we get historical false equivalencies like the comparison of Klansmen to Black Panthers. Disdain for BLM isn’t rooted in passive ignorance it is rooted in active HATE. The disdain for BLM isn’t a sight issue it is a heart issue. Don’t compare this open display of fascism in the spirit of the furtherance of white supremacy to BLM. There isn’t a shred of equivalence worthy of even the loosest of connections. Don’t compare righteousness with evil. Compare evil to evil, and perhaps we can finally start to see that this is just what white supremacy is. Law enforcement doesn’t exist to quell white rage, it exists to quell the dissent of the oppressed. Omg, what is happening at the capitol? The same damn thing that happens EVERY TIME white Americans feel like the grip of white supremacy is loosening.Compare this to Southern states succeeding from the Union to preserve white American’s right to OWN other human beings, leading to the bloodiest war in U.S history.Compare this to the states that had two governments during reconstruction because white Americans wouldn’t accept black democratically elected officials.Compare this to when white Americans beat and brutalized black people at lunch counters. Lynched black people for registering to vote. Bombed buses and churches, murdering children for the purpose or maintaining Jim Crow. Compare this to white men hunting and killing Ahmaud Arbery because he was jogging. Compare this to an entire police department being implicated in falsifying information to obtain a warrant to kill Breonna Taylor in her home while she slept. Act like you see who is trying to force this country to live up to the ideals of the constitution, and who is literally trying to tear it down in the name of preserving a white supremacist wannabe despot. White supremacy and democracy cannot both exist in the same space. Y’all gotta choose a side.”
Next, I did some searching and found a great post by @evetterawls_ on Instagram. She offered these talking points:
I took them and made this slideshow, (along with adding information about some coups in history… ones my kids were already somewhat familiar with because I’d talked about them before). Before my first classes, I asked around to other teachers to find out what their plans were for the day and a couple of my teammates shared this video with me:
Then they said they were offering time for written reflection (always a GREAT place to start if you’re nervous or unsure about talking) during the advisory time first thing in the morning. They made a few tweaks to a post that @sarakahmed2 posted on her Instagram. Here is that reflection form if you’d like to use it. I would encourage you to “model” for them with your own comments before sharing it. You can also choose to NOT do this as a whole class and let students complete it individually. When they did it, kids who wanted to engage wrote their name (or didn’t) in the column on the left and then their comments to the right)
For those of you that teach littles, my dear friend and colleague shared these questions with me that they used in morning meeting with third graders:
We started by asking kiddos to show thumbs up/down if they watched the news yesterday (could have asked if they talked to their families about it).
Then our questions were: what did you notice? What do you wonder? Let kids lead the discussion. We corrected any misconceptions, encouraged kids to share their thoughts. Kids spent a lot of time discussing what a “protestor” is and what a “rioter” is. Then we asked them what they are afraid of, to try to counteract any misinformation.
Finally, I ended by going through our five Trojan values and how they were living them right now (empathy to understand others, curiosity to ask questions, integrity to say what is right and what is wrong, courage to speak up, and how respectfully they treated one another).
This morning I started SUPER authentically… I think this is SO important (again, watch AC’s video) I told the kids a little about how I was feeling and told them that I refused to continue with business as normal when it isn’t. I told them I wanted to allow them a place to process what they were seeing and feeling, and also told them that IF they needed to step away, or take a break, if they felt to stressed, anxious, or upset, that they should feel free to excuse themselves.
My first class, I had 80% of my kids unmuting, desperate to share what they were feeling and thinking. It was amazing. It was SO needed. They were SO grateful… They talked and talked and talked. Some cried. They “processed” for an hour and 15 minutes. Every time conversation slowed, I took a deep breath, offered a chance for anyone else to share that wanted to and after about 15 seconds of silence, I was about ready to move on and someone else would unmute and share another thought… It went on and on…
My second class, only TWO unmuted to share, but at least half the class wanted to engage in the chat. Interestingly, almost all privately. They just wanted to talk to me…. Someone asked if I could read their private chats out loud…. I told them I would do that IF they felt comfortable with me reading without sharing their names. All but one asked me to do that. So I sat, and I read their commentary. I read their feelings to them. It was powerful.
My third class… It was quiet. They were tired. I was tired. However, I had three really passionate young ladies, and one really passionate young man, eager to converse. Some of the students who were not “engaged” really looked disengaged. They looked uninterested. They looked like they were engaging in video games or something else. You could just tell. I was just getting ready to find a way to address this when one young lady, said “Maestra, I would just like to say, that for those of you who are not engaged in this conversation, frankly I find it disrespectful. You may not think it effects you, and maybe it doesn’t, but read the room. For some of us, this is very upsetting and very real, and we are talking here. We are sharing real feelings. We would appreciate it if you could at least pretend you’re listening by looking at the camera and not your video game. You go to a school that focuses on antiracism. You can show some empathy and respect.” I thanked her for her incredible integrity and courage. I hope she runs for president one day… she’d have my vote….
EVERY class. Every single class thanked me. They were grateful. They needed it. I needed it.
This afternoon I received this email from a parent:
This is _________, __________’s mother. I was listening in on ________’s class today. Thank you for allowing time to discuss what happened yesterday. I was just telling ___________ that there should be time to discuss and then you were discussing it.
I needed to blog tonight. I needed to write. I needed to process again. This is helping me. This is what I need. Everyone is different though… if you need permission to step away, disengage, and shut OFF your social media, news, and brain… do that. Self-care…. that is SO important. This is your permission.
I care about you. Thank you for what you do…
Until next time,
Stay healthy, stay well, stay sane,
La Maestra Loca