Round Rock, TX,
In the May and September newsletters, we shared about our experiences leading a book study on Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum. Here we share our final written reflection on leading the book study, focusing on how and where we see the impact of the book study and the next steps to continue learning and taking action.
The book is grounded in research and gave us more confidence and urgency to speak up against the framing of conversations about racial justice as divisive and political. These conversations are for inclusion and community building.
Our colleagues who participated in the book study are able to identify evidence of racism in places they did not see it before. For example, recently, at a national conference, a colleague overheard two women of color noting that “nothing has changed” as they observed that a particular session had lines running down the hall. This employee noted that before the book study they would not have understood what the women were talking about, but now was able to infer that they were referencing the fact that a session led by a White male edu-celebrity was over attended while equity sessions on racial justice were under-attended (at least while the edu-celebrity was presenting).
In our September newsletter article, we shared quotes from CPM employees who are also teachers. Participating in the book study gave these teachers more tools to view students and situations in new ways. For example, one teacher shared how they used to misinterpret the loudness of some Black boys in their school’s hallways as disruptive but now views these boys as building a sense of belongingness with each other. When teachers, and we all, redress our racial misconceptions and biases then we are more likely to avoid actions that have real consequences for students.
Dr. Nicole Joseph has presented on the real consequences for Black girls when teachers are unaware of their biases. (see her speak more on this here). A Georgetown Law study of teachers’ perceptions of Black girls found that teachers adultify Black girls: they view Black girls as needing less nurturing, less protection, less support, and less comfort (Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood). This leads to disproportionate disciplinary action for Black girls for subjective reasons and to harsher punishment for the same behavior as their White girl peers (see the graphic from the study). Like the bulk of the teaching population, the majority of teachers in this study were White females. This tells us that White female teachers — including in schools serving predominantly students of color — contribute to the adultification of Black girls. No matter how you identify, take time to reflect on how you might adultify Black girls or remain silent when you observe your colleagues doing so. What can you do differently?
When we hear teachers say that they are viewing the actions of students of color in more humanistic and asset-based ways, the impact on students’ lives and education is potentially profound. When we are able to look at what is happening around us and say “There. There is an example of systemic racism, adultification of students, or centering White culture in schools,” we can choose to do something about it. We can choose to go to the equity sessions at a conference, particularly sessions hosted by people of color. We can question our assumptions of what students’ behavior might mean and look for alternative, generous explanations. We can continue educating ourselves so that we are better able to see (Choosing to See).
If we all better understand the experiences/identities of people with different identities than our own we might be able to establish stronger connections with our colleagues and students by way of creating safer learning and working environments where everyone feels they belong.
The next steps for individual CPM participants vary. Some people are continuing the conversation in smaller groups, advocating for future book studies, and applying what they learned to build a stronger work environment that values multiple perspectives and cultures. CPM teachers and other school leaders are starting book studies and leading learning opportunities on their campuses.
What has this series of articles inspired you to do? What impact have you made on your sphere of influence? Share your ideas with @CPMmath on Twitter.
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