I’m a teacher. I’m white. That’s on my mind a lot lately. And I mean A LOT.
Culturally responsive teaching strategies and pedagogy, equitable hiring practices, privilege are terms that are becoming used more frequently in my education spheres. I’m thankful for that. Yet, I am 100% certain our students, the future of our communities and country, are not consuming completely equitable educations.
I can’t help but feel a sense of guilt about the privileges I carry with me each and every day. More than half of the students I work with don’t carry the same privileges. Given that I want each and every one of the students I serve to have opportunities to be as successful as any other student, this is heartbreaking. I’m grappling with the fact that guilt is not productive. Taking action is.
I hope I’ll continue to grow to have a bigger impact on my communities. For now, I’m focusing on a few things.
- Understanding the implications of a primarily white teaching force. I’ve been reading books such as Waking Up White and We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know – White Teachers, Multiracial Schools. I follow Kristin Leong’s project Roll Call. I engage in conversations about race and equity in education as frequently as I can. I read blogs from my friends and colleagues that know more about equity than I do. An example being Jill Escalera’s work, the Learning While Brown series. Knowledge is power in moving forward.
- Engaging in professional development where I grow as a culturally responsive educator. My district is on a journey with Dr. Gary Howard to increase our ability to ensure student experiences rooted in equity. I’m finding my participation in this work, and other professional development, allow me to explicitly practice research-based strategies.
- Getting to know as much as I can about each and every one of my students and their families. I make it a priority to connect in some way with all of the students I teach and ask questions to really understand perspectives that are different from my own. I share skin color with a small percentage of students I teach. But I share something with a lot of my students. Bonding over what we share helps students feel a sense of belonging.
It’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough and that perhaps I’m not needed in this field. Then I remember I am a good teacher. I’m effective in scaffolding students’ academic growth, social skills and confidence. I make mistakes and I work to improve. I need to be doing this job. The problem is not that I am. The problem is who is not. The education profession has not invited a population in that is representative of the students we teach. Students have not been able to connect with educators that have things in common with them for far too long. This is the problem. White teachers have the ability and responsibility to use our privilege to advocate for equity in education.
Please leave your respectful thoughts about diversifying the teaching profession and increasing culturally responsive teaching below!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.