In the wake of the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, we are reminded that as teachers we must be stronger in our work to eliminate racism in our society.
We want our students, families, and colleagues of color to know that we support you. We will continue to develop an environment where hate and racism are not tolerated. We will continue to value the diversity of our student body. We will continue to learn from each other and from the events unfolding around us. Just as “we applaud and encourage our students to be active in our democracy,” we, too, will stand up, speak up, and learn with one another to fight injustice (Chris Wilbur, Civics teacher).
The work cannot wait until next school year.
It starts now.
Teachers are redoubling their efforts to fight injustice and build equitable schools while equipping our students to do the same in the world. Arpan Chokshi, social studies teacher, held voluntary video discussions with students that highlighted the need for us to be good listeners for students. “The fact that students are attending proves that they want spaces to express their frustration, ask questions about why racial injustices persist, and discuss what they can do about it,” he says. “Taking the time to reflect on recent acts of racism in a historical context led to powerful conversations” that Mr. Chokshi hopes “will empower students to speak up and act in the face of injustice.”
To be stronger in our work to eliminate racism, teachers have also enrolled in courses and moved recent texts on equity to the top of their personal reading lists. Social studies teacher Erin Fratella signed up for an anti-racism training class and Sue Howard and Megan Parker, English teachers, enrolled in a five week racial justice cohort recommended by a colleague. Ms. Howard says, “I am very interested in not only continuing to educate myself but also continuing to improve my ability to discuss these important issues in the classroom. I consider myself extremely fortunate to work with thoughtful, intelligent, and action-oriented individuals without whom I would be more unsure of what I could do.” She has chosen her next book on equity and invited any colleagues to join her in reading and discussing it, welcoming the conversation and any “opportunity for growth.” Seeking those opportunities, many teachers have been in contact with trusted colleagues to commit to helping each other. Of this, English teacher Kristin Wimsatt says, “I look forward to our next steps together with so many beloved colleagues whom I know are deeply passionate and caring.”
Several groups of teachers formed summer book studies to read and discuss recent texts on anti-racism to inform their work in the classroom. Teachers are also brainstorming action steps and ways to continue conversations about actively working against racism. English teacher Kate Saunders is interested in planning a shared read and inviting community members to join in the discussion.
Social Studies Department Chair Billson Rasavongxay challenges himself and us when he asks: “How are you going to use these historic moments of the past week to place yourself in front of your family, your students, your colleagues, your curriculum, and most importantly, yourself?”
We will continue to equip ourselves for the work to come in this crucial piece of maintaining our tradition of excellence.