Today I attended a one-day conference for teachers called Teaching Equity conference. I wanted to see how the facilitators would frame the discussion, and I somehow got the expectation that I might learn something new.
The day was broken into six parts – breakfast/opening, a quick discussion about bringing ethnic studies into schools, session one, lunch, session two, closing. The workshop I attended filled both sessions, called “Culturally responsive classroom interactions.” I thought to myself, hey, this is exactly the kind of class I would want to teach once I’m done with my masters degree. Both hubs and I attended.
The opening was pretty amazing. A Native man sang a song of thanks in his native language while beating on a drum. The school’s Step Team did a performance, a black teenage girl read an essay she had written, and three black teenage girls who are officers of the school’s Black Alliance club read a speech they had written about being Black women. They all spoke their truth so well, and as I glanced around the room, I could see some white women getting in their feelings.
The morning session started off talking about implicit biases, different kinds of racism, different kinds of microaggressions. The one thing I did learn is about the subcategories of microaggressions – I added some new vocabulary to be able to explain it more deeply. The afternoon session talked a little bit more about student to student and teacher to student interactions. The teachers were asked to think about their relationship with their students and to their students’ families. I wasn’t able to participate much in this session since I am not a teacher, but it was interesting to see how others talked about it. These are things that hubs and I talk about fairly regularly, so we were already thinking about this sort of stuff before attending this conference.
The place where I’m at personally in my studies is beyond this point. These sessions were a surface-level gloss over of concepts I already knew. I was hoping they would dig deeper, but there’s only so much you can do in three hours. It is then I realized that these free workshops are not going to be offering me anything new I don’t already know. I’m ready for advance courses. The hard courses. The ones that will dig so deep that you can’t help but squirm with discomfort.
While I’m happy about this – that I, all by myself, have positioned myself to learn all these things on my own thanks to (library) books and Twitter and articles written by race scholars – I also find myself mildly frustrated that these things aren’t talked about beyond the surface. Monday of this week I went to an event called “Confronting Antisemitism and Intolerance.” It gave me some new information to think about as far as the history of antisemitism, but there wasn’t much I learned there beyond that.
I know I’m no expert, and I’m almost afraid to call myself intermediate. But I’m definitely beyond these beginning surface level workshops that are being offered around the sound. I want deeper conversations. I want the harder stuff. I want to be challenged and talk to other people about the complexity of these systems and how to go about dismantling them. I want the activism to pull in people who want to do more. And I’m trying. I need to reach out to a woman again who agreed to let me do some volunteer work. I really want to get this ball rolling.
I think the session I attended today was useful to people just starting to think about racial justice in schools, and it was well facilitated. I enjoyed the teachers who taught it, what they said and how they talked about their own dealings with biases. But I’m ready for more. Give it to me.