Privilege, position, and power are placed in the hands of all educators. Being a teacher, regardless of instructional medium is more demanding than ever before. While our world in and out of the classroom looks like nothing we have ever seen before, some things haven’t changed – such as the importance of social justice in education. What we teach must always be inclusive of who we are teaching, the community, and the world around us in our instruction.
This is why anti-racist education is so important. We need to continue this work beyond the month of February because systemic racism and bias are hard at work all year long. That means there’s always something more to learn. There’s also a chance that we could get things wrong and that can get in the way sometimes.
As learners, humans can gain much from making mistakes. There’s even an expression for it: “To err is human.” I must be really human because I have learned so much from my mistakes already. From what I am seeing in the news and on social media, our humanity has never been more human based on the loads of mistakes we’re making. Depending on how you see it, this could be good or bad? Isn’t that the essence of what we do on a daily basis? Isn’t education where we model process and progress over perfection?
Confidence does not come without failure
I am confident that there is a line about being ‘lead-learners’ in the fine print of our infinite-paged-job description. That’s because teaching naturally comes with all of the ‘lessons’ ever imagined whether you are leading or learning. The trick becomes knowing how to find them, and then accepting that none of us will ever know everything. Perhaps this peace of mind is why I have grown more comfortable with discomfort of not knowing everything, and even with being wrong at times. I have also discovered that there are many like minded educators just like me – most of us in fact.
In On becoming an anti-racist educator I wrestled with my past along the path, but it also meant confronting the existence of racism in my personal life and my part in it. A younger iteration of myself might have struggled with this, but by examining my past and my responsibility as a bystander has helped move me forward. Throughout my life I have grown accustomed to getting things wrong, but always believed that I was standing on the right side when it came to issues of equity and anti-racism. What I realized, after reflection, mentorship, and deeper learning was how my belief in those lies was solely meant to ease my burden of responsibility for my complicity and privilege.
Black History Month is 10 months away
Cue the current teaching situation where our roles have now expanded to include daily counselling on issues of mental health, experts at PPE, and classroom sanitizers extraordinaire. We have also become distance learning specialists, multi-modal lesson trailblazers, fearless conversationalists about issues of race and racism, and critical thinkers on how to overcome and dismantle systemic racism and bias. All because we have assumed a lead learners mindset fuelled by getting things wrong and working on it along the way to success.
So it doesn’t have to be different in the classroom then. For me it has meant trying to include culturally relevant and responsive content into each day. I am choosing to avoid the prescribed resources from text book companies that have grown largely culturally irrelevant and unresponsive. Now is the time to amplify new voices in our classrooms and staff meetings too. Regardless of the platform being used to deliver learning, the opportunities and responsibilities remain in every lesson and moment we engage our learners about issues of racism and how to fight against them. The work must continue long past Black History Month to undo 400 years of injustice in for the future generations.
Whether it is in my lessons or by omission, my mistakes are at the core of learning how to get things right. In all of this I find my humanity too with more mistakes to come. To misquote a Disney song and without their lawyers hurting me, “no one fails like Will G”. Embracing my messtakes, excepting korrection, and leaning form them are kee ingredients to a butter me in the classruin. Won day aisle get it write.