About those special days at school Pt 2.

This post is a continuation of About those special days at school Pt 1. Both seek to make sense of a number of events in and out of the classroom over the month of October. I believe it serves as an excellent snapshot of the incredible amounts of effort, organization, and attention that educators put into this calling on behalf of students even when faced with the extraordinary circumstances of 2020. In that context alone there is nothing to refute. However, my goal is to continue working through this month’s mind purge along the contiuum towards anti-racist education and equity – something that cannot be contained by a day, a month or a year. Hence…

I get it. I feel the fatigue of being an educator during a pandemic.
I see it in your eyes and via your posts on social media.

I get that not everyone is at the same place on the anti-racist continuum.
This is not a virtue signalling contest. We are not playing.

I’ve heard that we have to tread lightly for fear of offending someone’s feelings(privilege). This is not about codling your fragility or mine at the expense of someone else’s existence. There will be no emotional power plays allowed here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hold power. In fact that has been one of the biggest barriers to authentic change in the past and now because we are part of a system that has held all of the power. I’ll let that sink in.

You, me, us have benefitted for a long time from the systems that have been created to oppress others. Don’t run away. I promise something good can come from all of this if we listen, unlearn, and work together.

I know that acknowledging and reconciling issues of systemic racism take a lot of emotional energy. I hear it directly from friends, in group chats, and through the silences about how draining and frightening it can be. There has never been a better time to recharge your batteries than by taking the next steps along the continuum with others on the same journey. You’ll find you have more stamina to overcome your fears than you thought.

Tired or not, this does not mean we cannot take on the necessary work that needs to be done to undo 400+ years of colonialism and systemic racism in our country and education system. I fear that failing to face our discomfort(fear) or to foster learning around systemic issues will be far more detrimental to the future than any ignorantly bliss days we have without it. This is not the time to sit on the sidelines of history. There is too much at stake, but with so much happening all at the same time, it is easy to see how it can be put on the back burner in our schools. It doesn’t have to mean that the heat is off though.

My October

October started at a brisk pace. If by brisk you mean tornadic and unpredicatable for students and staff in class and online, you nailed it. So, it should surprise no one that there was not a lot of time to tackle tough topics during that first week with a reorganized larger class and new schedule. Did I mention it was Islamic Heritage Month? Reminder to self. Share with students and ask them what it means to them and how should be approach learning more about it?  Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate that! Remember that the history of Thanksgiving has ties to settlers who broke treaties with First Nations across North America. No school on Monday.

Week 2 – routines falling into place. Did someone switch the hand sanitizer for some cheap booze? Students nearly retching as the virus killing juice splashes their hands. Wipe down markers, pencils, technology, and anything with a surface repeatedly. The realization that some concepts taught during Emergency Distance Education may not be easily recallable or cemented. Looking your way Math. Hey, don’t forget to wear purple to show support and solidarity for  2SLGBTQ+ youth who have been bullied for their identities. Reminder to self. Revist conversation about Islamic Heritage month.

Week 3 – Math, Language, AP level Sanitizing and distancing, classroom closure due to possible COVID 19 Case. Staff and students on edge. Conversations around the Mi’kmaq First Nation and  about Black Lives Matter that leave my bucket filled by students asking more questions and forming some critical connections. Don’t forget to talk to your parents about virtual meet the teacher night next week. Reminder to self. Visit board web site for resources and events for Islamic Heritage month and share with staff. Done and done. Make sure to mention the significant contributions to Math from Islamic and Indian mathematicians. Wonder how to extend learning about Islamic heritage further into future months.

Week 4 – See prior week and add in 2 sessions of virtual meet the teacher night, a morning of PD planning for our staff leadership team, an assessment or two, a realization that Friday is the day before Hallowe’en and that the place is already going a bit bonkers with the excitement. Debate over decorations or not? Not. Debate over distribution of candy in class to students and how to do it safely in times of COVID 19 while tying it into a wonderful Data Management and Number Sense activity. Done and done with a few sweet treats to spare. Send students home happy, safe, and full of treats.

Throughout the entire month we tried to tackle issues that are relevant beyond a single day. No pumpkin spiced worksheets, word searches, or TPT drivel was necessary to make the month meaningful. My only regret was not taking more time to check in one on one with my newer students a bit more. We had a few rough days that still need refining, and their resilience has been admirable despite the long shadows of COVID 19. Next month will be better.

With November smashing down the door, my class will be embracing the learning from a whole new set of special days. Many of them specific to November such as Holocaust education week and Remembrance Day. It is my goal to make each one meaningful and relevant for my students while continuing to instruct through culturally responsive relevant pedagogy and anti-BIPOC racism focus. Sorry, there will be no themed worksheets this month either.

Note to self: Complete progress reports and confirm virtual parent interviews. Stay safe. Stay strong.

 

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Updated: October 31, 2020 — 10:23 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

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