This post is long overdue and has been rewritten in my thoughts many times over the course of the last few weeks. When schools were closed and we shifted to eLearning my energy was consumed and I had to put many things on hold, including my work through Equitable Teaching and Believe Differently. It has been two weeks now since school has ended and as I reflect, the biggest take away for me was how much of a spotlight the pandemic put on the disparities among our students.
From access to food and basic supplies, to WiFi and digital capabilities for learning, the equity did not exist. For many of us that work in education these disparities are well known. We knew that shutting down schools would have an impact that extended well beyond just access to WiFi for eLearning, and we knew the inequity would be significant. I’ve always believed that our classrooms and school communities are a microcosm of society. In many ways they reflect what is happening in the world outside of our school walls. The parallel between the disparities in our schools and the response to George Floyd’s murder cannot be denied. We are seeing people on a global scale respond to the inequity they experience daily in their lives. They want their voices to be heard.
The entirety of my focus with Equitable Teaching and Believe Differently has been to speak out about inequity in education for children with disabilities. To help their voices be heard. Many, many years ago I made a resolution within my heart that if I was choosing to speak up for one disenfranchised group I could not choose to stay silent for others. I felt this would be hypocritical. Therefore I have always tried to learn, lead with empathy, and speak through my actions.
I do not know the experience of being treated differently because of the color of my skin.
I do not know what it is like to live in fear for myself or my family because of the color of my skin.
I do not know what it is like to experience systematic racism.
I do not know what I do not know.
I understand what it feels like to not have your voice heard (As a mother and teacher I have fought for years for acceptance and inclusion for my children and my students with disabilities).
I understand what it feels like when the “powers that be” either mock you, ignore you, or passively pat you on the head with a “you’re doing good work” but do nothing to change the systems that do not provide equity, opportunity, and most importantly justice for all.
I understand what that fight feels like in your heart.
I share that fire that builds within your soul, ignited by experiences that make you scream in your head but keep you silent to the world.
You are screaming to the world now and I hear you!
I hear your voices, I see your pain, your anger, your sadness!
I support you, I support your children!
I won’t stay silent!
As an educator I will continue to reflect on what I can do better to support my black students. The work needs to start somewhere and for me that means my classroom, my school. I will continue to educate myself and to learn from the lived experiences of others.
I will continue to build a classroom community that focuses on equity, opportunity, and justice.