MLK Jr. quote

Posted: January 16, 2018

JOY and HOPE are intimately connected and are powerful gifts we can give our students, perhaps the most powerful! One of the very best parts of being involved in public education is the JOY and HOPE students give us each and every day! The past few years we’ve featured stories that highlight the HOPE and JOY in our district. Let me know if you have any story suggestions. Thanks for helping us share the HOPE & JOY each week!

I spent some time this weekend reading the texts from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” both from 1963, fifty-five years ago and still so relevant. Our country has been on a long journey with many miles left to go. Several quotes stood out to me as I read the words with my 2018 lens. I kept coming back to one in particular that challenged me to reflect on our work and my role in the world.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” (Letter from Birmingham Jail)

We have so much work to do. It’s challenging to make progress when at a national level talks about race struggle to meet the standards of any classroom discussion. We still have gaps where race, ethnicity, and poverty are predictors of success in our school systems. In our own schools we still have ugly examples of racism. I still meet with members in our community who use words like “those children.”

I’m grateful for the conversations we’ve begun in our district. Students and families have shared experiences that are difficult to hear. How could those types of experiences happen in our community and in our schools? Listening has helped me realize the impact systems have on individuals and given me hope for positively changing those experiences.

This work is also a personal journey. I have come to better understand the advantages I have had. I’ve benefited from seeing myself in the story of society and the curriculum that’s framed my learning throughout my education. I’ve never been followed in a grocery store or searched when exiting. I never even would have thought about that kind of scrutiny if not for friends who have shared those experiences. I’ve never been called a racial slur. I could go on and on and on. I have had the advantage of a system that is aligned to me. For people like me, who have benefited for so long, changing this system can be scary. Finding the resolve to be a part of the change requires belief in Dr. King’s words that “their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead” (I Have a Dream). We all can grow with the realization that we all benefit from driving out oppression.

Our district is committed to this work. Our students require us to believe in this work, so they can continue the journey. I am convinced that the strength of this work happens in the individual interactions, the relationships we have with each other, our students, our families, and our community. When we truly listen and seek to understand, there’s an exchange of learning and empathy that takes place. It’s in these moments that we add to the foundation of making Dr. King’s beautiful and powerful words a reality. Thank you for being a part of our district commitment to this reality. “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” (I Have a Dream)

Have a great week!

Jeff