Posted: June 14, 2021
Thank you for letting me tell some of your stories through the years with the HOPE & JOY project. It has been such a privilege to do so.
I’ve frequently shared the joy I get from graduation. The nervous excitement about what’s next in our graduates’ life journeys is hopeful and inspiring. Returning to Doc Harris for in-person services was one of the many highlights I will take from this year.
Each year our graduates take flight into a pretty uncertain world. That has felt particularly true with these past two graduating classes. Navigating the pandemic and a world that is wrestling with who we were, are, and want to be can be tough. Our own community is struggling with this. A recent flyer has been circulating on social media about some sort of a rally at our school board meeting with the following information. CSD’s “equity” training forces kids & teachers into stereotypes of oppressed vs. oppressor based on race, color, gender etc. Join us in saying “NO” to CSD’s toxic ideology of Critical Race Theory.
Our school board has anchored our work in the belief that the entire community benefits when every child succeeds. They have shared our collective responsibility to ensure that children of every race, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, socio-emotional well-being, and ability reach their full potential.
The passage of “No Child Left Behind” in 2001 shifted our focus to gaps and disparities in student outcomes. Since that time, we have been charged with examining our systems and practices, and we’ve made some progress. This work isn’t about “forcing into stereotypes of oppressed vs oppressor.” It’s about creating safe learning spaces for all and the work of CSD staff on this is recognized and appreciated.
Retired teacher Daniel Harvey spoke at Hayes Freedom’s graduation speech Saturday. In paraphrasing some of his words he challenged students to see with two eyes, one to celebrate and one to critique their personal learning journey and our country’s journey. One thing to celebrate about our country is our ability to examine our past, learn from it, and strive to do better. Just because we’ve been blessed with that ability does not mean it is easy. It presses on us. It can be uncomfortable and challenging, and we must embrace it.
Being an educator today is challenging on so many levels. In addition to content standards, we are responsible for helping students continue to be curious, empathetic learners, collaborators, problem solvers, and innovators. We’re helping students understand who they are and who they want to be. It’s an awesome responsibility that I know our staff takes seriously. We have approached it with the lens of EACH student.
Our training over the past several years has focused on best practice instruction, content literacy, inclusion, social-emotional learning, trauma-informed practices, technology, and student equity. It has not focused on putting students or staff into the role of the oppressor or oppressed. The training has challenged us to look at our system through the lens of our students. I appreciate all of the work our staff has done with this. Through the years we have grown a lot together.
Many of you know my son, Micah. Being able to be his father has been such an honor; he’s taught me so much. He’s given me a new perspective on the world. I view it now from the lens of curbs and ramps. His mobility is such a visual thing that I think most everyone can understand that there are curbs that sometimes get in the way of his access and opportunities. I never noticed all the curbs until he shared his view of the world with me. Now I can see most of the curbs and help him navigate to ramps. Our equity work isn’t about putting up more curbs for others or making people feel guilty because they can walk. It’s about creating a culture that is safe and welcoming to all. It’s about allowing everyone to show up as themselves, be respected for it, and have the same opportunities as everyone else. It’s a work in progress
Fortunately, most of our students can step over the sidewalk curb and access the best we have to offer them. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other curbs that can become barriers. System barriers for access and opportunity can be associated with mental health, poverty, ability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and many other factors. You see some of these curbs every day, and you help students navigate to ramps. We also miss some of them because of the unique and amazing individuality of each of our learners. Our equity work is about continuing to challenge ourselves to see our system through our students’ perspectives and proactively identify curbs.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your work. I wish you the best on your continued journey of navigating to and building ramps.