In this four-part blog series, Tonya Perry, Steven Zemelman, and Katy Smith, the authors of Teaching for Racial Equity, introduce us to their Action Guides, short one-page companions to their book that help educators move from the words they read on the page to taking action.
As authors of Teaching for Racial Equity: Becoming Interrupters we want to provide a series of “Action Guides” for helping you, as an educator, turn the ideas in our book into concrete steps toward more equitable learning in your school. These guides will provide a fresh look at steps you’ll find in the book, along with practical ways you can adapt them to your own situation. We think these Action Guides will be more useful and energizing for this type of professional text than the traditional “study guide” that accompanies many professional books for educators. So let us introduce our first one.
Experienced teacher, author, and staff developer Regie Routman has observed,
"Everything meaningful that happens in a classroom, a school, and a district depends on a bedrock foundation of mutual respect, trust, collaboration, fairness, and physical and emotional safety."
Now, if this is indeed the foundation that we need in a school, how do we get to this state when it comes to racial equity, especially when many people find it difficult to discuss racial issues and work together to recognize and address them?
A first action step is to revisit your own life experiences that have shaped how you view the world. We all grow up with natural bias. This does not mean that we are “bad” people or guilty of some egregious wrong. It’s simply a fact of human existence that most of us grew up in one place, exposed to one set of people and beliefs. Other people – fellow teachers, our students – growing up in circumstances different from ours may have experienced life very differently. Understanding those differences can help us understand our own limited perspective as well as that of others. This can sometimes be uncomfortable to think about--“Me—I have a limited perspective?” you might say. But being uncomfortable is the first step to revisiting our life experiences. It is there, in our discomfort, that we first recognize the areas in which we excel and those in which we need to grow.
Our first Action Guide, then, provides steps for reflecting on your own biography and looking at it through an equity lens.
And stay tuned for our next blog and Action Guide #2, coming in November.
—Tonya Perry, Steve Zemelman, and Katy Smith