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Educators in Solidarity

Educators in Solidarity is a group working to build our collective capacity as anti-racist educators through activism, advocacy, and outreach. Educators are uniquely situated to address racism by affecting institutional change and empowering students to self-advocate. We are committed to ongoing dialogue about systemic racism in our schools and communities.

Standing in Solidarity

As educators, we stand in solidarity with Breaion King and other victims of police brutality. We will not be silent and we will not forget.

Here is our published letter demanding change in our current police policies in Austin. Huge thanks to everyone that worked together to publish this letter.

To Whom it May Concern:

We come to you as a group of Educators in Solidarity with Breaion King. We condemn the violent criminalization of Black and Brown bodies at the hands of police. Officers Richter Spradlin are terrifying examples of the pervasive racism within our policing system.

 

Chief Acevedo and the Austin Police Department have made some positive progress, but officers must be held to a higher standard. The policy that protects the officers in this context needs to be revised immediately. We concur with the widely researched recommendation that officers need anti-bias training that confronts the belief articulated by Officer Spradlin that Black people are inherently violent. In addition to anti-bias training, the office of police monitoring should run a campaign to inform the community about reporting incidents with police which violate their human rights.

 

This violence is mirrored in our schools and disproportionately affects Black and Brown students, particularly Black girls. Our students should be safe in our community. We support Breaion King in her pursuit for justice and demand that these policy changes be a priority for this fiscal year.

 

Sincerely,

 

Educators in Solidarity

 

Meghan Buchanan

Stacia Cedillo

Sara Freund

Hannah Friedman

Ruth Garcia

Eliza Gordon

Jeffrey Jenkins

Robin Lane

Mark McKim

Veronica Silva

Alex Vasquez

Amber Watts

Thea Williamson

Changing and Clarifying Our Mission Statement

As you have noticed, we have changed and clarified our mission statement. After many edits, revisions and discussions we came up with the following mission:

Educators in Solidarity is a group working to build our collective capacity as anti-racist educators, through activism, advocacy, and outreach. Educators are uniquely situation to address racism by institutional change and empowering students self-advocate. We are committed to ongoing dialogue about systemic racism in our schools and communities.

As a group, we felt it was important to be very explicit about our work as anti-racist leaders. Labeling ourselves as anti-racist means we actively fight to dismantle, shift and change systemic racist systems. We felt there was a huge different between being a group that does not tolerate racism and a group that fights to reverse racism.

We also talked a lot about the action component to our group. Some questions we discussed were:

  • What is our role as educators to make changes?
  • How do we have a presence and also work to create change?
  • Who can we work with who will create the most change?

We decided that as a group of educators, we have the power to affect both educators in a way that can create lasting change in classrooms and in schools. We want to work with teachers to explore their own racial identities and think critically about how that affects their students and instruction. We discussed starting a book group, online discussions and probing questions at our monthly meetings. This will help us apply our knowledge within our own educational contexts, essentially creating a relevant and meaningful type of teacher reflection.

Educators in Solidarity believes that change needs to happen on both a small scale and a larger one. We must reflect on our own practices and beliefs in order to make a more wide-scale systemic change.

We are committed to working with educators to explore issues of race and look at how that affects behavior, achievement and attitudes  of students. We are looking forward to the next chapter of our group as we challenge and learn from one another.

As always peace and love,

Educators in Solidarity

 

The Danger of Being Crazy Busy

By: Robin Lane

Before winter break, I read an interview with Brene Brown (fabulous writer and social work researcher extraordinaire – you should check out The Gifts of Imperfection) where she talks about overwork, stress, and exhaustion as “status symbols,” measures of success. It made me think a lot about the challenges of working in today’s public school system, on the increasing workload and pressures faced by educators on a daily basis.
Mostly, though, this interview triggered for me a lot thoughts around whiteness, especially the concept of “white guilt.” For some great reading, check out “Anatomy of White Guilt” from Racial Equity Tools, and this recent article from the New York Times: “White Debt.”
While reading, I came to this sudden realization that sometimes when I’m overworking and exhausting myself in my job or in my activism, it’s because I feel guilty – for being white. And wow. I thought I had gotten over this, I told myself. I thought I was really owning my whiteness, I thought I was moving forward in figuring out my role in social justice as a white woman, I thought I had come to terms with my family’s involvement in white supremacy through the generations. But all of the sudden I was looking at my long to-do list, all of the emails in my inbox, all of my New Year’s Resolutions, and it’s like with every rally I put on my calendar and every meeting I planned to attend, and every book on my reading list I was saying: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Operating from this perspective, the work I am doing isn’t actually helping. Because I’m overbooked, I’m constantly changing my schedule and cancelling things. I feel like I haven’t really committed to any one organization or any one cause because there are so many things out there; instead of digging deeply into any one issue, I’m kicking rocks across everything from refugees in Syria to charter schools in Austin. I’m not 100% at anything because I’m so exhausted from trying to do everything.
In the interview, Brown says, “‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” For me, staying ‘crazy-busy’ is sometimes a way of proving that I’m doing enough – all I can – to help students and to make the world a better place. And it’s almost irresponsible – going from 0 to 60 and back to 0 does not make for a consistent, strong movement. For me as a white person to be doing that is just another way of perpetuating violence against people of color.
This year, I really want to try to be solid and stable, to stick to the commitments I make, to do what I’m passionate about and good at – not what I think I “should” be doing or am “supposed” to be doing – to allow myself time to rest and take care of my personal responsibilities – to myself, to my partner, to my family and friends. To think about every choice that I make and take a breath before I dive in – to ask myself “What is my motivation here? What am I trying to prove?” – to shake off some of that guilt and turn it into responsibility.
This is clearly a work in progress, as is any white educator’s journey of racial identity development. Am I on the right track? I would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts or reactions to this, as well as your own personal resolutions and commitments around this and other topics related to racism and social justice.

Thanksgiving: A Paradox of gratitude and racism

The month of November can be highly stressful for teachers. It is the time where the rubber meets the road. The excitement and nerves of students and teachers from the first few weeks have died down. Classroom climates and cultures are frequently tested, with teachers and students giving in to the demands of testing, rigorous instruction and extra curricular activities.

November also means the much needed THANKSGIVING BREAK for teachers. is also the first time teachers have a break since the beginning of the school year. Giving thanks takes on a whole new meaning when you get to sleep in, stay in pajamas and watch TV to your hearts content.

In the classroom, Thanksgiving can mean a multitude of things including dress up parades, extra craft time, faculty potlucks and my all time favorite Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special. While these activities are a nice light-hearted break from the day to day stress, it often leaves students with a very white washed, Americanized view of the Thanksgiving story. It many elementary school textbooks, the story is told disregarding the point of view of Native Americans and glorifying the Pilgrims.

I am always left with the same lingering questions about teaching Thanksgiving. What resources can I use to teach multiple perspectives about Thanksgiving? How do I encourage other teachers to teach multiple perspectives about Thanksgiving? How can I make it relatable to students while teaching form a social justice perspective?

I have gathered some resources to help us think outside of the box about Thanksgiving.These resources expose students to the Native American perspectives and debunk the heroism of the Pilgrims. Please comment below about resources and activities you use in your classroom:

Enjoy!

Hannah

New School-Year Resolutions

Although most of the country celebrates New Year’s on January 1st, the New Year for educators rolls around in early August, when teachers, administrators, counselors, and others begin training and preparing for their students to return. Why wait until January to make your New Year’s resolutions? Here are some things I’ve been thinking about, to keep in mind this August.
1. Keep up with current events.
Horrible things happen so rapidly and unexpectedly, and so often sometimes that it feels like it’s impossible to keep up – but, as an educator, you need to be prepared to face the scary things in the world alongside your students. You need to know what’s happening that might find its way into your school. Especially when it comes to local issues – what’s happening in City Hall, with the school board, and in your school’s community. Maybe this means you listen to NPR on your morning commute, or you play a podcast while you’re cooking dinner, or you leave the news on while you’re cleaning your apartment. There are also some great media sites, and you can sign up to get regular updates in your email (I really like ColorlinesThe Root, and Burnt Orange Report ).
2. Educate yourself.
So, now you know what’s happening, but there’s a context for everything. Every educator has a different expertise and a different life experience. It’s our responsibility to step out of our comfort zones and learn something new – about history, about pedagogy, about race, about gender, about art – that will help us better connect to and understand our students and our communities.
Teaching for Change has some great recommended booklists to get started.
You can also find in-person and online trainings – like Undoing Racism Austin or Facing History and Ourselves.
3. Find your people.
Feeling like you are the lone voice for social justice on your campus is exhausting, disheartening, and painful. It makes you start to question yourself, and every choice you make as an educator. You are not alone. Seek out people who support you, who believe in what you are trying to do, who agree with the changes you think need to be made. Maybe that’s a group of social justice minded educators (like Educators in Solidarity!) or maybe it’s another local activist group. You need a place to rant, to troubleshoot, and to feel listened to – and to take action. I’ll say it again: you are not alone. 
4. Be self-reflective and self-critical.
Challenge your gut reactions. Step outside of your experience and look at the world from another perspective. You can’t let yourself off the hook for doing the deep, personal work of combing through your prejudices and privileges if you’re in a room full of students every day. Take the Project Implicit quiz to learn about your implicit biases, reflect in a weekly journal, ask yourself “Why did I do/say that?”
5. Give space for anger, mourning, sadness – and make room for joy.
Remember those scary, awful things that are always happening in the world? If you don’t make space for them in your classroom, they are still going to fight their way in. Make space for students – and for yourself – to be angry, sad, and scared, to process those emotions in a supportive environment. At the same time, there is room for joy, excitement, and hope. This is the hardest thing – at least for me – so I’d love to hear some thoughts and get some resources about how to honor these deep emotions with my students.
6. TAKE ACTION.
Sign that petition you get from the listserv. Find out who represents you (link) and call them when issues arise. Attend community meetings, events, and protests. Volunteer for local organizations. Donate and fundraise. As educators, we have huge influence in our classrooms – as people and citizens, we can also have huge influence on the world outside our classrooms, the world that affects our students in so many negative ways. I really believe that our jobs as educators can’t only be inside of the school – find your way of action, however small, and commit to it. Just as an action you take in your classroom can change the lives of your students, so can the actions you take beyond those four walls.
*This blog was written by Educators in Solidarity founder Robin Lane. Robin is currently studying school counseling at UT Austin*.

AP_info_finalWe know as educators that our jobs are more than checking off a list of state standards and grading papers. We wear many hats throughout the day ranging from social worker to nurse to custodian to secretary. We also know that our jobs are significantly more than what is outlined in our contract.

Therefore it is essential that we think about our school climate and culture in addition to our actual lesson plans and content. We need to be aware of the environment we are creating for students and constantly question if it best serves them.

School and classroom discipline has become a recent hot topic conversation amongst educators (and people who think they know about education).The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a report detailing the disproportionate suspension rate amongst students of color. One particularly striking data point was “black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students.” The report also outlines how students of color are disproportionately disciplined in and out of school as young as Pre-School.

As educators, it is imperative that we work to address these inequalities and frankly racist systems that exist in our schools. Questions I frequently find myself thinking about are:

  • What can we do in our own classrooms to appropriately respond to behavior that best serves our students?
  • How can we ensure we are providing an equitable classroom environment where all students are given the tools they need to succeed rather than spend time roaming the hallways or sitting in the office.
  • What can we do in our own classrooms and on our campus?

If we continue to punish students of color for their behavior rather than create systems that allow for student success, we perpetuate the statistics outlined in the Department of Education Office for CIivil Rights report. We must find alternatives to the traditional out of school suspensions, after school detentions and ISS (in school suspensions). These traditional, and frankly old school methods of discipline do not aim to help students, but rather cut valuable instructional time.

Also, when discipline is not properly addressed and students are not given resources and tools to be successful, we contribute the school to prison pipeline.The ACLU defines the School to Prison Pipeline as “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems” (https://www.aclu.org/infographic/school-prison-pipeline-infographic).

Discipline strategies that typically target students of color have major affects on students. We need to develop strategies that work with diverse students that respond to their needs rather than punish them. It is time we think about system wide school changes that restructure traditional methods of disciplining students.

Please share any feedback, resources or suggestions you have regarding school discipline policies and the school to prison pipeline. Tweet us at Edu_insolidarity with your discipline ideas!

With Love,

Hannah

What Does Social Justice Mean To You?

Social Justice is a term that gets thrown around frequently especially in educational contexts. There is often little discussion about what the term means and more importantly, how that manifests itself in our daily lives and in our classrooms.

Defining social justice is something that is very important to Educators in Solidarity. In May, we met to discuss a collective definition that would help shape the work we do. Key elements of social justice we discussed included:

  • Equity v. equality- equity acknowledges that we do not all start on the same playing field, and we need to acknowledge these differences in order to move forward rather than assume everyone has had the same lived experiences
  • Requires action- it is not just a belief system but requires action. One cannot just teach or believe in social justice, actions must be matched with words and thoughts.
  • Stands in solidarity and provides a voice for all marginalized individuals and groups of people.
  • Points of unity- what are ways we can come together while still celebrating differences?
  • Empowerment, positive/asset base v. deficit mindset- we must shed all deficit views we have of people and think about the assets they possess in order to make change

As educators, this term is especially important. We were left thinking about larger questions such as:

  • What does social justice education mean?
  • What does social justice education look like in a classroom?
  • What is my role as an educator in continuing to fight for social justice?

As a group, we are continuing to work on a collective definition of social justice and social justice education. As educators this will help us create a framework for our own teaching and truly teach with a social justice perspective.

We would love to hear your thoughts/comments about what social justice means to you!

Peace and Love,

Educators in Solidarity

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