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 Colorlines
, The 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.
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*.