“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Lilla Watson is an indigenous Australian activist and academic, having done work in the field of women’s issues. Her quote above was used in an opening exercise at an educator conference I recently attended, and her words and theme were used to center our collaborative work together focused on leveraging our experiences and identities as people of color to better serve the students in our respective communities. This particular summit was hosted by Leadership for Educational Equity, whose belief is that “…when a diverse group of leaders, grounded in their classroom experience, are in leadership roles, they will serve as a transformative force for and with students, communities and the broader movement for educational equity.”
The objectives of the summit were to allow us, as educators of color, to explore the realm of civic and public leadership and use our experience in the classroom as a skill set we can use to drive this. The learning environment was supportive and allowed us to disrupt our preconceived notions of who gets to be a public leader in our communities and allowed us to discuss challenging systems and policies that are directly impacting our students every single day. Teaching under the current presidential administration has raised a unique set of challenges I never imagined occurring as a classroom teacher. Having our students, many of which are the most marginalized, live in constant fear and ask really challenging questions about the goals and actions of our government has been a daunting task. As teachers, we have to be leaders in our classrooms and communities while not being in control of our surroundings beyond that. Having the space to come together, reflect and heal as educators of color was sacred, and this opportunity allowed me to gain many new insights, and in turn, create more equitable and inclusive environments for our students and communities.
Constant conversations and collaboration amongst teachers can be a positive asset to promote better learning opportunities for students. As Lilla Watson stated in her famous quote, we need to recognize that there is strength in the collective and this professional development was a clear reminder of that. It’s also important to remind ourselves to constantly reflect on the ways in which our lived experiences and identities show up in our teacher selves and what we bring to the table. It’s important that we view these as assets in the classroom, instead of barriers or areas that would hold us back. As teachers of color, we have so much to share and gain from our classrooms communities and as teachers, we can serve as strong exemplars of what it means to be #alwayslearning for our students.
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