This past August, as we embarked on this unparalleled school year, many of our cities were in the height of protest, with our students right in the center. Here in San Jose, and across the nation, students witnessed peaceful protests in support of Black Lives Matter. But as evening fell, they witnessed something else. Something all too familiar. As tear gas led to rubber bullets, and eventually unhinged violence, the reality of the systemic brutality that plagues our nation became evident once more. Only now, our kids are watching and navigating those instances with the delicacy that they deserve, only to be met with the insurrection that occurred in January, the heightened racial attacks against the AAPI community, and the horrific attacks against the Palenstinean people. This has been disheartening, to say the least.
I’ve heard the argument that these difficult conversations should not be had in classrooms for fear of being too political, to which I counter that teaching IS political. From the very moment our students were born, their entire lives have been politicized. The healthcare that they receive, the zoning regulations that assign them to failing schools, the system that calls their parents illegal, and even now the amount of support the government believes their families deserve to survive during a pandemic. We do not have the luxury of being complacent. I appreciate working in a network that not only supports but encourages the urgency of these conversations. A network that provides resources for educators and families to continue the work of advocating for ourselves and others. A network that believes in the potential of our students to bring about transformative change.
With this new administration, we find ourselves on the cusp of a new era of hope. But, hope cannot drive our dreams into reality; we must do the work. This work starts in our classrooms but extends into the way that we show up in our communities. This work is done in the way that we show our students that they are valued and respected. Two things stood out to me from the inauguration. The first came from Amanda Gorman’s poem. She said, “This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter. To offer hope and laughter to ourselves. So, while once we asked how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”
Thinking of that last line, “how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?” and looking into the faces of my students brought tears to my eyes. The resilience that allows these babies to show up in the face of adversity inspires me every single day. When children feel empowered, wonderful things happen. This leads me to the big standout moment, the first Black and South Asian woman being elected into the office of the Vice Presidency. A daughter of immigrants, she is “the first, but not the last.” We have a generation of exceptional leaders, trailblazers, and changemakers in our schools right now. I am so humbled to work with so many dedicated families and educators who also believe this is true. So the next time something “political” happens in the world, ask your kids how they feel about it. Give them the facts and be ready to be amazed at the insightful conversations that follow.
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