Last week I had the pleasure of facilitating a session for JFREJ’s Jews of Color Torah Academy! My session, JOC Growth & Power: Encountering and Navigating White Fragilitywas an opportunity for us to use our own experiences with white fragility as text to explore in chevruta study. For those who were able to join, it such was a pleasure sharing space (physical and virtual) and learning with you!
For those who weren’t able to be there, click here for a copy of the presentation. Below is a session description:
We are in a moment when the collective power of Jews of Color is growing and radiating! As we continue to build power and take up space in the United States, we can expect to encounter some confusing and hurtful non-sense from our white friends, our partners, our allies, even our moms.
So…what is white fragility? How does it show up in our organizing work (facilitation, strategy, 1:1s, direct action, etc.)? What strategies do we have to recognize it and navigate it?
Starting and ending with what *we* need, what *we* have to offer, and what *we* dream of creating as JOCs, we’ll spend some time in the middle learning and strategizing about how to deal with the predicable white non-sense the comes up when we do work in coalition. During this session, Megan will share stories from her work, some of what she’s learned along the way, and together we’ll share our collective wisdom.
One of my favorite parts of the session was developinga Spotify playlist dedicated to building JOC power. Enjoy!
I’m really looking forward to this year’s NAEYC Annual Conference from November 14-17 in Washington, D.C. I’ll be presenting two workshops:
Supporting Multiracial Children & Families (3 hour)
11/14/2018 from 8:15 – 11:15am at the Washington Convention Center Room 145B
America is becoming more racially diverse and educators and other adults in children’s lives need the thinking and strategies to support healthy development, which includes racial development. Multiracial children are seen as bridges between races and proof that negative attitudes about interracial relationships are declining. These maybe true, however many multiracial children struggle with forming healthy racial identities. There are also children that are part of families that include multiple mono-racial identities. Both of these groups of children can grow up feeling that they have to deny part of their identity to be part of dominant racial group. If these children are not supported in positive identity formation, they can easily incorporate racist messages unconsciously into their view of self and others. This interactive workshop will explore how children develop racial and multiracial identity, how adults can support healthy racial development. Participants learn and practice researched based strategies that can limit the effect of internal and external racial messages. Through self-reflection, large group and small group activities. Participants will leave with a beginning action plan and resources to continue their work in supporting the development of all children.
Professionalization Can’t Mean Whitening: A Critical Race Analysis of Early Care and Education Workforce Policy
11/15/2018 from 10:00 – 11:30am at the Washington Convention Center Room 151A
One of the most controversial recommendations of the 2015 Institute of Medicine report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8, was that the field embark upon a process of “transitioning to a minimum bachelor’s degree qualification requirement” for all lead educators. Acknowledging the existing racial disparities among those who currently hold a bachelor’s degree and the well-documented racialized barriers that exist for those who are interested in pursuing a degree, many are concerned that this movement to “professionalize” our workforce will lead, even unintentionally, to a whitening of the workforce. This workshop will present the findings of a mixed-methods research project, investigating the impact of state-level bachelor’s degree requirements on the racial/ethnic diversity and stratification of the early childhood teaching workforce. This study advances the argument that the whitening of this workforce is a logical outcome of a “colorblind” approach to early childhood policymaking. As an alternative, participants will learn about the strategy of “targeted universalism” and leave empowered to proactively advance racial equity throughout early childhood policy and practice.
In addition, I’m excited to be supporting two workshops that are being sponsored by the Diversity & Equity Interest Forum:
“A” is for Activist: Stories and Strategies for Resistance
11/14/2018 from 8:15 – 11:15am at the Washington Convention Center Room 149AB
The fourth goal of Anti-Bias Education states that “each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.” We know that these goals apply not only to young children, but also to ourselves as educators. During this session, participants will have an opportunity to develop their own activism skills. We will learn from seasoned early childhood educators and activists — Jamie Solomon, Christina Martinez, and Nadia Jaboneta, and Peggy Haack — who will share their powerful stories of taking action for social justice. Participants will leave the session inspired and equipped with concrete strategies to make a difference in their classrooms, workplaces, and communities.
Let’s Talk about Whiteness
11/16/2018 from 1:00 – 2:30pm at the Washington Convention Center Room 140A
Conversations about race, racism, and power in early childhood often focus on critical issues involving the marginalization of children, families, and educators of color. In addition, effective racial justice work requires that we understand the ways that whiteness operates. We invite you to join us at this session in order to make that whiteness visible. Through storytelling and small group activities, we will consider the professional responsibilities of white early childhood educators, in dialogue with their colleagues of color, to explore how racism and white privilege shape our lives and work. By the end of the session, participants will be invited to make a commitment to implement one concrete strategy to disrupt racism in their work as early childhood professionals.
I really hope to see you there. This sessions are going to be great! You can use this online itinerary plannertool to begin mapping out which sessions you’d like to attend.
Last March, I traveled to Aotearoa New Zealand on a study tour hosted by Ijumaa Jordan and Eliana Elias. One of my most significant take-aways from this experience was thinking about our image of the teacher and how we communicate that image through the way we structure and facilitate professional learning. For example, when we hold an image of the teacher as untrustworthy, as unintelligent, and as fragile we tend to create professional development systems that reflect that image. These systems are highly structured and lack rigor (both socio-emotionally and cognitively).
This might sound familiar. It is to me.
From my vantage, I see lots of professional development where teachers have little choice or agency. Instead, directors choose where and when to send teachers to workshops, the content of which is rarely aligned with what teachers themselves say they need and want to learn about. State level administrators make decisions (without teacher input) on what content needs to be offered. And federal policymakers attempt to micro-manage teacher practice by writing super detailed program standards and accountability rubrics.
To me, all this feels connected to a deeper image that our culture holds of teachers as untrustworthy. Which, let me be clear, I think is very much connected to our society’s view of women (who comprise more than 90% of our workforce), of immigrants, people of color and poor/working class people (who comprise a disproportionate share of our workforce), and of young children (the people we serve). When our society doesn’t take these groups of people seriously, it makes sense that our early childhood systems don’t take early childhood educators seriously.
I also see an obsessive focus on “the basics.” In New York, our training requirements emphasize minimum thresholds of quality–the kinds of things teachers must know to keep children safe, healthy, and alive. Of course, these things are important. We need kids to be safe, healthy, and alive. However, when we’re so laser focused on the basics, it communicates something to teachers about what we think they are capable of. We spend too little of our time and resources supporting educators and children to flourish, to thrive, to think critically, to maximize their full potential! Anti-bias topics are avoided because they are perceived as being “too advanced” and “too controversial,” for educators and children alike.
Research demonstrates time and again that the work of early childhood educators is very complicated, highly skilled work. It takes incredible intellect and emotional capacity. Heck, it even takes high levels of physical and spiritual development.
We are building brains. We are building communities. We are building society.
The good news is that early childhood educators are absolutely brilliant and very capable of engaging in these high levels of learning and practice. Imagine for a moment, what would professional development look and sound and feel like if this was our image of teachers?
In Aotearoa New Zealand, I had an opportunity to experience for myself what it’s like to be trusted and respected as an educator. Utilizing a Communities of Practice model, we engaged big topics like cultural appropriation and settler colonialism without one worksheet or textbook. The whole experience was not without structure, of course, but our facilitators clearly communicated (both explicitly and implicitly) that they believed we were strong, trustworthy, and intelligent. And within that context we rose to those high expectations.
Since I’ve returned, I have been working on integrating this learning into my own practice as a professional development provider. One example was a workshop, From Non-Racist to Anti-Racist: Proactively Advancing Racial Equity in Early Childhood Policy, that I co-facilitated with Ijumaa at NAEYC’s 2018 Professional Learning Institute. During the workshop, we went in. We intentionally did not tiptoe around the topic, slowly easing the mostly white group into a conversation about racial equity. We decided to center the workshop around our needs and experiences as Black women. We went at our pace.
Within the first 5 minutes we were naming the lived impact of slavery, by minute 15 we were unpacking the concept of white supremacy culture, and by the 30 minute mark, we were walking through the core tenets of Critical Race Theory.
And guess what? It went great! In the words of one participant:
One of the best conference presentations I have attended. Thank you.
On our post-workshop evaluation form we asked participants to share: How do you think this workshop could have been made more effective? Of the 27 participants who responded to this question, 13 (or nearly half!) said they wished we had more time.
More time! Could have done this for 3 days.
To me, this highlights how hungry our field is to be trusted and respected enough to be given the time and space to really dig deep into these challenging topics. We are smart enough. We are brave enough. We are capable of engaging this content.
Another example is in participants’ descriptions of our strengths as facilitators. While several people responded that they enjoyed our sense of humor and our welcoming, personable, and engaging facilitation style, participants also noted that a key strength was our honesty. In the words of one participant, “no sugar coating happened.” In the words of another, our strength was in “being real/direct.”
In short, I think early childhood educators want to taken seriously. More importantly, we deserve to be taken seriously. Our work is serious work. Of course, it is also silly work, and loving work, and beautiful work. And it is serious. Every single day, early childhood educators are laying the social and political foundation of our society. Teachers spend approximately 8 hours a day, establishing the norms and patterns that will shape the culture of the next generation. That’s serious work. Like really serious work.
Inspired by these experiences, I look forward to continuing to integrate this high image of the teacher into the work I do. Alongside Kate Engle, I recently had an opportunity to witness what can happen when we put into practice what we know: that early childhood educators are brilliant, that transformation takes time, and that the work of early childhood education is highly political. I spent a full day with 17 early childhood educators digging into the history and analysis of anti-Black racism, and developing strategies to teach for Black lives. At the end of their evaluation form, one participant put it best:
It was such an honor to co-facilitate a workshop at this year’s Come Learn with UsConference with Kate Engle! Having the entire day allowed us to dig deep into the history and complexities of anti-Black racism, while still having time to practice strategies for advancing racial justice in early childhood programs. Follow this Facebook Pageto learn more about how to get involved in this year’s Black Lives Matter week of action in schools.
The photos below capture some of our learning. The whole experience inspired me to explore the use of Learning Stories to support adult learning.
Send Your Own Letter: Beth Blue Swadener and Mimi Bloch have drafted a sample letter that can be adapted for telephone or emails to US Senators—also you can, of course, create your own! See below.
Dear Senator ______,
As an early childhood expert who is concerned with child and family well being, I am deeply troubled at the inhumane treatment of immigrant children and families at the US border. As recent UN action has indicated, there are serious violations of human and children’s rights occurring as children are forcibly separated from their families who are being jailed or detained under new Homeland Security Policies.
As asylum seekers, adults and children are already escaping trauma and severe danger. To have parents and children forcibly separated only worsens their trauma. At the moment of separation, damage is already done. In addition, parents or guardians often do not know where their children are being taken or if they will see them again. Children as young as infants and toddlers are being held in government custody, typically without siblings, legal representation, or others who might understand their language.
The conditions of over 11,000 children are in question. Many are reported to be in cages, military bases as well as in foster homes many miles from families. Children in detention have no access to the care of extended family, schooling outside of their detention site, and, most importantly, advocates (legal or otherwise) to protect and safeguard their rights and wellbeing. There are documented cases of sexual and physical abuse of those in detention, and reports of over-crowded conditions, compounding the trauma brought on by the new policies.
I urge you to co-sponsor and actively support the Senate’s “Keep Families Together Act” immediately. Please also sign on to the letter calling for the cessation of funds for separation of immigrant children from families, already signed by over 100 legislators. Time is of the essence for the children and families involved.
I also urge you to visit detention sites and call for Senate Hearings about the impact on children of these recently policy changes. Please let me know the actions that you and your staff are taking on this urgent matter.