One of the positives of being on sabbatical this year is having the time to do more reading, writing, listening, and reflecting on how we can ensure more inclusive school communities where ALL members feel welcome and have a sense of belonging. We cannot create these communities without talking about systemic inequities (i.e. systemic racism) and creating actions to dismantle these systemic inequities.
As part of this writing and reflective process, I want to share some of the great books, videos, podcast episodes, and social media posts I am finding that can benefit others who share the same commitment to this critical work.
The most recent episode of the Intersectionality Matters with Kimberlé Crenshaw highlights a new series of episodes called Author Talks where authors of books that have been banned due to anti-CRT legislation will be featured. In this initial episode, the guest is Dr. Ibram Kendi who talks about the importance of teaching all students an accurate version of history and how important it is to quell the fear-based narrative that is causing legislation in some states to ban books that provide a more accurate portrayal of our past.
In this recent episode of Teaching While White, hosts Jenna Chandler-Ward and Elizabeth Denevi speak with John Diamond and Amanda Lewis, the co-authors of Despite the Best Intentions, a book that focuses on how racial inequality thrives in “good” schools. The authors discussed their five-year research study on Riverview High School, the focus of the book. The actual name of the school, location and community members who were interviewed are all hidden, but the reality is that Riverview could be many middle-income suburban schools with a racially mixed student population. In fact, the authors discussed how when they shared the findings of their book with a group of 30 suburban superintendents, all of them were concerned that Riverview was their high school.
In this episode, Elana Aguilar speaks with Dr. Dena Simmons about LiberateEd, the organization she founded to ensure that social-emotional work in schools is not just “white supremacy with a hug.” The mission of LiberateEd is as follows: “to center healing, justice, and radical love in social and emotional learning (SEL) so that all children can live, learn, and thrive in the comfort of their own skin.” Dr. Simmons highlighted the importance of understanding the process that must be undertaken for healing and racial justice. “I think we’re always in the process of healing, and so understanding, healing as both a process and an outcome is important…We think racial justice is an outcome, but it’s also a process. And I say that because a lot of people think of it only as an outcome. They think, ‘If I read this on healing, and I read this book on racial justice, I’ve done the work, I’m done.’ And that’s not how it works.
Principal Center Radio podcast – Supervising principals for instructional leadership – This podcast from 2020, features Meredith Honig, a professor of Education Policy, Organizations, and Leadership at the University of Washington and. Lydia Rainey, a research scientist at the University of Washington and the director of research for the District Leadership Design Lab, highlights the importance of district leaders supporting their Principals as Instructional Leaders. The two guests highlight the work from their book Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach. The authors discuss the common problem of district leaders allowing Principals to get bogged down in operational problems and getting away from the more important focus on teaching and learning. They discuss a new vision where districts reimagine the job description of supervisors of Principals to focus primarily on instructional leadership so that Principals can keep their focus there as well. The authors’ research is clear that in districts where this focus is maintained there are better results at the classroom level.
This Atlantic article by Clint Smith, who wrote How the Word is Passed a book about looking at America’s history of slavery, takes a look at how Germany has dealt with its own horrific history related to the Holocaust. Smith notes the following in the article:
“I saw that Germany’s effort to memorialize its past is not a project with a specific endpoint. Some people I spoke with believe the country has done enough; others believe it never can. Comparisons to the United States are helpful, but also limited.”
I was also struck by the following insight from Smith towards the end of the article: “I was reminded, too, that many of Germany’s most powerful memorials did not begin as state-sanctioned projects, but emerged—and are still emerging—from ordinary people outside the government who pushed the country to be honest about its past. Sometimes that means putting down Stolpersteine. Sometimes that means standing on the street for years collecting signatures for the massive memorial to murdered Jews that you believe the country needs. Americans do not have to, and should not, wait for the government to find its conscience. Ordinary people are the conscience.”
As outlined in the abstract of the study by the author Jayanti Owens: “This study develops a more comprehensive understanding of the production of racial/ethnic inequality in school discipline by empirically identifying a dual process that involves both individual teacher bias and heightened blaming that is related to minority organizational composition.”
As part of the findings, Owens suggests reforms for both individual-level
biases and organization-level outcomes which disproportionately impact Black and Latino boys.
This award-winning film produced by Jeffrey Robinson is currently available on Netflix and it provides a historical timeline that highlights the role of anti-Black racism and white supremacy from our country’s beginning up until the present. You can watch the official trailer here. Robinson’s statement about his hopes for the film on the Who We Are Project website ends with the following words: “II hope we get to a point where the narrative in the United States about our past is one that is true, not to tear ourselves down, but to reckon with where we started and how far we need to go to get to the true promises of our country.”