If you are a white teacher (which most are in Canada), it is likely you have said / done / perpetuated racism in your classroom. Since racism is woven into all our systems, our history, and our popular culture, there is no escaping the fact you have racism to unlearn. The unlearning is a lifelong process and commitment. Here are some reminders to help you in your classroom.
The summer break is over and us educators are headed back into our classrooms with renewed vigor and enthusiasm, and most likely, some stress and anxiety about how this year will play out. Many of us have committed to the journey of becoming anti-racist educators and perhaps spent the summer reading, learning, and unlearning, in order to decolonize our teaching and bring more anti-racist practices into our classrooms.
As a white teacher doing this work, I am constantly seeking advice, support and wisdom from colleagues near and far, especially those who have been living anti-racist pedagogy for years. Anti-racist teaching is a practice and sometimes, we get so focused on our anti-racist plans, that we miss some obvious do’s and don’ts. In the effort to ensure our intentions land with the impact we want them to, the MAR Education Advocacy Team has put together some helpful reminders of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to Anti-racist Teaching.
Helpful Reminders as we Start the School Year
Bring up anti-racism and equity in your school staff meetings and organize meetings with other colleagues in your school who are committed to anti-racism/decolonizing practices
Talk as a staff about how your school will address Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, seeking guidance from Indigenous Education departments local Indigenous communities, and Elders
Get to know your students so you can reflect their stories, backgrounds, histories, and culture in your teaching
Create a culture of awareness and appreciation that recognizes that everyone has gifts to share and everyone has things to learn from one another
Connect with families and your local community. Doing this work is all about relationships, it’s how we can we bring meaningful learning into our classroom that is rooted in community
Make the effort to learn how to pronounce students and staff members names properly
Diversify the books and resources in your classroom and conduct a classroom book audit
Start planning early for Black Shirt Day, Black History Month and other culturally important days
Follow anti-racist educators on social media and join online anti-racist education groups
Include diverse representations and stories throughout the whole year, don’t just teach it during the months or days that are dedicated to their history (Example: Don’t just teach about Black stories during Black History Month)
Remember intersectionality matters. As we plan anti-racist lessons and discussions it is important to recognize that the social constructs of race, gender, sexuality, class, able-bodiedness, etc don’t exist in isolation and that all these identities determine a person’s power and privilege in a given environment
Pretend you know it all. Learn with your students. Admit your mistakes and apologize when you say the wrong thing
Read aloud books that use racial slurs or that solely focus on the pain/trauma of BIPOC communities. Read diverse books that include strength, resilience, and joy!
Rush lessons on culturally and racially important topics
Plan lessons about BIPOC experiences or history without input from BIPOC educators
Use “What you did over the summer” or “Family Tree” projects that could alienate some students
Do this work alone! Connect with the village of other educators and community members who are doing this work
Forget to acknowledge whose land you are living and working on. For resources on how to do a land acknowledgement in a meaningful way start here.
These are just some things to keep in mind as we go back to school. Remember that being an anti-racist educator is not solely about what activities, lessons or resources we use, rather it is in the ways we show up everyday.
We will stumble on this journey and make mistakes. We can’t get hung up on doing this work “perfectly” and then do nothing. However, it is important to consider lessons, discussions, and actions on the topic of race, racism, and culture carefully to ensure that we are not negatively impacting students and families. When in doubt, talk to the village of other anti-racist educators. We do not have to do this work alone.
Resources and Links
Moms Against Racisms Diverse Book Basket Program - Give, Gift, or Get a Diverse Book Basket of curated and hand-selected books from well-know BIPOC authors through Moms Against Racism
Moms Against Racism Group - Moms Against Racism Canada, a federally registered non-profit, was created in 2020 as a safe, brave space for Moms, and those in mothering roles, to root out racist biases and learn how to raise anti-racist children. One can join on Facebook or online through emails.
Anti-Racist Educator Reads Podcast - A broadcast for educators who understand that we need to be talking about race and racism in schools now. We will learn, and unlearn through a great book on racial justice. Each week, your host Colinda Clyne invites educational leaders to be in conversation about sections of selected texts, discussing historical contexts and connections to education. (Canadian)
Ontario Anti-Racist Educators Facebook Group This group will aim to serve three main purposes: 1) Actionable anti-racist actions we, as educators, can take at the school and board level to disrupt and dismantle colonial legacies; 2) A place to share resources to support educators in developing their understanding of anti-racist teaching practice; 3) A place to dialogue and debrief to foster understanding of anti-racist practice, to reflect on our current practice, and to move forward together.
Book: The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole, 2020.
Book: 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, by Bob Joseph, 2018.
The MAR Education Advocacy Team is made up of teachers, education assistants, parents, and administrators who are doing anti-racism work in their own schools and at a systems level. If you have questions for us, please email EAT@momsagainstracism.ca
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