Americans are familiar with tweets and posts. There is a crisis that occurs or tragedy and immediately our country’s leaders speak, tweet, and post: thoughts and prayers. Sadly, because the world is so broken and tragedies are happening more often than they should but the “thoughts and prayers” train always comes on time. Those words when tweeted out from American leaders have always rung so hollow for me and continue to do so to this day. It is a subtle form of gaslighting that attempts to make many people rationalize and accept as normal a terrible event or situation. Thoughts and prayers two things that I find important, but not necessarily a response that demonstrates empathy, compassion, understanding, and a willingness to fix a situation so it is better for all. That’s what I want to hear from people in power. I would rather hear facts, immediate action plans, solidarity, and love.
The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most unprecedented events of my lifetime. This is completely unique territory for all individuals but unfortunately for American systems, they have had copious amounts of time, resources, and money to prepare for a crisis. So although the handling of this crisis by our government has been criminal, our public education system hasn’t been much better revealing itself to be very deficient as well. Neither the federal government nor our educational system is demonstrating they know the difference between proficiency and growth or facts and lies right now.
Thoughts and prayers…..
What we are doing wrong? Nothing. Our educational system is working as designed. Inequitable outcomes, lack of broad learning opportunities for all students, and token levels of access for our marginalized students. Teachers with little to no autonomy, feeling the pressure of implementing mandates and initiatives without even being given the common curiosity to provide feedback on them. Tale as old as time. Although in moments of crisis, I don’t believe in silver linings, this pandemic has pulled back the curtains, opened the blinds, and exposed the rust we have decorated our gilded public education system with. What things have this pandemic clearly shined a bright light on about education, you ask?
- Teaching is political
- Vast inequities racially and socioeconomically across the country in all schools
- Our allegiance to compliance
- Deep flaws in our praxis for SWDs and ELLs
- Edtech might not be the great equalizer for education
- Many people who are not in classrooms gaslight classroom teachers
- How exclusionary and inaccessible our curricula is to all students
- Many educational leaders (district and school level) are ill-equipped to lead
- The extreme amount of pontificating by males (mostly white) within our profession
- Teachers and parapros are underpaid professionals
This pandemic has proven that we as teachers can no longer hold closed the blinds and curtains and not allow the light of truth in through our school windows: the American public education system has failed and continues to fail so many. This current time of crisis has only magnified and exacerbated its numerous faults.
Thoughts and Prayers……..
But instead of sending emails to teachers to address “emotional poverty” (stares at someone whose name rhymes with Scooby Wayne) why haven’t we been holding our educational leaders accountable for their lack of emotional intelligence? Instead of people who are outside of classrooms punching down on teachers, why haven’t more of their efforts been put into freely, consistently, and directly assisting teachers? Our first reaction always in American society is to blame. In education, we usually blame kids. Magnify their deficits. Lean into student deficiencies. Share about the scarcity of resources and access for historically marginalized student groups. Why is the same energy not used to point out the level of blame that should be assigned at the administrative and district levels? Magnify the deficits of district leaders. Lean into school building admin deficiencies. Share about the excess of resources not equitably allotted to students by districts. I mean its always the adults that ruin things, especially in education. There’s gotta be a reason why the sh — I mean blame always slides downhill.
Thoughts and Prayers…………
Most students are done with this remote, distance, digital learning experiment. Most teachers are done with this remote, distance, digital learning experiment. But because of how power is distributed in education, many people at the top don’t seem to care that the two most important stakeholders (parents being the third) are done. That’s one of those tricky things about equity. People want to lump equity into one thing instead of understanding equity has multiple parts working in sync because of whiteness and capitalism. Equity is not just devices. Equity is not just hotspots. Equity is not just having teachers from historically marginalized groups in classrooms. Equity is not just having administrators from historically marginalized groups in-district offices. Equity is not just school buildings being affirming places no matter one’s identity markers including race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Equity is not just having access to a culturally responsive pedagogy building-wide. Equity is not just SWDs always receiving their accommodations and modifications every day in every class. EQUITY IS ABOUT POWER. Plain and simple. Everyone cannot have what they need to be successful without power being shifted. Whiteness and capitalism both function on the idea that certain people are worthy or have the power. Unfortunately, our schools function in the same manner where whiteness and capitalism determine our direction, whose needs are going to be met, and the privileges individuals receive. Until there is a true dismantling and shift of power in education, we will continue to replicate the same polarized products of whiteness and capitalism: the haves and have nots.
So instead of thoughts and prayers, I’m sending solidarity and love to all classroom teachers. Here’s some suggestions that have been helpful for me during this time:
- Do not let this situation break you
- Self-care, self-care, and self-care some more
- Find ways to humanize this situation for yourself and students
- Close your laptop, do not be logged tons of hours during the weekday and minimal to none during the weekend
- Push back on mandatory meetings for kids
- Advocate for yourself and your students
- This is not normal! Don’t let ANYONE gaslight you into thinking their instructional praxis, strategies, and pedagogy is the correct way to do things at this time. NO ONE has done this before.
- Compassion over compliance
- Empathy over enforcement
- Care over content
- Did I mention self-care?
Solidarity and love to my fellow teachers, we deserve more than thoughts and prayers we seem to be receiving in abundance from all our leaders now and always.
Solidarity and love ✊🏼