Facing my own racism.

So I’m making my way through “The Skillful Teacher”, by Stephen Brookfield, and this week I read chapter 9 (among others), Teaching about Racism.  Oh dear.

Okay, here we go.  I’m white.  And I’ve long felt that my voice doesn’t have a place in the racism discussion because the white voice has been heard loudly and clearly for a very long time, and I think it’s time to shut up and listen.

Brookfield suggests that maybe that’s not such a great idea, and it’s just another way of perpetuating the idea that Whiteness is all powerful and a voice of colour could never be heard above a white voice.

My thoughts on this – yeah, that makes sense.  One thing I’ve realized over the last year is that my silence is at least partly coming from fear; fear of looking racist, fear of saying something hurtful, fear of getting into an awkward conversation.  But then I started, instead of just being silent, to ask questions instead.  When I read about people of colour being randomly stopped and carded on the streets of Toronto, I asked a friend of mine if that had ever happened to him.  Shocker, it had.  Multiple times.  I was enraged and embarrassed and disgusted and so very glad that I had asked.

“The danger is in speaking “to” rather than “with” our students…”  from When the White Teacher Talks About Race.

I think for now that is the best I can do in the classroom; recognize that my perspective is a privileged one, and try to rid myself of the fear that presents me from having a genuine human interest in all my students’ stories.  And talk with them about racism, never to them.

10 Ways Well Meaning White Teachers Bring Racism Into Our Schools

The Skillful Teacher


What’s the Opposite of Hidden?

10 Effective Classroom Management Techniques Every Faculty Member Should Know

The second article in this special report focuses on the syllabus.  The main takeaway for me:  be transparent about the way I intend to teach, everything I hope students learn, and in every way that I intend to evaluate that learning.

If something is important enough to be a part of a curriculum, then why should it be hidden?

On Being Wrong

On Being Wrong:

We’ve been talking for the last week or so about learning from mistakes.

Maybe the first step is to, as Schulz says, “Step outside that tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other.. and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say wow, i don’t know.  Maybe I’m wrong.”

Just Flip a Little Bit

My first introduction to the flipped classroom was a few months ago, and totally blew my mind.  What a brilliant idea, and so obvious!  Of course class time should be for content application, not content delivery!  And of course I would want to go whole hog on the idea, and flip every bit of every workshop… but according to this video, there might be a better way:

The Flipped Class: Overcoming Common Hurdles

Take the part of the workshops that students tend to struggle with the most, and flip that.  A less pressure filled start for me, doesn’t turn their whole world upside down at once, and targets the material that needs classroom application time the most.  Makes sense!

I’ve Got a Ways to Go

I have a friend that is an elementary school teacher.  Throughout my PIDP experience, I’ve been annoying him with all the new ideas, theories, and philosophies that I am learning about and embracing.  The conversation usually goes “you should try this!”  and then “that won’t work because of this constraint or this structure or this other reason”.  And I assume he is just making excuses because he’s afraid to try something new.

Well, looks like I’m being a jerk again.  Because low and behold – I do the same bloody thing.

I took the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) this week, and boy oh boy did I learn some things.  I want to nurture, I believe in nurturing, I am all about the nurturing perspective… but what do I do?  My actions fall firmly in the land of transmission perspective.  And why do I do that??

Number 1: because of what, where, and who I teach, the existing structure supposes a transmission style of teaching.  I’m working on changing that, and I need to be patient because it will take time.

Number 2: I am new at this, and I’m not all that confident yet. Thank you to that video on the TPI results page for helping me to realize that the more confident I become, the more I will do what I believe!

So my main takeaways are: be patient (my life story, ps), plan and teach with intention, and have a little more understanding when I am talking about perspectives and methods with teachers!  In the meantime, I’m going to go and apologize to my friend.


Oh and I took this survey too.  Got 19/19.  So you know, there’s that. (A warning:  that link will take you to a quiz about the worst pop song in Canadian history.  You’ve been warned.)

Whitewater Wingin’ It

305270_980527014051_1028088177_nIn “The Skillful Teacher”, Stephen Brookfield uses the metaphor of whitewater rafting to describe what teaching is like; still and turbulent, reflective and full of action.

I found this incredibly interesting, due to my personal experience with whitewater rafting.  It happened about 10 years ago.  Other important information: I learned how to swim… last year.

So I was up in Lytton with a group of friends, camping and going rafting.  I don’t think any of them knew that I couldn’t swim.  None of the guides asked.  I kept my mouth shut and went along with everything.

This story does not get as exciting as you would think; I did not fall in, I did not have to be rescued, I did not drown.  But, I learned a lot.

When the going gets rough, keep paddling.  You will get through it.

If you feel yourself getting bounced out of the raft (which did happen), find a lifeline and grab it.

When it is calm, reflect and prepare – and enjoy it!  Look for wildlife, laugh with your raftmates, learn from the guide by asking questions!

Is this like teaching?  I think so.  Turbulence is where we learn; without challenge there is no growth.

And just like teaching – I was able to ‘wing it’ and survive, but I would feel a lot more confident now, because I can swim.  If I were to get dumped out of the raft, I could fall back on my training to keep me afloat until I could get back in the boat.  This is the piece that really got me; in order to be a skilled practitioner, it is key that I continue to seek out learning and training to be better prepared when turbulence hits.

The Skillful Teacher

Not Yet

Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing that You Can Improve

Since I listened to this talk last week, I have been careful to say ‘not yet’, instead of ‘no’.  It amazing how a small change in language can change my mindset, my beliefs, and my behaviour.

What a powerful word.