My week started with a surprisingly meaningful conversation about history and how it is commonly taught in schools.
That conversation wasn’t what I was there for.
I was there to train the teachers in Read Right, but in a momentary lull in the training, a group of students were just chatting about school. One of them made a comment about how his mother thought that schools should go back to the way they used to teach history.
Then, he looked across the room at me and—based on my status as a certified-learning-geek and supposed expert in education—he asked me what I thought about how history should be taught.
It was a pretty broad question, but I took a swing at it.
I said that history is usually written by the powerful and usually ignores the stories of the oppressed. I said that I thought schools should encourage students to explore the past from multiple perspectives and to question the prevailing narratives. I spoke about the history of Native Americans and Hawaiians and how frequently we don’t hear about the atrocities that the United States government sanctioned upon those peoples.
The students listened and nodded their heads and seemed to find the conversation valuable. And perhaps it was valuable. But it was not enough.
Because it wasn’t what I was there for.
And it wasn’t a conversation that was likely to shift anything in the structure or the culture of that school.
That same week, I got to participate in my first Twitter Chat, “Equity and the Inclusive Classroom,” hosted by #ILAchat.
That was a—superfast—powerful experience. The perspectives were varied. The range of experience broad. It opened my eyes and gave me things to think about.
Here are some of the tweets from that session.
There were more. Many more. They were posted so fast I could not keep up. Many brilliant people sharing their thinking about equity in the classroom. I loved it.
Well, Twitter is one thing. A little fast for my taste. I want to dig deep. I’d love to sit down with some of those people and interview them. (And I promise will create that opportunity soon when I start my podcast, Seize the Learning.)
Here is what stuck with me.
“We can’t expect kids to heal in the same environments that made them sick.”
I love school. I have always loved school. And I love teachers. They are amazing and hardworking and often self-sacrificing in their pursuit of what is best for kids.
But I do not love the design of school. The game of school. It is not designed to empower either teachers or students. And it should be. And it could be.
When I think about equity in education, that is what I think about—the design of schools.
Cornelius Minor says that when we remain neutral in a system, we perpetuate it. He says that it is not enough to just say you’re against a system that oppresses—you have to actively disrupt it.
Well I am not yet in a position to actively disrupt the system from within. But I am in a position to think about it, to speak about it, to write about it. And that is what I am up to—disrupting the game of school and creating a new game that empowers all.
So, I am going to get working on writing my “manifesto”—a declaration of all the ways I think we can change the game to empower all the players. It is a big task, but I am up to it.