Six years ago, I wrote a flowery worded letter in genuine thanks for all your hard work and efforts. This year instead of expressing gratitude, I am issuing an apology.
See in a pandemic, people are supposed to take their time to analyze how we can fix the problems that got us here. The adults had a whole year to look at inequity, injustice, our petty political in-fighting, our collective pain but instead we used your classrooms as a distraction to keep us from tackling these issues.
Last year, when kids came home, many revelations emerged. After months of cabin fever and social unrest, some parents learned that their kids are jerks, others learned that their kids are not really prepared (by them) for school, others learned that the curriculum they voted for is inadequate for 21st century survival, and others learned that what we call school is what our leaders see as childcare. I’m sorry that teachers are only essential to getting parents back into their miserable commutes, back at their desks, and back into the economy.
Parents, media, and politicians use the classroom as their battleground. Instead of addressing the root of inequity we yelled “learning loss”. Instead of tackling extreme partisanship we somehow embraced this sickness as normal. Soon our collective parental exhaustion evolved into angst. Parents allowed themselves to be manipulated into believing that our villains were the educators on the screen attempting order and normalcy under extraordinary conditions. No matter what side of the school open or close debate you stood on, in many ways it all came down to teachers being the scapegoats for our inability to rise to the occasion and collectively reimagine safe, equitable learning experiences for all kids… and I’m sorry.
We keep pouring more into your laps and you keep adjusting and adapting for our children and for what? Because you’re professional. Because you love what you do. Because you believe that teaching kids will change the future… and I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you need sites that help you raise money for resources and supplies that should be provided through your district. I’m sorry that there’s this expectation that you become EVERYTHING for kids with the assumption that you never burn out. I’m sorry that parents don’t volunteer in the classroom, or join the PTA, and then have no clue about pedagogy, best practices, or how school systems operate but have so much to say about the dysfunction that they have the power to change with votes and community engagement.
I’m sorry that your craft, your profession, and your trade are trivialized to the point where anyone thinks that they could teach just because they were once in a classroom. These people are mistaken. Teaching requires so much more than forcing facts on kids who have smartphones with the entire world’s knowledge in their pocket. Teaching requires so much more than preparing kids to take tests that further perpetuate the inequities present in their zip codes. Teaching requires so much more than self sacrificing yourself at the altar of “doing it for the children”.
Six years ago, I thanked you for your service:
“I say this with the utmost sincerity and openness now as a parent and as a partner in my child's learning. We fail you guys. Sometimes we get upset. Sometimes we accuse you of not doing your best. Believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of that conversation. Forgive those of us who falsely accuse you. Some of us believe that enabling our children is advocacy when it's not. No hard feelings. We think we know what's best because we made this person. We see them everyday but in all actuality it's those of you who closely observe our kids and see that they are actually capable of so much more than even we their parents could know. Growth takes time. Keep believing in us. Keep pushing us. Parents can learn too.”... I still mean every word. Parents can learn to be better allies and better advocates in their child’s K12 experience.
Six years ago, I said I knew you wouldn’t take the summer off because you’ll immerse yourself in professional learning experiences. This year I beg that you rest. Don’t spend all summer on Zoom. Yes, learn something new and lean into anti-racist, equity, or justice centered professional development but make sure you go out and do something you love, be with your family, speak with your creator, go to the doctor. It’s insane for you to think that one more webinar will equip you to solve the symptoms of a broken system.
Six years ago, I thanked you. I had a vision that “maybe one day we will begin to realize that your contributions are essential to the survival of our society.... More than bankers or doctors or talking heads or celebrities or politicians... You once made these people think about the possibility of their own future selves. That means something...”
This year I’m sending you a sincere apology for this nightmare of a year. Education is not perfect. Our kids aren’t perfect. Parents aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect. Therefore it is my hope that we can all see value in each other as equally responsible partners on every child’s learning journey.
Thanks for keeping hope from dying. Thanks for all you do.
An imperfect and appreciative parent-learner
As the verdict came down for Derek Chauvin’s case, I felt a range of emotions and thoughts rush over me. I joined A. Martinez on KPCC to discuss this more, you can listen to my segment “How to Talk to Your Kids About the Verdict in the Trial of Derek Chauvin” here (32:55) or below.
Recently we led the #CrazyPLN Twitter community in a discussion about how to cultivate a justice mindset in kids. Check out that discussion available in this Wakelet.
During the month of March we came to a point where we can no longer ignore the anti-Asian violence ever present in our society. Violence as a result of anti-Asian sentiments expressed during our year in the pandemic, but also as a result of attitudes and policies that continue to position Asian Americans as second class citizens and foreigners in their own country. As we work together to end marginalization and discrimination, we must remember that we are not playing the Oppression Olympics. It's not one group's marginalization over another's. The AAPI struggle sits alongside the struggle of all marginalized people in the push for a more just and anti-racist world. This requires each of us to work across racial and cultural groups to end oppression, racism, colorism, and xenophobia targeted at any individual or group of people.
We must ask ourselves: What are my blind spots when it comes to an awareness of the human experience? Why is it important for me to fight racism, colorism, and xenophobia in my community? How do I build the courage and capacity to be able to support others in times when injustice, racism, or xenophobia arise?
When we jump on a gaming platform or on social media, do you ever think - who owns the space? Well, who thinks they “own” the space determines how other people are treated in that space. As it stands, most digital spaces are perceived to belong to white (and sometimes Asian, males). A 2018 Amnesty International Troll Patrol study found that Black women were 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets. The 2019 International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Game Developer Satisfaction report - think of this as an overview of the game dev field… the survey revealed that only 2% of survey respondents identified as Black and 81% identified as white; suggesting a large overrepresentation of people identifying as white, and a slight overrepresentation of people identifying as Indigenous and as Asian when compared to census data that year. The same report revealed that 71% of respondents were male with 24% identifying as female, and 3% identified as non-binary. Nearly 80% of all respondents identified as heterosexual.
We build our world with our filter on it. So when we look at this data. We have to ask… who owns the digital space right now? Who’s driving our perception of the world online? Who is setting norms? Even as communities of color build spaces for themselves online, they still function within a white normative, heterosexual expectation which again can lead to harassment like that which was revealed in the Amnesty International report on Twitter.
It’s March! and that means it is Women’s History Month! This month, we take the time to honor and reflect on the contributions that women have made to society. In the past, women have fought for and won the right to vote and we are currently fighting for equal pay and for the rights of victims of sexual assault (#MeToo). Like other formerly disenfranchised groups, women’s voices have historically been silenced leading to the disparities mentioned earlier as well as disparities in healthcare, education and almost every other facet of life.
Over the past twelve months, these inequalities have become greater as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. My friend, Christine Koh, had an amazing write-up in The Washington Post about her experience navigating the pandemic as a mom. Her article Why working moms deserve a tantrum (and how to get through the remainder of the pandemic), is a glimpse into the oftentimes imperfect side of motherhood. Her highly stressful ordeal reflects the shared experience of moms across the globe who are trying to manage a job in addition to a hectic household. Christine has given tips for retaining sanity as the pandemic trudges into its twelfth month (number three has helped me immensely).
But us working mothers, surprising to say, could be considered the lucky ones. Other working moms have lost their jobs and struggle daily to make ends meet with whatever they can while balancing a stressful home life. The Center for American Progress published the article entitled “When Women Lose All the Jobs: Essential Actions for a Gender-Equitable Recovery”, written by Diana Boesch and Shilpa Phadke. In this article, the pair illustrates the job loss inequality in America. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to layoffs and business closures, but women have accounted for over half of these pandemic-related job losses with minority women affected the worst (Boesch and Phadke). As women have been leaving jobs during the pandemic, it is clear that something must be done.
Though we want women’s contributions recognized every day of the year, by celebrating Women’s History Month, we choose to challenge the status quo by incorporating the strides made by women- historically and contemporarily. Historically women have been silenced simply because their voice was not valued in society. As we are all well aware, that was a backward way of thinking. But remnants of this thought process are still alive and well today and manifest in the systems that keep women and other historically disparaged groups at a disadvantage.
As we celebrate women, our celebration must be intersectional. Intersectionality is a term created by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw over 30 years ago to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and overlap to reveal how people experience inequities and oppression present in our society. Women’s history has always been about intersections of gender, class, and race.
I wanted to take a quick moment to highlight a figure in women’s history whose story is both compelling and inspiring–and is still breaking barriers today. New Mexico’s Representative Deb Haaland is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the U.S. Congress. As she is also President Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, once confirmed she will be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. What resonated with me was the fact that Congresswoman Haaland made all these strides, from her obtaining her education to becoming a politician, all while raising her daughter. Some of the finer details of her story are detailed on the “About” page of her state representative website linked here, and I encourage you to check it out: https://haaland.house.gov/about
I challenge every family to take the time to read about women game-changers like Representative Haaland. Below is a shortlist of books I find consequential to Women’s History Month
Why should we celebrate cultural heritage months like Black History Month? For starters, celebrating cultural heritage months provide a low barrier to entry that allows people of all backgrounds the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones and learn something new. Cultural heritage months grant marginalized groups the opportunity to celebrate what makes them unique. And finally, when we celebrate cultural heritage months, individuals focus their learning efforts toward expanding their understanding of others and their relationship to them.
It is a dangerous narrative to believe that at some point we could find our dream job, stand on the peak of our own greatness, or accomplish all that we are destined to do by the end of our lives. We are trained at a very early age to believe that we stop when we get what we think we want. This is ridiculous! Why is it so hard for us to welcome a life path littered with disappointments, detours, and setbacks? What we want should evolve as we learn more about who we are, what we are capable of, and what passions are worth pursuing with every fiber of our being. The journey to our authentic self is just that- a journey. We never stop. Ever.
How do we find the passion and motivation to keep going? Why is it important for us to not only pursue our dreams but bring others along with us on the journey? What ways do our stories inspire others to have the courage, excitement, and the intention to be their best selves too?
We thought about these questions a lot as we were ending 2020. It was a tumultuous year with many set backs, but it was also a great opportunity for us to reimagine the way we would like to make an impact in this world. That's why we started the Let’s K12 Better podcast and that was the impetus behind the What's Your Why, January series.
We know we're not the only ones create ripples in large and small ways; building communities of allies, accomplices, and collaborators; or meeting the moment with courage. We also believe in human potential and know that each and every one of us has the ability to build better systems and ecosystems, but many of us either don't know how or may not fully believe in our power and capacity to do so. That's why we listen to the stories of others living and pursuing their passion because it inspires us to do the same.
I felt a bittersweetness fill my cup on Inauguration Day. Honestly, I was holding my breath in anticipation of error, hatred, or further danger. Living the overt trauma of 2015-2021 has undoubtedly taken its toll on me. Though excited for new beginnings, I had grown accustomed to what was translated as random acts of violence and hatred and had grown weary in the long slog toward a promise of better days ahead. And for those who were privileged to experience the abridged version of my trauma during 2020-2021, it’s safe to say that many of us were looking forward to a collective sigh of relief.
The tradition of Inauguration Day is a symbolic gesture of peace and joy between parties where all of our officials come together as one body politic to present the new executive leader to the people of our country and the world… and somehow on this day, I felt sorrow.
As I watched the festivities unfold on YouTube and watched as our men and women in our military rightfully display the might required to protect our nation’s capital and the proceedings that day, I was reminded that a few bad apples actually do spoil the bunch. A few, rather a mob of enraged insurrectionists pushed the access of our democratic spaces further away from the people on January 6th. In order to bring stability and peace of mind to the process and ensure the safety of our elected officials on January 20th, Washington D.C. was in effect a military state.
With what we've collectively experienced in 2020 - all of the discussions we’ve held in our homes, work spaces, and classrooms; all of the personal reflection; all of the protesting and demands we’ve made of ourselves and each other, now is not the time to forget our commitment to anti-racism. After witnessing white nationalists, their compatriots, and sympathizers invade the Capitol Building in an attempted coup, those of us watching in shock have a responsibility to see this for what it is; a blip in a long history of entitlement afforded to people, specifically white people, who believe this country and its privileges are available to a select few and not everyone.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.