Working Together To Make Change

Personal perspective

By | Vanessa Quintana

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled us to make countless adjustments to our lives as we yearn for normalcy. The pandemic related protocols and the grave educational injustices illuminated by this crisis has elicited opinions from educators, parents, students, and the greater community alike. We have become keen to the culture of exploitation and the numbness of schooling done onto our children. The diminished hope we have in substantial progress is notable in the short-sighted incremental change we beg for. The time for systemic adjustments has expired. While changes are inevitable, we can choose to embrace this moment as an opportunity for collective growth. 

Breakfast, lunch, and adult supervision. The pandemic painted a vivid portrait of the fundamental role of schools as a source of daily meals and teachers as a childcare provider tasked with cultivating the emotional and intellectual growth of our young while families fuel the American political economy. As the demands grow taller, the paper enfolded in the salary collected by teachers remain short. A community member asserted, “Our teachers need to be paid well. If we can see anything from the pandemic, it is that parents rely on schools to not only educate their children but keep them safe and fed.” While financial security should be without objection, our teachers’ wellness must be prioritized too. It is unreasonable to place our societal injustices at the doorstep of a classroom and expect to remedy generations of poverty, heal trauma, and cultivate the brilliance in every young person. Our teachers deserve adequate training and support for the demands they enlist. Educators must be equipped with trauma-informed teaching and anti-oppression training to ensure they are no longer contributing to a hostile learning environment in leadership, instruction, or interactions. More so, educators need to a have robust support network to help carry the load and fully funded schools. Our teachers deserve to work in community schools staffed with full-time employees dedicated to serving the intellectual, mental, and physical health of students, families, and colleagues. The community school model centralizes partnerships with students’ families, community-based organizations, local businesses, government, among others to maximize resources to meet the needs of students and their families. Every school should have the resources to meet basic needs and healthy educators to foster a robust learning environment. 

Eight-hour shifts and demands for compliance. Too often students feel like passive actors in hostile learning environments that are designed to mold them into docile laborers in the American workforce.  It was suggested that remote learning remain an option to hinder harm to BIPOC educators and prevent bullying to students because of toxic school environments. Rather than striving for a solution that allows systemic violence to fester, we can collectively redesign a system that honors the humanity, initiates healing, and cultivates growth of all students and staff. Implementing critical race theory (CRT) curriculum and pedagogy will ensure every school becomes an anchor of critical consciousness, collective action, and transformational leadership. This education method centers the experiences of people of color to analyze society through a racial lens. CRT curriculum and pedagogy centers people of color to draw on their lived experience of white supremacy to create space to heal and build collective power. By creating space for students to disclose such intimate details of their lives, students are reaffirmed in love and resiliency as a counter frame to how children of color are socialized by America. Renowned educator Bettina Love notes, the pedagogy must be a practice of being in solidarity with communities of color to authentically integrate their imagination, expression, memory, vision, healing, spirit, and bodies into abolitionist teaching to dismantle all systems of oppression in our society. It also teaches students how to live communally and work in solidarity to pursue collective action against oppressive forces. Our curriculum should be designed collectively to challenge all students to think critically and drive innovative solutions for intersectional justice.

Liberation from the shackles of oppression will not fall onto the shoulders of one population. It will take all of us to envision an educational system that excites learners and restores the joy of teaching beyond a marketplace of subpar schooling experiences branded as choice. Students, parents, educators, administration, government, and the broader community must choose to all accept responsibility. To fully implement a community school model and robust CRT pedagogy, school leadership must honor the reciprocity of a family-community-school partnership -who is responsible for the experience of each school. Paternalistic bureaucracy must be replaced with a genuine value of the experience, expertise, and leadership embedded in our families and communities. With community power and a grand vision untethered by the marginalization we breathe, we can redirect progress from the rest stop of tolerable oppression to a destination of liberatory education. 

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1. Love, Bettina L. (2019). We Want to do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. Beacon Press Books. Pg. 136.

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