Education”s Four-Letter Word: LOVE. Now How Do We Talk About it, For Real?
Teacher, Boston Latin Academy
|Project Description: In an education environment that avoids or even counters ideas that are key to a compassion oriented view of education, how can we support each other to talk about our feelings in deep and transformative ways? How will reframing love as central to learning, teaching, and organizing change our approach to ensuring high quality public education?
||Biography: I teach Spanish at Boston Latin Academy, where I also serve as a leader on the Faculty Senate, as a Union Rep, and as faculty advisor to the Student Forum and to the Gay Straight Alliance. I have taught in BPS for eight years and was previously a community organizer.|
BLOG POST #1
By Riana Good
I came to teaching because of my love of people and learning, and while I have found spaces for that, all too often the dominant narrative has undermined that. Focusing on students” social and emotional learning is a current trend in schools, and my hope is to turn this focus back on ourselves as educators. In the words of Parker Palmer, “If identity and integrity are more fundamental to good teaching than technique — and if we want to grow as teachers — we must do something alien to academic culture: we must talk to each other about our inner lives — risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract.”
So, I am taking that challenge to task. I”m in the planning stages for facilitating a nurturing educator support group in which we talk about our inner lives. With so many educators feeling so overwhelmed, the need for such a group is heightened, and yet the feeling of overwhelm keeps us from wanting to add another meeting or responsibility to our already overly-full plates. How to prioritize discussion of our inner lives over other obligations? How to connect our own feelings of internalized oppression and operating within an oppressive system to the #blacklivesmatter movement? As a white woman, I am uniquely positioned to speak out on white racism and white supremacy, but it brings up feelings of guilt and distress, as well, especially when I feel limited by what I can say in school.
We have to feel a lot of feelings — of love, rage, awkwardness, fear — to talk about race, and need to first reflect on our own feelings before bringing up race/racism with young people. Our schools are racist because they are systems in which white people are conferred privilege and power. This doesn’t make all white teachers bad or racist, but the system in which we operate is, and we can’t stay still on a moving train. I fear repercussions for speaking out like this, but ultimately discomfort for white people can’t be compared to questions of survival for those oppressed by the racist system. We have a lot to talk about.
I am still in a stage of questions: What are the pros and cons of starting this through school vs. through Teacher Activist Group Boston? Maybe it”s just a matter of putting the word out and seeing where the interest lies. What is the best structure? I am generally open to ideas, though I feel strongly about starting by sharing something new and good in our own lives to recognize some of the positive amidst the struggles. We will also establish our agreements and understandings, which may include [with thanks to Anne Thomas-Abbott]:
- We”re good, and we”re smart. As teachers, we have a really cool goal to liberate human intelligence. Our current educational system has some benefit and also instills some societal hurts; but we as teachers know that people can learn and that learning is inherently enjoyable.
- We are going to set up “listening exchanges” where one partner will get a chance to talk for a certain amount of time and the other partner will listen. Then we”ll switch and roles. Our role as listener is simple: just listen. No advice, no judgment, just listen.
- We will keep confidentiality.
- We may laugh, yawn, tremble, sweat, and/or cry.
To close the group, we will go around the circle one last time to say what we”re looking forward to, or with an appreciation of someone else or of our time together.
I hope to learn more about how this model could be transformative within our schools, to offer such a support group as a practice to others, and to potentially spread the model. Over the next few months I plan to document the structure of the gatherings and our learning as participants, as well as how it connects to creating community and connection to transform our classrooms and schools. Dear readers and colleagues, I look forward to hearing from you about thoughts and ideas about discussing our inner lives.