An Antiracist Teacher in Every Classroom

By:

Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming. What if being an antiracist educator was a minimum expectation for any position in the field? What opportunities would await our students? What more could become of our schools? Or world?

One of my favorite School Reform Initiative professional learning protocols, which is often used when embarking on educational equity work, is the “Future Protocol.” A lead member of the group explains the goal the team is working toward, and the remainder of the protocol is divided into three parts – all equally important.

In part one, participants are asked to thoroughly describe the future as if they are already there and their goals for the school community were accomplished. Participants are encouraged to use their senses to bring the vision to life. This part of the protocol can be wildly imaginative and inspiring, generating excitement among the participants about what’s possible.

In the future, I envision there is an antiracist teacher in every classroom. They affirm the humanity and dignity of each student through their interpersonal interactions and their curricular choices. They embrace historical truths, grapple with difficult topics, and teach students how to think critically about power, privilege and how to use it. Their classrooms are just and loving communities in practice. If I close my eyes while imagining this, I can see and hear students and educators laughing together. Collective laughter is part of our antiracist future.

In part two of the protocol, participants are asked to look at the current reality to deepen their understanding of how the school is functioning and for whom. Participants look to the margins to see who is excluded or forgotten. I find this part of the protocol to be sobering yet clarifying. We can’t look away.

The final part of the protocol asks participants to talk about how they got from their present reality to the future they are creating. It gives participants an opportunity to ask meaningful questions and develop action steps. If we are going to have an antiracist teacher in every classroom I want to know:

  • How do we become antiracist educators? 
  • How do we make sure our actions aren’t informed by latent racist ideas?
  • How do we make sure we are not causing harm to the students and communities we are supposed to serve? 
  • How do we know if our curriculum is antiracist? 
  • How do we know if we are doing enough or if we are just being performative? 

I don’t pretend to have concise answers to these questions, but I do believe professional learning is one of the most powerful ways for us to figure out how to be antiracist educators. Professional learning or professional development (PD) gets its fair share of critique and is often deemed ineffective or inadequate.

Researchers suggest the most effective professional learning is relevant, collaborative, job-embedded, and ongoing. Unfortunately, most school systems are not designed to provide these opportunities for educator development, but we must find a way to grow even during a global pandemic and constant uncertainty around school.

The transformation of schools requires our own transformation. Change begins with us. I invite you to join us at CARE as we work to equip more antiracist educators. The future we want in within our grasp.

In the future, I envision there is an antiracist teacher in every classroom. They affirm the humanity and dignity of each student through their interpersonal interactions and their curricular choices.

School Reform Initiative (n.d). Future Protocol a.k.a Back to the Future. Retrieved January 29, 2021 from https://www.schoolreforminitiative.org/download/future-protocol-a-k-a- back-to-the-future/

Spikes, D. D. (2018). Culturally Competent and Racially Conscious Professional Development for School Leaders: A Review of Literature. Teachers College Record. 120(10). 1- 17.