One reason I am grateful for spending much of my career in education is the opportunity it provides to constantly learn. Surrounded by incredible teaching, from sharing classroom experiences to being immersed in an environment where colleagues enjoyed discussing popular TV shows as much as robotics competitions and 19th century British literature, I will never take for granted how much this filled my cup.
I appreciated the opportunity to explore DEI topics and engage in conversation. From plentiful offerings of formal professional development to forming relationships with people who are different from me, it shaped who I am today. It helped me get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. I believe you need to lean into discomfort to grow and this atmosphere gave me the chance to do that.
I am thankful for the generosity of students who shared personal stories, the vulnerability of speakers who did their part to ensure equity and justice were values of the next generation, and my community of colleagues who strived to do better and be better in many ways. This instilled in me the significance of prioritizing listening as part of learning. I honed my ability to hold space for others and listen more. Listen more often than asking even the most thoughtful questions. Listen more often than sharing my own experience.
Black History Month meant assemblies dedicated to Black stories, art, and icons. Fortunately, it extended beyond February alone, with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day kicking off a series that led into spring most years. While it was beautiful to hear a student sing any song, it was especially moving to hear young Black students I knew personally sing songs like “O Healing River” and “Life Every Voice and Sing.” I looked them up and read about African call and response songs, Black spirituals, Gospel and Blues, and the musical origins in slave trade and Southern slave plantations.
Some of what I read made me cry. At times, I felt sick. I was definitely uncomfortable and angry at the injustice. But I wanted to know more. I needed to educate myself in a deeper way. I didn’t learn enough about those topics in school as a child and I may have known more than the average American, but I felt like it still was not enough.
As a community of people, the school where I worked didn’t always do everything right. People are imperfect. They will make mistakes. But what I respected was the willingness to do the hard work, to ask and listen, to address uncomfortable topics, and acknowledge shortcomings.
Black History Month means more to me today because I was inspired by that willingness and motivated to do my own work. I continue to do the work in many little ways that no one readily sees, starting with at home, with my own next generation.