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The Power of Every.
Introspection: The SuperpowerPosted by Cynthia Pike on 1/11/2021
We recently experienced a desperately awaited striking of midnight marking the celebrated end of 2020 as though it were a Marvel or DC villain. And while the clock and calendar’s annual simultaneous flip and reset were akin to exhaling after Batman’s victory over Contagion, we educators know that heroism requires far more than a single victorious or climactic moment; it demands answering the call, accepting the challenge of the unknown, and looking inward in order to transform that which is outward.
While many of us are indeed thrilled it is 2021, the movement of the secondhand that thrust us into this conceptual new year is not responsible for making this year better than the last. That power lies within.
I have had the pleasure of engaging in many conversations with educators and community members about our mission to inspire and empower every learner. Not once has anyone conveyed they do not believe that every learner matters. Not once.
And frequently, when I am talking with teachers, the love they have for their students is palpable. They show up each and every day, time and again, year in and year out because they want to make a difference in the lives of children. And they do. They do.
So what might we offer as a renewed focus for 2021?
Borrowing from the words of Dr. Amy Samuels of Montevallo University in her podcast with Dr. Eakins, let us endeavor to ensure every student in our care feels they are visible, feels they are valued, and feels they truly have voice in their learning.
visible - valued - voice
That journey begins with self-knowledge. We must know ourselves well first and must come to a deep understanding of our beliefs and assumptions about ourselves, about others, and about the relationship between ourselves and others.
When we know ourselves and our own cultural perspectives, we are better equipped to pay attention to who our students are as cultural beings. We can then tune into how they as individuals see themselves in relationship to others. We can with purpose discover their beliefs and assumptions and how their perspectives impact their experiences in their school community and in their daily lives. Our aim should not be to change those perspectives if they are different from our own; rather, we must ourselves see different as exactly that: different. Not wrong. Not indicative of those kids. Simply…different.
In fact, when we are designing engaging work for our learners, we should take into account differences and actively weave diversity and inclusion into the fabric of learning experiences. Without it, we might have quilted what we thought to be a masterpiece, believing each panel’s intricate design bore the image of every child, when in reality, the children whose images are missing are the same children who would never describe themselves as visible, valued, or possessing voice, choice, or ownership of their learning.
This is not a call simply to create a learning event around Martin Luther King Day on the 18th or the Chinese New Year on the 25th. While important, beyond any one celebratory history or heritage focused day or month lies a multitude of moments we can create for our students daily that demonstrate they each have value all the year long.
Dig deeper into understanding a variety of social norms for interaction, especially those which are different from your own. As Zarretta Hammond asserts in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, “A student’s different way of being or doing can be perceived as a deviation from the norm and therefore problematic if we don’t recognize that is it just different” (56).
With an understanding of differences, we can establish a classroom culture that not only celebrates difference on certain occasions, but seeks to understand difference daily. We can engage in meaningful discussions that develop objectivity, cultural consciousness, and humility. We can by design not only show our students how we value their voices, but teach them how to value the voices of others, as well.
As educators, you have already accepted the hero’s call. You brave uncertainty every day. And with all you do as a reflective practitioner, transformation of lives has become so ubiquitous that you might have forgotten that though at first glance you might appear to be common, your real identity is more like Miles Morales, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Sera, Valkyrie, Shang-Chi, and yes…even Batman.
And while Contagion has now been defeated, 2021 will present new challenges all its own.
Let’s resolve to continue looking inward, trying on alternate interpretations and explanations for size, and building our cross-cultural knowledge.