As the world battles an "all hands on deck war" with COVID-19 many still have hopes that have not yet been fulfilled. "When we have conquered it - and we will - may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger and freeing neighbourhoods and nations from the virus of poverty" and hope for safer school and the gift of personal dignity for every child. Elder Jeffrey R Holland Apostle Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
I am not a churchy person, I imagine many of my readers would not have guessed I regularly attend church. I don't really talk about that part of my life. As I listened to the above-quoted speaker this weekend, however, I really had to pause. He was talking about hope and remaining hopeful in these difficult times. I think why his quote struck me was because it went beyond this current foe we face with COVID-19 and brought us back to the foes we have been facing in both education and the world for some time.
There has been a pattern lately on Twitter and other Social Media platforms with new voices raising the alarms of inequality. With the closing of school buildings across the world to protect everyone from the virus, teachers have begun remote teaching, distance learning, online classes, whatever you want to call it. This shift away from our physical buildings has made an already recognized problem by many as a new issue that some are being forced to address.
I am grateful that there are more educators concerned now and willing to raise a voice to bring attention to these problems, but these problems are not new just because they are new to this particular group of educators?
There have been educators that have been doing work in trying to bring about a more equitable system of education for years. They have been addressing issues around book access, internet access, food access, DRINKING WATER, safe areas to and from school. For some educators, COVID was not a wake-up call, it was just another challenge. They were trying to address these inequalities far before it became "safe" to do so. They are not advocating for learning to stop, like some I have seen. They are advocating for teaching the education system to change to close these gaps.
What can we (educators late to the conversation) do?
I don't know the answer to the question but I know where I can get a lot of learning and hopefully help participate in finding one. These educators that were talking about this far before COVID and I don't know the answer to the question but I know where I can get a lot of learning and hopefully help participate in finding one. The educators that were talking about this far before COVID and will continue to work long after because as Elder Holland says. "When we have conquered it - and we will" they are that hope.
When I see people shouting from the rooftops over the last few weeks about how unfair this system is and how concerned they are I wonder to myself, where were you a few months ago? Why was access to healthy drinking water, food, internet, books not an issue then? Why did you choose to ignore these issues and instead focus on the easy parts?
Elder Holland added another point,
May we press forward with love in our hearts, walking in the "brightness of hope" that lights the path Elder Jeffrey R Holland
I am pondering today on who brings that brightness to these conversations around equity for me. Spoiler alert! It is not the vultures who are trying to promote their brands on Teachers Pay Teachers and Social Media throwing around buzz words.
For me, the brightness of hope comes in the work and wisdom shared by shea martin and the group they have assembled with friends, the liberate and chill collective, it is the teachers who have been working every day to shine a light on inequality such as Lorena Germán who has created an awesome resource in her Anti Racist reading instruction workbook that can be found for purchase at her website The Multicultural Classroom here. Hope comes in the form of like-minded educators that have been helping me learn and grow. Hope comes in movements like #Disrupttexts that are challenging the system and pushing back led by amazing educators like Dr. Kim Parker, Tricia Ebarvia, the above mentioned Lorena Germán and Julia Torres. Hope comes in the form of brilliance on the page that #31DaysIBPOC was for me that is returning in less than a months time and I am so excited again! A shout out to Dr.Parker and Tricia Ebarvia for all the amazing work they put into bringing all the amazing folx who participate and share their truth to build my learning. Hope comes in the form of my students as they stretch themselves to fit this new current reality. The papers they continue to submit and the beautiful words they write. It comes in a book talk written by a rural kid from Magrath Alberta Canada praising the work of Angie Thomas after reading On the Come Up
If you want a book that will really flip your thinking and give you a new and better understanding and perspective, this is a good book to read. It shouldn’t be taken lightly or laughed at or had anything said about it like “ya right that would never happen.” Because it does, it is happening. I believe that’s one of the reasons Angie Thomas writes books like this one. To open people's eyes. Not only to do that but actually give those people acknowledgement. How many books have you read that follows a coloured teen as the main character that deals with gang violence and racism? They can’t go unseen. They need to be seen and seen for the right reasons, not stereotyped and harassed because of merely their ethnicity. On The Come Up is an amazing book. Grade 9 student
The brightness of hope has been here a long time. We just need to follow it. If you are only now alarmed by the inequity in our systems, you have purposefully ignored it. Find brightness to learn from as I have. Work to support them in what they do. Amplify their message. There is room for everyone in the work of equity, but let us remember those who have been doing this work for far longer and maybe make sure we take our spot behind the curtain. If you are just now getting wise to this conversation, it’s not too late. You’re welcome to join me as a roadie on this tour. We are not the stars though, those roles have been filled.