Change can be hard. It can be necessary and uncomfortable. Sometimes we know we need to change but we’re not sure what that looks like.
Our teacher worlds change all.the.time. As we learn more, watch others teach, work with different students, develop new strengths – we and our classrooms evolve. This is a good thing. Over time, we are honing our craft based on our learning, the research of others, and our changing mindset.
Change as a Teacher
The double-edge sword to change, as a teacher, for me? “Man, I can’t believe I didn’t do this before? Have I been doing it wrong all along? Bless my first classroom of students.” It turns into a head game, but at the same point, it’s hard not to. Our classrooms are filled with incredibly capable, amazing human beings every.single.day. There are real-life people in front of us who are impacted by our decisions (the good, the bad, and the ugly). The stakes are high.
Along the line of change and evolving habits, I want to plant (or water) a seed for you. Now, you may not like this and that’s okay. It may or may not challenge your current beliefs. That’s okay, too. I believe in The Learning Pit. I also believe in sharing my learning and shifts in thinking. Our teacher community community is about sitting in the grey, encouraging one another, AND considering hard things. We are not just rainbows and butterflies; we are also pits and growth.
Dr. Seuss: It’s Time for Change
So, let’s talk about Seuss.
At the age of 3, children start forming racial biases, and by 7, those biased beliefs become fixed. (Psychological Science, 2006) While Seuss is widely considered a primary classroom staple, it’s time to take a step back.
Have I celebrated Seuss in the past? Absolutely. Should I have been more aware of the stereotypes and beliefs I was condoning and perpetuating? Absolutely. My privilege as a white, middle-class female allowed me to opt out, ignore, and/or brush off this conversation.
Was harmed caused? Hard truth – yes. Regardless of my intent, the impact supported the “differing” of people, the implicit bias of cultures and people who are not white, the stereotyping of Asian Americans and Africans Americans.
Learning More about Dr. Seuss
When we know better, we do better – for us, for our students, for underrepresented populations – and as someone with immense privilege it is my job to lift other underrepresented voices (and students) up. Even if it’s uncomfortable, or awkward, or makes us eat our words. We do it because it matters. Ready to learn more? Here are three go-to articles, blog posts, and research papers.
- Dr. Seuss Books Can Be Racist, But Students Keep Reading Them (NPR)
- It’s Time to Talk About Dr. Seuss (Teaching Tolerance)
- The Cat is Out of the Bag (The Conscious Kids Library)
Highlighting Other Teacher Bloggers & Their Experiences
Looking to learn more? See some must-have books in your classroom that represent all of your students? Check out these awesome teachers and bloggers.
- Vera, The Tutu Teacher, shares a monthly collection of newly published diverse books. It’s definitely worth the follow.
- Mrs. Tabb, Education with An Apron, offers fantastic social studies resources that don’t center the “Columbus Discovered America” perspective.
- Tamara, Mrs. Russell’s Room, has an incredibly thoughtful culturally-responsive teacher blog series that is a must-read. Be warned – it will make you think.
How I’m Changing
As a teacher in the blogging community, know that I am growing and evolving with you. I will call myself out. I’ll admit where I am learning. I’m not afraid to ask questions. *AND* I expect the same things from you all. You can call me out. Ask me to learn more. Give me alternative perspectives.
For me, in the past two years, this has meant deleted Dr. Seuss posts and replacing them with this note. Removing anything from my website or store that even hinted at Dr. Seuss or resources my voice and privilege shouldn’t be profiting from (i.e Martin Luther King, Black History Month, etc). This has meant reading and thinking and learning and sitting with discomfort.
It also means intentionally reading, owning, and sharing books that better represent my students, my community, and the world.
Alternatives to Dr. Seuss
Also know, I don’t believe in throwing someone (teachers, students, friends) into the pit without any support to consider alternatives. That’s how we become frustrated, turn around, dismiss competing ideas, and stand stronger in our initial beliefs.
- Read Across America: A Nation of Diverse Readers
- Host a Book Tournament
- Invite in Guest Readers from the Community that represent underrepresented sections of your school and community
- Each day focus on an author who is underrepresented in your school (and extend this to monthly author studies all year round that highlight amazing authors who aren’t white, heterosexual males).
Well friends, that’s it for me today. Cognitive dissonance. Uncomfortableness. Change. They’re all okay. They can be the catalyst for important conversations, questions, and ultimately shifts in thinking.
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