My last post was about my struggle to know what to say in the tumultuous times our nation is going through. As I worked through that issue and found ways to spread kindness, respect, and empathy…I realized the power of talking. There are some really tough conversations going on in America today…AND THEY ARE ESSENTIAL. We have spent a long time struggling to discuss tough issues and it has made us separate to our corners, pointing fingers, and refusing to compromise. As we look at our children and the world we want them to inherit (in not very long), THAT is not my dream for them. Let’s find ways to keep talking to create a better world for our kids and students to move into.
I have been a part of a couple of conversations this last week that highlight the need for these conversations. The first is with a group of friends who are always in each other’s corners. This group has held each other up through personal, work, and a variety of other struggles. We are super diverse and different but always supportive. As we discussed the protests, I saw the unique perspective of the police officers and their spouses. These conversations allowed us to all learn from each other the challenges, fears, and commonalities that exist in a world altering issue like systemic racism. We listened to each other, learned from each other, and still loved each other even if our viewpoints were not exactly alike.
The next conversation took me utterly by surprise. I was at Target the day after our big 5th grade end of year all day event. I was end of year teacher tired…which means utterly exhausted. I was at the register with a relatively new employee that I think is super nice and fast (always a plus)…who also happened to be an African American young man. I began asking him how his day was, how busy it was…babbling his ear off like usual. Then, I moved into discussing masks and how it seemed more people had them on this week which surprised me as so many people are refusing to follow social distancing state guidelines. Out of this, and I am not sure how, we began discussing the protests. He said he felt like these protests felt different and hoped it would bring real change. I told him (while crying just to amp up the embarrassment level) that for me the difference was when George Floyd called out for his mother. I felt like that moment crossed all boundaries and made EVERY mother who heard it understand our common humanity. It made me want to reach out and be there for him. I explained that I thought many mamas had felt the same way. I then apologized both for crying and going on and on, told him I was an exhausted teacher, and he looked at me and smiled. He said his mom is a teacher and he totally understood. As I went to leave, I turned and said “I hope you have a great day and sorry again…” He looked at me and quietly said “This conversation has been the highlight of my day.” Sobbing…I said “mine, too.”
Both of these examples made me feel uncomfortable, scared, worried of offending others, unsure of what was right to say, and left me feeling that I was both helping to spread and gaining understanding. I am sure the other people in these conversations felt some of the same feelings. But discomfort aside, we decided to keep talking. I have seen many articles that discuss the absolute REQUIREMENT that educators lead the way in opening these challenging conversations and begin helping our students change the world and learn from our mistakes. As a parent, there is the same requirement, to educate your kids on the tough issues…the ones without a simple solution. As educators, let us lead the way in fostering conversations that encourage the development of disagreeing without arguing and compromising without criticizing. The whole wide world may just depend on our ability to keep talking.
Here is a great set of steps from https://www.google.com/amp/s/brandyouinc.org/2013/06/01/5-steps-to-prepare-for-a-crucial-conversation/amp/
Here are some resources and examples of some powerful tools to use for yourself, with your students, and/or with your own family. Please add some of your own in the comment area:
- https://www.tolerance.org/ – Teaching Tolerance has amazing lessons on a variety of challenging conversations.
- Nearpod.com – has excellent lessons on these challenging issues.
- Actively Learn – lots of current events and topics
- New series to build understanding – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h8jUA7JBkF4&feature=youtu.be
- Watch as a high school turns around an act of racially motivated vandalism – https://twitter.com/CharMeckSchools/status/1270131248632037377?s=09
Resources to support children as an educator and/or parent: