Dear White Educator: What’s Your Summer Plan?
First, I want to say happy summer. I know how hard you have worked this year, and you deserve a rest. Summer has meant so much more to educators these past few years, and it’s essential to take the time to pause and take care of yourself.
As you consider how you’ll rejuvenate and soak up the joyful summer moments, I encourage you to reconnect with your journey as a white educator. Two years ago, after the murder of George Floyd, many white teachers, school leaders, and staff began or returned to this journey. Record numbers of white educators participated in professional development opportunities focused on race and equity that summer. Yet, in the past two years, I have seen these communities dwindle. The urgency of 2020 has worn off and the pandemic persisted. We are exhausted by all it has added to our already full plates. And so, many of us have put our pursuit to understand ourselves better as white educators on pause.
Our BIPOC colleagues and students do not have this option. They cannot push pause on understanding racism and whiteness because they live with the daily effects. While the stakes are decidedly lower for white educators, pressing pause on racial justice isn’t beneficial for anyone. Whether we recognize it or not, the choices we make as educators matter to each of the students we teach and the communities we work with every day. It’s ok that we are fatigued, but it’s not ok for us to stop doing the essential racial identity development work that all white teachers need to do. And so, this summer, I encourage you to reconsider how you are thinking about, learning about, and grappling with what it means to be a white educator. There are many ways to do this, and as we know from the lists generated in 2020, multitudes of resources are easily accessible.
One of the best ways to focus on our white identity is through a community discourse with other white educators. Critical groups for white educators become a dynamic space where we can ask questions, share concerns, and push ourselves to get uncomfortable in ways that help us grow. If your schedule permits, please check out the CATDC two-day online workshop (Re)Engaging with the Work as White Anti-Racist Educators on August 1st and 2nd. Together, we will work to reground ourselves with what it means to be white educators today and create a supportive network to bring into the school year. This community building and discourse will challenge you, nurture you, and help you become more of your whole self in the daily work you do as an educator. It will allow you to return to school with a renewed purpose that others in your community will benefit from. Engaging discourse about whiteness is challenging, but it is also what makes our communities stronger, healthier, and more sustainable for everyone. Reach out with questions and we hope to see you this summer!
Wishing you long days, belly laughs, and a much-deserved opportunity to breathe and let go.
Dr. Liza Gleason has been an educator in the Bay Area for more than 25 years. She earned her teaching credential and Masters at Mills College at the start of her career and is currently back at Mills working toward a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. Liza has taught at the elementary and middle school level in both public and independent schools. She is passionate about anti-racist teaching practices. As a humanities teacher, after years of using mostly traditional resources and texts, she worked to create an anti-racist curriculum that decentered whiteness. Currently, along with her graduate school work, which focuses on white teachers and anti-racism, Liza coaches individual teachers and teaching teams on their pedagogy and instruction at Live Oak School and for CATDC as part of the Equity as Excellence team. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, an 11-year-old son, and a rescue dog named Sammy.
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