I think I got this idea from Nawal –look through photos for some writing inspiration…With nothing in my brain today, that’s what I did.
As I was scrolling, this silly selfie caught my eye and reminded me of a story from 10 years ago when I was completing my field project for my administrative credential.
First, a little history lesson. In 2011, California passed the FAIR education act, the antithesis to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In a nutshell, it amended the ed code to include contributions of LGBTQ people and people with disabilities in history and social studies content, as well as accurate representation in any newly adopted curriculum.
The program I attended required students to develop and implement a project that would address issues of marginalization. With the passage of the FAIR education act, I thought that designing professional development around helping teachers understand this new law would be one step toward addressing an issue that affected all of our students, whether they identified as LGBTQ, or had parents that identified as LGBTQ, or they lacked awareness or inclusivity.
My school leader at the time was a first year principal and I needed to get her approval before embarking on this enterprise. I was thrilled when she wholeheartedly gave me the green light. We both knew there might be some backlash, but even as a new administrator she took a stand for equity.
Was there a backlash? Oh, yes. But was it from parents? Nope. It came from within the building.
During the first PD, most of the teachers asked thoughtful questions, collaborated as they analyzed and studied texts, and expressed their appreciation for bringing this work to our school. My heart was full at the end of the session, watching my colleagues actively participate in this learning experience, especially because I knew this was new territory for many of them. But my spirit was soon deflated.
A few minutes after getting back to my classroom, there was an aggressive knock on my door. It was one of my fellow teachers. She often wore a scowl, so when she had been scowling during the meeting I didn’t think much of it. Before I could even greet her, she started barking at me. “Do you really think what you’re doing is appropriate? I don’t agree with what you’re doing! This goes against my or rights!” On and on she railed while I listened calmly.
When she finally stopped her rant, I asked, “Do you think that R (a beloved aide at our school, who is gay) deserves to have his experience reflected in the books he reads?” She huffed and she puffed, but she couldn’t couldn’t answer the question. I asked it again. Once again, she huffed and she puffed, but couldn’t answer the question. When she ran out of air, she stormed out of my room and went straight to the principal’s office, dragging a like-minded friend with her.
The two of them sat in the principal’s office and argued that they should be able to opt out of any future meetings around this topic. Without hesitation, my principal told them that as public school teachers it was their duty to serve ALL children. AND if they opted themselves out, they would indeed be written up. This was a real chingona move!
A few months later, it was time for the second PD session. My field supervisor came to, well, supervise me. The colleague who had come to rant in my room whispered to him, thinking he was a district mucky-muck, “Don’t you think this is wrong?” To her surprise, he vehemently disagreed and sang my praises.
Fast forward through the rest of the year and magically this teacher and her comrade in hate just happened to be ill on the other PD days. Cue side-eye.
As for the rest of the staff and myself, we came away with new knowledge and strategies to ensure that our school community was a more safe and inclusive space for our students.