As teachers we know that students need practice to achieve mastery of new skills. So why is it so hard to find the time and space to work on our own skills?
As an educator, you’ve had the chance to attend a webinar, read a book, or participate in a conference, about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice work. You’ve done some learning.
But how often have you had the chance to practice having conversations about issues like race, equity, and ideas of anti-oppression? In order to feel comfortable actually speaking with students and colleagues about these issues in a productive way - we all need to practice.
Last summer Riisa, Aparna, and Lindsay (the founders of Talking Together for Change) were each taking anti-racism webinars. We each realized that we were passively listening and not actually discussing our learning with anyone. Nor were we able to connect with our lived experience and professional practice.
We started talking to each other on a regular basis and came to the realization that we needed spaces to process and discuss our reactions and learning. We wanted to be able to talk through the significance of #BlackLivesMatter and the First Nations’ railway blockade to feel like we were ready to discuss the protests with students in September. We suspected that we weren’t alone in wanting these kinds of critical conversations.
This was the spark we needed to launch Talking Together for Change. Over the past few years we had each attended and facilitated affinity/accountability spaces and realized that affinity groups are a model that would work well for having these conversations.
Affinity/accountability groups give educators time and space to have brave conversations with other educators about their diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice learning and experiences for a few reasons:
First, for educators who are new to these ideas, having conversations allows you to better understand concepts and to practice using new language and skills.
Second, talking through new ideas helps you to figure out where you stand.
Third, reflecting on your own experiences and listening to others makes your understanding of new concepts deeper.
Finally, having discussions with other educators helps you prepare to have similar conversations with students and colleagues.
For educators who have been doing this work for a while, or who have lived experience of oppression, these kinds of conversations can allow you to be authentically yourself and recharge by connecting with other people who “get it” and are passionate about anti-oppression work.
Students are ready and wanting to have conversations about the racism they experience, about their role in moving our schools and society towards anti-racism, and about how systems of oppression work.
As educators we need to be ready to meet them in those conversations.