I find myself returning to blogging as a means to encapsulate the learning, thinking, and reflection that is swirling in my head after attending WSRA these past 3 days. I always seem to find it difficult to verbally articulate all that was heard, witnessed, and shared over the course of those three days.
WSRA holds tight to a red thread that connects our deep beliefs that research grounds us, expertise matters and literacy is complex. The theme of WSRA this year was Equity, Engagement & Empowerment for all. In the end, it was about so much more than just literacy learning. The opening keynote by Pedro Noguera was phenomenal in the way in which he urged educators to action. He said it isn’t enough for us to just learn about the inequities happening in our schools, we must be guardians for equity and disruptors of inequity. He challenged us to consider that schools create their own problems, creating disabled students by the ways we are/aren’t teaching. So if a child isn’t labeled as a learning disabled student until high school, he suggests that child isn’t disabled, as much as they have suffered from ABT (Ain’t Been Taught). That’s not the child’s fault, it’s a school problem. There tends to be too much complacency in schools when it comes to the under education of our children. Too much pity in the name of “empathy” when they are not one in the same. One can have empathy, “Yes, I get your challenges, but you are still responsible to do x,y,z.” That’s the opposite of pity, where you feel badly for someone based on their challenges and therefore don’t hold them accountable. Pedro acknowledged that, in education the problem is our inability to create the conditions where kids can learn and thrive. We need to stop blaming the kids and get the conditions right for learning and teaching to go well. The path to achievement in education is through engagement. It’s that simple. So why is it so hard?
In reflecting on Pedro’s keynote, I believe that before we can even begin to think about systemic change in our schools, we first have to identify and own our biases. This is not easy work. There must be shared trust and vulnerability. We Got This by Cornelius Minor and Being the Change by Sara Ahmed are two books that have really pushed my thinking on equity and the work that needs to be done. I find myself asking, “What can I do to be a guardian for equity? Perhaps I can plant seeds…suggest book studies, engage in hard conversations, advocate for my students and colleagues…anything but sitting idly behind my desk waiting for help.