“Turmoil related to racism plagues our streets and our suburbs—and seeps into our schools—if we as educators cannot help one another (and our students) tactfully dialogue about sensitive issues, while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect who will? As recent events return racism to the forefront of our American consciousness, I wonder if biases or prejudice guide any of my interactions. Would I always know? Would someone tell me? When is racial commentary appropriate for learning, and when do we as adults redirect or simply quiet our students?”
These words, by Principal Marcus Leake of Weddington Middle School, were sent out to every teacher and staff member before the beginning of the school year. Why? Because Principal Leake is dedicated to doing as much as possible to identify and eliminate harmful prejudicial language and behavior from the halls of his school community.
Last year the Greenspon Center held a day-long Becoming One Human Family program at Weddington Middle. We worked with the entire 7th grade class and a team of trained Weddington teachers to unpack and openly discuss prejudice, discrimination, how words can be toxic, and being a voice for change. This year Principal Leake invited us back to lead those who lead the students in a shortened version of this program.
“. . .we’ve experienced some quality results working with the Greenspon Center and our 7th graders—Words as Weapons [part of Becoming One Human Family] was their program—and we’re renewing our faculty discussion with the same organization. I’m sure you’d agree that now is as important a time as it’s EVER been to have these kinds of conversations!” (Principal Leake)
Participants in the first two sessions were amazing! I was a little worried about how things would play out: this type of workshop is best done face-to-face. The educators who gathered virtually proved that intention and commitment can overcome the challenges of virtual meetings. They listened and reflected, asked questions and shared stories. I learned as much as I taught, which is the outcome every facilitator hope for. I look forward with excitement to the next two sessions!
If you know of other school educators or administrators who want to have intentional conversations around bias, prejudice, discrimination and racism, have them contact the Greenspon Center at firstname.lastname@example.org