I find myself taking a break from the news lately, simply because so much of it has been less than positive. Instead of reading the newspaper with my morning coffee, I complete the daily Wordle and then promptly share my stats with my family on our large extended family text thread. When I manage to tune into what’s happening in the world beyond our ongoing Omicron surge, I find myself under siege with discouraging and frustrating news. The threat to our democracy has only grown as voting rights in Southern states have been taken away, a woman’s right to choice when it comes to her own body is increasingly threatened as other states propose even more restrictive legislation around abortion. Violence and hate crimes against BIPOC and Jewish community members persist in our communities and around the country. On January 15, a man “forcibly kidnapped four hostages who were exercising their right to worship” at the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 567% in San Francisco this past year and Lunar New Year starts next week. And our fight to gain control and beat back this pandemic continues. It’s A LOT for everyone. And still, I come to school every day, see our amazing, beautiful students and the teachers and staff who LOVE them and seek to cultivate all the brilliance before them.
Centering on the joy and potential of our children is what keeps me grounded and hopeful.
Last week, a number of administrators, staff, and a few teachers attended the annual Women and Leadership Conference put on by the California Teacher Development Collaborative. The keynote speaker was Dr. Gholdy Muhammad who wrote "Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literature". Dr. Muhammad challenges us to see our youth as flowers and that we have the responsibility to cultivate the genius and joy that is already within them. Our job is to not uproot them, but to adjust our care and tending; we (adults) are the waterers and even watering can do harm. She speaks specifically about the Black and Brown student experience and the necessity for schools to interrogate our own practices and curriculum before assuming that the student may be the one who misunderstands. The nature of the child is to bloom. So how do we effectively nurture and unleash the genius of the “revolutionary petunias” (Alice Walker) in our care?
Liz Kleinrock, author of Start Here Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community, was the closing speaker. She named directly that “the two main pillars of white supremacy are anti-Blackness and antisemitism.” As a South Korean transracial adoptee, queer, cis-gender woman, she spoke about her multifaceted identities and how some come into play more than others as she walks through the world and is impacted by policies, education, and social systems. Ms. Kleinrock emphasized the importance of making the shift from representation to affirmation. This is why, how we approach our curriculum and engage in teaching and learning is so critical at St. Paul’s. We must do the necessary work to ensure that all of our students feel seen. To cultivate the genius and joy in our students, we need to ground our program and curriculum in critical love (Dr. Muhammad), move beyond cultural compentence and promote radical empathy. This is how we will carry and arm ourselves with the tools and resources to navigate through the collective trauma that continues to overwhelm the news and our communities. We must nurture our flowers so that they can become the powerful game changers on which our humanity depends.
the nature of this flower is to bloom.
against the elemental crush.
a song of color.
blooming for deserving eyes.
for its self.