How to Move from Resentment to Reflection, For the Benefit of our Students

As educators, when asked to change a practice or see a new perspective, oftentimes big emotions will come up. We are in a position in which we serve kids and families. We give of our time, our money, and our hearts when it comes to our students. When we are bone tired after a long day with kids, we are asked to attend a staff training on differentiation, or discuss our plans to reach our most struggling learners. “How am I supposed to do that with 34 fourth graders, 9 of which are on IEPs? I already spend so many hours at school and sacrifice my family time. Now you want me to do more!” Let’s be honest, the chocolate and snacks provided aren’t always enough to get us out of our funk, even when the staff cheerleader reminds us about growth mindset. Sound familiar?

Due to our reality of sacrifice, we can feel defensive when we are asked to continue to push ourselves to refine our practice, learn something new, or take a hard look at how we interact with kids. Why do we automatically consider a suggestion to grow, as a personal insult to the job we are doing? Instead of choosing to look at coaching as a good thing, or consider whether an administrator may see our potential, we assume WE aren’t enough. Yes, there are many obstacles to being an educator today. Yet, these feelings and thoughts are defeating, and will stop us in our tracks. They become the reason we dig our heels in, and another year goes by without a change in our practice. There is another thing we have to ask ourselves; How does this relate to how we interact with our students? Do we offer feedback to support our kids to be the best they can be, or if we reflect, do we project feelings of resentment and send the message our kids don’t measure up. Resentment truly is a manifestation of feeling upset or put out, due to the perception we have been mistreated. Resentment, unchecked, is like a weed in our garden. It poisons the soil and strangles the roots, so nothing can effectively grow. Let's take a good look at the weeds we have growing in our gardens, and dig them up so our kids can grow.

True change begins in our hearts. We have to do the heart work of reflection, before we can do the headwork of action. Let’s start with our reactions to hearing we may treat our black and brown students differently than our white ones. Or, when we see the achievement data in our country that shows the achievement gap between our students of color and our white students, how do we respond? Analyze your thoughts. Do you look at that as a call to do better, or do you immediately justify the data with assumptions and stereotypes?

“Well, those students have a really hard home life.”

“If only the parents were around and involved.”

“If they would just try harder and value their education, things would change.”

“We just don't have the resources to support our kids who aren’t native speakers.”

As long time educators, we have heard and even bought into these rationalizations. Thinking to ourselves, "If I were just able to take this student home, all would be good," has crossed our minds. The truth is, if you are thinking these things, it's a problem. It’s time to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and grow as educators. The kids are worth it.

You might be wondering, “Where do I start?” Start with feeding your mind with a different perspective than you’ve been conditioned to believe over the course of your life. Read books and listen to podcasts about Indigenous perspectives and experiences. Instead of providing students with the traditional novel study of Call of the Wild, try a different book like Ghost or My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich. Instead of the traditional fairy tale unit featuring Cinderella as a white princess, try Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, featuring Indigenous characters. When we become educators, we commit to a life of learning for ourselves too. Read Stamped or My Vanishing Country. Watch documentaries about years of injustice in the educational system, like “Teach Us All.” Hearing new voices and striving to understand an experience other than your own, will help you understand the urgency of the work. Put simply and beautifully by Johora Warren at the Be About It conference, “Don’t hesitate. Educate.” This applies to you as an educator, as much as it does the students you serve. Do the heart work, and apply it. Don’t just talk about it. Be about it.

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