One of the things that impresses me most about Brookfield’s “The Skillful Teacher” is that he devotes so much time to diversity in the classroom. In addition to the explicitly labelled chapters on diversity and teaching about racism, these themes appear throughout the book. I truly appreciate his focus and self-awareness on these issues. Being aware of the diversity of our students AND our biases is an important part of our practise.
I think the most potent idea for me that Brookfield presents is modelling and being open, even admitting your own biases to students. This can be an incredibly hard task to do even alone, let alone publically. I think it’s easy for most of us to assume our biases are not that bad, so we don’t need to worry about racism or sexism. While there is generally loud disagreement with overt acts of racism or sexism, microagressions are common and often unnoticed. These continue to impact our relationships with people who are different than us. Being self-aware and admitting that we have biases is an important step towards overcoming our biases.
Story time! I have never been a huge supporter of using politically correct language. There are some things you should never say–that I think is true–but being completely rigid with the language we use I thought sweep the true issues–biases–under the rug. After the last US election, I changed my thoughts. During the election and since, we see so much overt racism or sexism in the media from individuals and groups of people. Almost every day I read something about anti-racist or anti-sexist protesting again overtly racist or sexist groups. To me, it seemed that over all we have become complacent with racism and sexism such that it was now entering our news daily. It got to a point where I began to reflect on my own actions–how was I different? Is there anything I did that could have contributed to this complacency? The answer was language and not speaking up against the use of non politically correct language.
I have since changed my language policy. I do not allow non politically correct language around me. I don’t use it and correct others around me when I catch them using non politically correct language. This does create the odd conflict, but this conflict create a new learning opportunity for teaching about racism.
Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.