For the past few years, TSMS staff has been engaged in the challenging work of understanding the effects of institutional racism on our students, families, and staff. Many people still believe that the primary role of an educator is to teach students to navigate institutions that have historically been dominated by white Western cultural mores. I would argue that educators should instead be preparing students for a diverse society that embraces the contributions and beliefs of all our children. We want our students to go out into the world as active agents of change to help a new kind of society take root. Recently I mentioned to the TSMS staff that I believe we are very good (not perfect) at seeing our students as individuals and appreciating whatever skills and insights they may bring with them. Nevertheless, I am concerned that many of our students, especially our Black, Latinx, and Asian students, do not yet see enough of themselves in us and the curriculum we teach.
We are currently working to address this gap. This year the staff is engaged in professional learning designed to support us in reimagining curriculum that is more culturally responsive. Culturally responsive teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning so students can see themselves and each other (their culture, people, beliefs) in our classrooms. This work may never be fully complete, especially in such a diverse community as TSMS, but I would maintain that the most important thing is for our students to see us making real efforts to change. In this case, I honestly believe that it IS the thought that counts as we push toward more and better implementation.