The Anti-Racist Educator [interview with Keisha Rembert]
While this topic branches out more broadly for the Shake Up Learning listeners and readers, I want to use this platform to support the movement and to raise awareness and inspire action.
I’ve asked Keisha Rembert, award-winning teacher and co-author of “Being an Anti-Racist Educator is a Verb,” to share her knowledge and advice for teachers.
Keisha is a fierce advocate for equity and has published works on diversity and inclusion in education. She also speaks nationally on this issue.
We cannot sit idly by and wait for change. We cannot sit idly by and wait for the mandated one-size-fits-all training on diversity and inclusion.
We must ACT, as Keisha says, “Being an anti-racist educator is a verb.”
It’s time for action, y’all. You with me?
Listen to the article:
Keisha’s passion for equity, social justice, and youth literature coalesce in her membership and work on NCTE’s Committee Against Racism and Bias, as an advisory board member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a board member and Senior Policy Fellow with Teach Plus, and as a Master History Teacher with Gilder Lehrman.
Angela Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist; we must be anti-racist.”
Keisha shares this quote as she relates what drove her and two of her colleagues to make anti-racism a verb.
This quote is relevant because there is a distinction between being non-racist and truly being anti-racist. The distinction lies in the orientation of the action. We can no longer rest in complicity.
How Can You Be a Change-Maker?
As a teacher, Keisha recommends starting a conversation with your students about racism and the state of the world today.
These conversations need to be happening in the classroom at all ages and at all levels. This one thing can help us as educators take a stand and direct our students down the path of change and inclusion.
One of the actionable steps that our leaders in education need to take is to look at their hiring practices. Where are our teachers of color? Charge yourselves with taking action in that way. Plus, all teachers should go through anti-racism training. Also, review your policies, are they genuinely promoting equity in your schools for your students and your teachers?
Bring the Realities of the Present Day Into the Classroom
We have to talk about the topics that have historically been left out of the classroom. For instance, criminal justice reform, protests, police brutality, etc., because these are issues that are happening now and that our students have put into context.
They want to learn. They want to know what is going on, but they also need our help to process these events.
This should start happening at an early age. Keisha shared that there have been studies that show children as young as three shape their beliefs on race based on their environment. We need to be sure that we are teaching anti-racism as early as possible.
Strategically Teaching in the Classroom
Text is in every classroom, and it should direct the conversation in a more inclusive way to remove systemic inequities. Text can be anything from the books we read to the images and posters we use in our classrooms.
All students should be exposed to alternate text, not just black and brown students. When all perspectives are represented in education, then all voices are allowed to rise.
Our view of history, science, math, English doesn’t become diminished by including alternate perspectives in the narrative. Instead, that view becomes more comprehensive.
Create Projects that Encourage Student Activism
Students can create change. Revolutions start with young people who have always been the catalyst for change. We need to show them we value their voice and their opinion. To do this, we need to give them projects that allow them to affect change in their communities.
We can charge children of all ages with more in-depth thinking and a deeper understanding of the world around them. We need to create a curriculum that introduces children to alternative realities earlier in their education.
We also need to have representations of all students all year long. Not only during historic months or days.
How Can You Educate Yourself?
The first step to educating yourself is to learn and understand the history of racism.
She shares some great resources in this episode, and they are listed below. Become passionate and start learning more about the trials that Black Americans face.
Be the voice of change so that the same mistakes aren’t repeated.
Go for broke now. Use this opportunity to speak up and speak out. This is not a time to stand by and be complicit. It is time to act.
Keisha’s Recommended Resources:
About Keisha Rembert
The Illinois History Teacher of the Year for 2019 and the 2019 NCTE Middle-Level English Language Arts Educator of the Year, Keisha spent 16 years teaching 8th grade ELA and U.S. History and is now an Assistant Professor in Teacher Preparation at National Louis University in Chicago. Keisha credits her love of words and literature to her mother who put books in her hands at an early age and encouraged her to write early and often. She is a fierce advocate for equity, has published works on diversity and inclusion in education, and speaks nationally on this issue. Her passion for equity, social justice, and youth literature coalesce in her membership and work on NCTE’s Committee Against Racism and Bias, as an advisory board member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a board member and Senior Policy Fellow with Teach Plus, and as a Master History Teacher with Gilder Lehrman.
Podcast Question of the Week:
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