I’ve thought long and hard about this topic.
It’s something that has been swirling in my mind and I’ve struggled with finding the right words to say exactly how I feel.
We all know how important it is for children to be able to “see” themselves in our classrooms.
We find books that feature diverse characters and take the time to integrate them into our classroom libraries.
We talk with them about the importance of respect and inclusion and encourage them to be kind.
We know that they will group and experience hate, disrespect and exclusion but we want the very best for them and hope that they will overcome these experiences.
But, what happens when we become adults?
We know we all carry around biases. We work very hard to keep those biases in check and hope they don’t negatively influence our decisions and behaviors…but they’re there.
What do we do as adults to ensure that those biases aren’t affecting what we do and say with other adults?
First let me say this: I love the blogging community and I love the experiences I’ve had and friendships I’ve made by being a member of this community.
However, I want us to make an effort to be more aware of our biases.
When we create lists of
“Top Teachers to Follow on _____” or
“The Best Books to Teach _____” or
“Top Educational Leaders”, are we aware of the diversity (or lack thereof) in these lists?
When we look at a lists of experts or presenters for conferences/presentations, are we aware of the diversity in these lists?
And if you’re thinking, “Good thing I don’t make any of lists,” think about some possible exclusionary behavior. Who are you including in your mastermind groups, or hops or other positive group experiences? Or, if you’re thinking, “Good thing I’m not a blogger”. Who are the bloggers you follow or who would you recommend as “great person” to follow on social media?
What does it mean to be a diverse educator who sees these lists and never sees someone who looks like you on them?
Is the message, “You aren’t good enough,”?
Is the message, “No one who looks like you deserves to be on these lists”?
I DON’T believe that people are CONSCIOUSLY making the decision to exclude diverse educators from these lists…
But, what about me?
When I am constantly shown images of “top teachers” or “Teachers you should follow”, and someone who looks like me isn’t on those lists… it doesn’t feel right.
It feels exclusionary.
Again, I don’t think ANY member of this community is purposely excluding diverse educators in these lists…but my feelings are what they are.
After talking with my husband about my feelings, he mentioned something called KOL.
In the world of business, KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader.
This is someone considered to be the “go to” for a particular idea or thought. There can be more than one KOL, there can exist a team of KOLs.
For my example, we will say the KOL(s) is like the lists of “Top Teachers”.
If we agree that biases exist (whether conscious or subconscious), then we know that our KOLs are a list created with some bias (again, conscious or subconscious).
IF our list is created with bias, THAN we must do something to counteract the bias. Those who create said KOLs, must make an effort to include some diversity in their list to ensure they eliminate some bias.
Does this sound like affirmative action?
Yes, because it is.
But if you were to switch the word “teacher lists” or “KOLs”, with “Children’s Books”, you would come to the same conclusion.
Example: I teach a variety of learners and I want them to be able to “see” themselves in the classroom. I know that I have biases (as do publishing houses) and I want to overcome those, to ensure my students see their value. So, I purposely buy three books that feature a diverse character for every one book I purchase. I want to over come the bias, so I am making an effort to do so.
This isn’t easy, it means making a conscious decision to include diverse teachers into these lists.
That may feel artificial.
It may feel forced.
But it is what our community must continue to do, until it doesn’t feel that way anymore.
Until when someone sits down to create a list, they are thinking of EVERY teacher, they have ever seen…and they’ve seen many teachers because we’ve all agreed to make an effort to include more diverse teachers.
Challenging our bias is tough. Its confusing and many times emotional. But when we’ve had the difficult conversations, asked questions and made inclusive decisions our answer to the question:
I love you!
I think about this all time. This line, "When I am constantly shown images of "top teachers" or "Teachers you should follow", and someone who looks like me isn't on those lists… it doesn't feel right." I really think we lose something when there aren't multiple perspectives from teachers of different backgrounds who are teaching a diverse group of students. In the past I've simply seen the lists and said, "their stuff won't work with my scholars." But that's not true. It was probably the "I don't see representation on this list" that made me feel that way. I'm ranting… Thank you so much to think about!
Bravo! It took a great deal of courage to write this post! I applaud you for it. It does give cause for pause when that occurs. That feeling that you mentioned is the feeling that we, as educators, try to ensure that our students don't have to experience. Who ensures that this doesn't happen to us as adults? I think that one of the aspects that you mentioned that really stood out was your husband's mention of "KOLs". This is so very true. As we know, there are people whom are the Go-to's for advice, resources, etc… People do as they do and do as they say. They could have a huge impact if they stopped to make a more conscious effort to include others. We should all make every effort to be more aware and proactive. Diversity is the spice of life! : )
Do you think there are fewer minorities that go into teaching…and therefore, fewer that get recognized on social media? I read in grad school that one of the biggest problems in education is that minorities aren't encouraged to become teachers (why join a system that makes you feel inferior?) I often think about how one billion people in the world are Muslim…and out of the thousands of teachers I follow on social media…only two are Muslim. Is it my white bias? Are there not that many to follow? I don't know, I just know that it bugs me to think the beautiful kids I teach may not want to be teachers because they don't see people who look like they do in the profession.
Jessica–this was my thought too! In my school, there is only one teacher at the school who is of color. I don't think there are even that many in our district. I hope we can encourage those students of color, various cultures/religions that aren't in the majority to go into teaching and change the profession!
I adore you! Thank you for this! I recently had a very interesting conversation with an administrator that shared with me her perspective on diversity. I walked away from that conversation baffled and confused about how (as adults) we're led to believe in the ability to advance with a representation of leadership placed before us that bares no reflection of us? Opinions and perspectives bare no real diversity if everyone at the table is not a representation of the group being led…
Here! Here! Thank you for your thoughtful and personal insight. I can only imagine what it took to articulate a sensitive subject and I am so glad that you did. We simply MUST move the barometer by careful and considered (and heartfelt) conversation. Thanks for saying what is undoubtedly in the hearts of many. Hugs!!! Debbie Clement
Love you, Gets! So proud to be your friend 🙂
Amazing! Validation and affirmation. Keep opening the minds of others 🙂
Great Post! Definitely an issue that needs to be discussed more often. Have you seen Mellody Hobson's TED Talk? It is wonderful and should be viewed by all whether they are a teacher or not.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep posting, you are fabulous!
Thank you for bringing light to this sensitive topic. As a minority teacher, I see my face in the students I teach everyday. As a sometimes blogger, I often wonder why not more diversity is represented in the teacher/blogger community. We are out there. There are exceptional educators from all facets of life.
I am really struggling at my school at the moment (not because I don't see people like me. I am the 99%) but because I AM seeing a lack to diversity and am becoming keenly aware that my coworkers don't see it – or if they don't care.
My perspective is a bit different because I'm in New Zealand. But the same issues are there. I left a school where I was one of only 4 white teachers, and the kids at our school all had the chance to be taught by someone who looked, sounded, and acted like them. Now I'm at a school where we are all white, and I'm keenly aware that even though my coworkers and I say we accept and promote diversity, it's very much at a surface level.
It's a hard thing to comprehend and work through, but absolutely we need to show diversity across social media – and not have the token minority person be the voice for everyone in that group – like I feel Rita Pierson has become (maybe not everywhere, but definitely in New Zealand).
Thanks for bringing this out into the open!
Learning to be awesome