Whenever I consider why I chose to pursue teaching as my career, I remember all of the fun I saw in the profession from my own teachers, but also my passion for finding ways to act upon my hopes for the future to be a better place. This latter driving force has brought me to focus on teaching mathematics for social justice. However, after completing the Reimagining Education (RE) Summer Institute at Teachers College, I approach my first full year of teaching with a more critical and full definition of what this means for my classroom. The institute took me through a journey of unpacking the educational system I’ve been through, and how that has influenced my practices in ways I have never imagined, to creating an action plan for how I can authentically make success accessible to all students, and how I can have conversations centering around race and education with the teacher networks I exist in.
During RE and the class I took alongside it, I was able to identify structures and language we use when discussing inequities in schooling that are merely used as code-words for systemic racism, such as "class issues" and "gentrification". By walking around the actual problem at hand, we perpetuate White supremacist ideals. By planning ways to be better anti-racist educators, the presenters at RE also discussed the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy and how the curriculum we expose our students to needs to be hacked. As I begin teaching two courses I am lucky enough to design, I am considering ways to make my tasks more authentic and relevant to students. I will be teaching a Statistics and Racial Justice course this upcoming year; in order to center students’ experiences and allow them the agency to define what their experiences mean, I will use my own motivations and interests for this topic as a case study to then give students a model for how they might wish to explore the racial injustice they are interested in researching. I also hope to plan more curricula and classes that center around marginalized communities’ desires and accomplishments rather than around their deficits. Often times, courses focused on social justice center hardships, instead of also highlighting moments of strength and success in communities of color. I hope to bring this critical lens to the classes I have planned and will be planning for the future.
This institute at Teachers College was hosted mainly by the professors of the Curriculum and Teaching (C&T) department, which, as a new graduate student, I was not as familiar with. Being able to learn from and with professors in the C&T department gave me the opportunity to think about how I can broaden my studies while getting my Masters. I really enjoyed Barnard’s Education Department for its commitment to supporting teaching as a political act, and I think I can continue living that philosophy in my learning through exploring practices from different departments at Teachers College now.