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Equity & Diversity Opinion

Even When the Path Is Hidden: Reading for Winter Break

By Christina Torres — December 16, 2015 4 min read
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Like many teachers, my school is on the precipice of winter break. The tension is palpable-- not because students are upset, but because the stress and fatigue of the first semester are consistently at odds with the bounce-off-the-walls energy resonating through my students’ bodies. The idea that vacation is coming! Vacation is coming! vibrates to their entire beings and, thus, the entire building.

It’s an amusing energy to try and reign in (like cats! who are tired! but surrounded by catnip!) but, as many teachers would agree, the break is a much-needed respite from the work we do.

A colleague of mine, upon reading news of the LAUSD school closures shook his head solemnly and said, “These are dark days.” I nodded in agreement, but then he looked up at me and continued, “but we continue to our work with a song in our hearts!” He smiled at me and then walked down to listen to what the Senior class had written for their narrative music papers.

My colleague, far from promoting blind ignorance of current events, gave a powerful reminder: we continue the work, and the voices and stories from our students propel us forward. My colleague discussed everything from anti-Muslim sentiment to the bomb threats with his students in class later that day easily because he understands a fundamental truth I’m now seeing: when you internalize concepts of justice and an understanding of cultural competence, your internal compass can begin to guide the work. It is not an easy process, nor is it ever truly finished, but once I set the concept of “justice” as my north star, the direction of my work took a considerable turn-- mostly asking “What does that mean?” and “What does it look like?”

Still, like all things, compasses need to be calibrated. We need to reread maps and figure out where the heck we’re going and if it’s the right direction at all. This winter break, I’m committing time to retune and recalibrate my focus as an educator, with the hope that I ground it even more deeply in social justice with and for my students. I’m excited (and eager!) to sleep in late and spend time with my loved ones, as well as finally have the time to look at some articles I didn’t have enough time with during the semester. Here are some resources I’m planning to dig into, and encourage others to do the same:

Here are some pieces I’m planning to dig into:

  • Get Challenged. It’s good to relax over the break. It’s officially a way to stay in the job long-term, according to The Guardian. If you find yourself compelled to think about school, though, perhaps refocus your thoughts from lesson plans to the internal work: “Where can I get better? How do I need to unpack my own issues?” There have been some great pieces circulating this year that challenged my own beliefs and biases as a teacher and human.

We may enter the winter break feeling murky and unsure of what the new year will bring. After a semester of hard work, it’s natural to feel a little like we’ve gotten off track. If we take some time to read, reflect, and rejuvenate, I believe we can find our way towards truth and the beauty of that journey-- even when the path seems hidden.

PS: Did I miss anything? Have anything you’re excited to read over break? Please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter!

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The opinions expressed in The Intersection: Culture and Race in Schools are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.