Learning to be Brave Enough: Amanda Gorman Turning a Moment into a Movement.
The primary challenges for schools based on the demographic shifts is to create a community of learners who value Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) that allows every child to grow and every teacher to make a difference. These four words (Are We Brave Enough) from Amanda Gorman are making their way around the world in record speed and possess the potential to reshape education. Teachers have unique strengths and possess the ability to transform nightmares into dreams by either being a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
Many more students have genius like Amanda Gorman in classrooms across the country. I echoed the words that I have heard recently from Gholdy Muhammad by saying that When teachers create strength-based spaces, it will allow “the genius to show up.” I think that is one illustration that comes to draw a comparison to Amanda Gorman and her inspiring poem. I believe somewhere along the way, some of her early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school teachers developed the genius spaces for her to develop those talents and perfect her ability.
The eloquent and life-changing recital reminds us that race and culture matter in schools, and when educators in schools value the ideas, beliefs, customs, and language structures, beyond the superficial ways while teaching with a cultural eye, academic excellence can be developed, and mastery will be on full display. In addition, powerful instruction occurs when educators can share their own cultures with students while facilitating learning experiences for students that allow educators to listen and learn from the various cultures that their students represent since there are limited opportunities for engagement with their students’ culture outside of school.
The current educational climate of uncertainty due to the pandemic and the increasing pressures to resolve racial inequities, the disparities and educational debt that is owed to students are being magnified. Since intelligence does not know color, the debate continues as to whether students are experiencing learning loss or just coping with the Covid-19 Pandemic. This raises the question, are we brave enough to address the issues that widen the achievement gap? What someone accepts matters as much as what they do. Educators cannot accept the impossibility of success in a visionary condition that embraces deficit-thinking. Sometimes the largest complaints are where the biggest opportunities lie. This level of critical consciousness requires the mastery of the inner work of being an agent of change.
Using your voice to amply issues of educational disparities to shift them towards educational equality is a choice only if we are brave enough to:
-Address the curriculum standards and textbook adoption processes that do not accurately reflect teacher choice and student voice that support Culturally Relevant Teaching,
-Become more intentional about teacher preparation that is ground in anti-biased and social justice through Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies,
– Improve educator diversity in meaningful ways,
– Confront beliefs and critically reflect on the gaps between theory and practice,
-Adjust practice to teach with a cultural eye and move away from deficit think to assess based thinking.
My words are a call to action and to express need for intentional determination to respond to the critical issue that suppress academic growth in students. The hope is that teachers will see that the lesson learned from Amanda Gorman is that all students have the capacity to produce excellence in learning environments that are culturally humble. Challenges help us build endurance, while endurance develops character strength to operate with moral and intellectual excellence for the students and communities we serve.
I think that educators should let the things that they do reflect the soundness of their teaching, which will curb the appetite for “method seekers” and move towards students’ assets and needs. Further, being brave enough requires the courage to shed light on issues of educational disparities. Turning a moment into a movement amplifies current realities in education through a socially just lens as an avenue to challenge the status quo.
Amanda Gorman’s profound words have acknowledged the responsibility that history gives us to right the wrongs of the past because the “great silence has fallen on the soul of America.” If it continues to go unresolved, the sorrow can destroy destiny. Lastly, we must understand that inequality plus time does not equal justice. Teachers can be a beacon of light when it’s grey out by maximizing the opportunity to make change one student at a time.
Jerell B. Hill, Ed.D.
Dean & Assessment Coordinator,
School of Education
Pacific Oaks College
Jerell Hill has over 20 years of services as an educator, He started as a 6/7 grade Special Education Teacher, became a Principal, District Administrator, and Assistant Superintendent before working in higher education. Dr. Hill has led has been a Keynote Speaker, published curriculum for a workforce program and has led an academic mission for graduate students at UPC in Lima, Peru.