Trust is earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast!]
It’s Not the Same
“I look different from everyone here,” my new son said.
I stopped in my tracks, right there in the vestibule of the school. “Yeah,” I said, “you do.” His previous school was 98% Black. This school was 0.1% Black. He had been calling me Mom for less than a month, since we adopted him.
“I don’t like it,” he said.
In an attempt to connect to him, I knelt beside him and said, “Everyone has something that is different. I have this crazy curly hair and hated the way people made fun of me for it when I was your age.”
He looked at me, his deep brown eyes locked with mine. “It’s not the same,” he said. I squeezed his shoulder, and he turned and walked toward the second-grade hall.
I knew he was right, and I knew what I’d said wasn’t helpful. I felt ashamed, because I knew better.
Ever since Andy and I sat through an adoption training session about transracial adoption in 2005, we had been living with more open eyes. The question was posed to the room full of white couples, “How are you equipped to navigate situations your child will face because of race?”
Until then, I had never taken the time to consider the answer. We were new on the adoption journey and young in life. As we sat silently and listened to the other responses, we realized we had a lot to learn.
We did not know the answer to how we would navigate racism as a transracial family, but we sensed it began with listening and knowing stories from people who had experiences different from ours. So, we began drawing a wider circle around our lives. Our friendships, reading lives, movie choices, and social media follows all expanded to include more story lines that were different from ours. For more than a decade, we kept opening our eyes wider and wider.
Now I was in the school vestibule, alone, still kneeling on one knee to be on the same eye level as Jordan. He was walking away from our first conversation about race.
I couldn’t believe I had blown it.
“It’s not the same,” he said. He’s no longer a 7-year-old child, but has transformed into a nearly 16-year-old young man. Yet he still says these same words about many situations—”It’s not the same.” As much as I wish I would have responded differently in the vestibule, the thing I did then that I choose to do again and again is believe him.
It’s not the same.
The truth is, there are many things in this world that I wish would make a beautiful transformation in the blink of an eye like my son did from child to remarkable young man. No matter how much I wish or attempt to do so, I can’t force the transformation of the world. What I can do is the good work of recognizing my own biases—again and again—and believing the stories of others. The work does not have to be flashy or grandiose, but it does need to be long…in fact, it will last the length of a lifetime.
This week we look at meaningful conversations. Plus more as always—shine on!
Editor, Choice Literacy
We made a donation in Christy’s name to the Romeoville Community Pantry as a thank-you for Christy’s generosity in opening her thinking and classroom doors to us. We hope you enjoyed getting to know her this month.
This month’s Featured Contributor is Christy Rush-Levine. Christy is a middle school language arts teacher outside of Chicago. Connect with Christy on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog, interstice. This month you’ll find her on the Big Fresh podcast, taking over our Instagram feed, and releasing her course about conferring with readers. Learn more about Christy and find her articles and videos on the site by clicking here.
As Featured Contributor, Christy Rush-Levine selected our first read for the new Choice Literacy Book Club! Want to know more and read along with us in February? Then click here and follow the hashtag #ChoiceLiteracyBookClub on social media.
On the podcast, Gretchen Schroeder discusses her new article (linked below) and current thinking about recognizing bias, as well as her course Videos and Visuals in the High School Classroom.
Katrina Edwards is horrified when a student response reveals cultural gaps in her first-grade classroom library. She researches possibilities for expanding the diversity of texts, and shares an annotated bibliography linking different cultures and curricular possibilities. This feature was first published in 2016, yet the ideas and inspiration are still relevant today.
When it comes to including and understanding others, it may be hardest to empathize with those who disrupt or bully others. Tammy Mulligan shares her four favorite mentor texts for opening discussions to understand the humanity within all of us. (First published in 2019.)
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills reflect on the ways they actively recognize their own biases and help students recognize their own.
Gretchen Schroeder teaches her high school students how to notice and combat logical fallacies, a much-needed skill because most of her students use memes as their primary news source.
Stella Villalba shares 2020 picture books to celebrate and affirm students’ identities. Includes a downloadable PDF of the booklist.
In a course, Christy Rush-Levine takes you into her middle school classroom and shares the strategies and techniques she uses with her students to deepen their reflection and understanding of books while conferring. Meaningful Reading Conferences: 5 Minute Wonders is free for members and available to purchase for everyone else.
In an encore video, Franki Sibberson’s students read a blog post from Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady series, and then talk about books for boys and girls. The ideas from this 2010 video are timeless.
Are you working with teachers virtually? Check out our course Virtual Coaching: Working with Individuals. Experienced literacy coaches share their strategies for adapting their one-on-one coaching techniques to a remote environment. Free for Literacy Leader members.
In this Coaching Minute, Literacy Coach Jean Russell explains why she captures her coaching debriefs with teachers, and how these videos serve as powerful tools for learning.
Listen to 1619, a podcast from the New York Times, an audio series on how slavery has transformed America, connecting past and present through the oldest form of storytelling. Tara Barnett and Kate Mills reference Episode 5 in their article linked above.
I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at.
—Ruth Bader Ginsburg
That’s all for this week!