The Importance of Challenging Teacher’s Microaggressions

Larry Ferlazzo in Education Week asks me and others, “How should teachers respond when a colleague says or does something—knowingly or unknowingly—that is racist?”
The full article is here. My contribution is below:
Felicia Darling, Ph.D., says…
“Many of us who are not persons of color, who do not personally experience discrimination on a daily basis, have this tendency to think that racism occurs out there, away from us, in the media. We have this erroneous idea that racist acts are these dramatic or violent behaviors that are captured on video and posted on Instagram. However, racism is ubiquitous. It happens every day through small, almost invisible acts, in our classrooms, in our parent-teacher conferences, in our tenure-review meetings, and in our faculty meetings.
Also, racism does not just happen. We do it. In any given day, white colleagues interrupt colleagues of color during meetings; leaders take up the ideas of faculty of color less frequently than those of white faculty sitting at the table; teachers have lower expectations for students of color; students disproportionally use words like “aggressive” more frequently on teacher evaluations of Black women; and Black students are suspended more frequently than white students for the exact same behaviors.
We are the agents of racism. Therefore, the responsibility for disrupting systems of inequity falls directly on our shoulders. When a colleague says or does something racist, we have to speak up. While the specific thing we say or do does matter, what is most important is that we say or do something. If we do nothing, we are complicit in the racist act.
We cannot place the burden of speaking up onto people of color, either, given their precarious position in the existing power structure. White people are uniquely positioned to exert significant influence to disrupt the existing inequitable systems, and they must speak up. Here are some things that are better than doing nothing when encountering racist comments or acts among your colleagues. They are listed somewhat in order of increasing potency: Be loudly silent by frowning and glaring; tell the offending teacher privately that their speech or behavior is not OK and why; give the teacher anti-racist readings; publicly express your dismay about the comment or behavior in the moment or later; ask an administrator to provide a schoolwide training, submit a written complaint to your supervisor for repeated or egregious offenses; privately communicate empathy to those who might have been slighted by the remarks or acts; procure funding for a community of practice around equity to transform campus discourse and behavior; and solicit funding for ongoing equity education. Responding in more than one of the above ways is even more powerful.
The important thing to remember is that if we do nothing when someone acts in a racist manner, we are complicit in the act. Stopping racism is the responsibility of each and every one of us.”
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The Promise and Pitfalls of Eliminating Remedial Courses in Community Colleges

A new article that I wrote for NISOD ahead of my upcoming workshop series on how to facilitate inclusive, online instruction… “The Promise and Pitfalls of Eliminating Remedial Courses in Community Colleges,” Felicia Darling, Math Instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College (CA), explores how colleges can reach and teach all incoming students. Here is the link

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Make Cultural Assets Count in Community College Math: Lessons learned from piloting real-life math tasks in a Yucatec Maya School

“Obviously, it is not feasible for community college instructors to conduct ethnographic studies on their students every semester. Also, students’ cultural backgrounds vary widely within a class. However, drawing from my research and teaching experience, I piloted an activity in a community college math classroom that allowed students to solve problems that were culturally relevant to them. In a pre-statistics math class, the very first math class that many community college students take, I assigned the following task for homework:”

You can access the full article on the Teachers College Press Blog. This article was originally published as an Innovation Abstracts, Volume XLII, No. 25, July 9, 2020, by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) at The University of Texas at Austin.


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Rejuvenating Guided Breathing, Body Scan, and Meditation led by Felicia Darling, PhD

Feel a wee bit stressed, low-energy, or anxious? This is a great way to rejuvenate and relax for an hour. First we will check in and land in the room. This will be followed by some relaxing, diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Then we will do a joyful body scan that I call, Little Points of Light Body Scan. One person remarked after the body scan, “I feel like the Milky Way.” Finally, we will do a comfortable optional sitting or lying meditation for 30 minutes, where we bring our attention back to our breath. Participants may pick up tools to help navigate stressful moments, since research shows that diaphragmatic breathing, somatic awareness, & mindfulness meditation help down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system. Here is the link


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Tips to support community college students during this challenging transition


Community College Instructors are Front Line Workers in the Time of Coronavirus. Tips to Make it Work.

“The bottom line is that community college instructors are on the front lines during this coronavirus pandemic. We are showing up to teach students how to be successful in college, as always. However, now we are doing it, while we all are simultaneously navigating a global crisis. While medical first responders are risking their lives to quell the rise in cases, we are doing our parts to make sure that students emerge from this crisis, healthy and continuing on their journey to achieve their educational dreams. Our continued work ensures that in a post-coronavirus world, social and economic mobility will continue to become increasingly attainable for all students.”

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2 Articles in Ed Week on Student Agency and Equity

Check out “Student Agency is Ownership” by Larry Ferlazzo in Education Week. In this article, Larry asks scholar/educators (including me) to respond to the question: What is agency and how can teachers encourage its growth among students?


Check out “Fair is not Equal” by Larry Ferlazzo in Education Week. In this article, Larry asks scholar/educators (including me) to respond to the question: What is the difference between treating students “fairly” and treating them “equally”? What are some examples of how that looks in the classroom?

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How do you build a community of powerful learners?

If your college is a member of NISOD, you can attend my webinar for free on Thursday, November 21st at 11am PT. The webinar is called, Five Breakout Moves to Build a Community of Powerful Learners.

Participants learn:

  1. how to create classrooms where students feel safe to explore, experiment, improvise, take risks, make mistakes, and co-construct new knowledge with their peers
  2. strategies to ensure that inquiry-based group learning is inclusive and equitable for students from all backgrounds
  3. instructional moves that can immediately be incorporated into pedagogy to ensure that inquiry-based group learning is inclusive, engaging, and equitable.


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