Margin Notes

Being the Change Week 3


This is the third week of #CyberPD and the focus is on Chapters 5 and 6 of Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.  You can read my previous #CyberPD reflections here and here.

Chapter 5 is about Finding Humanity in Ourselves and Others.  We are reminded that it is critical to recognize that “the social constructs under which we live can lead us to classify, label with symbols, and eventually dehumanize individuals and groups (p. 101).”  Sara suggests two important steps to counteract the resultant othering:

  • We fight these destructive forces by finding and examining our humanity first.
  • While we are working to build kids’ capacity for empathy, we can honor how they see the world.

The lessons in this chapter are powerful culminations to the work of previous lessons.  In Broadening our Ideas about Who We Are Responsible To and For, we are invited to consider our universe of obligation and consider what it says about us.  The second lesson, Understanding Others’ Perspectives, examines the notion of intent versus impact.

The notion of not only naming who is in our universe of obligation, but also reflecting on how this relates to our identity is a powerful one.  As Ahmed points out, “our list of trusted individuals tends to look like us unless we are actively living a life where we our proximate to people and experiences outside our own identity circles (p. 112).”  The act of “getting proximate” to people, experiences, and perspectives requires intentionality and must start with honest self-reflection.

Chapter 6, Facing Crisis Together, recognizes that although we cannot control when a crisis will occur, we can take small and large daily actions that will help us be prepared to respond with more compassion. Sara offers a collection of suggestions:

  • Understand That Everyone’s Identity Is at Stake
  • Get Proximate To the Human Story
  • Be an Authentic Listener
  • Get Out of Your Echo Chamber
  • Measure the Inclusiveness of Your Community
  • Commit To a Learning Stance
  • Shine a Spotlight On the Upstanders
  • Be Proactive With Your Privilege

The advice to get out of the echo chamber has challenged me to pay closer attention to whose voices are informing my learning about education and about my world.  Social media makes it very easy to get comfortable in our own personal echo chambers.  Am I inviting voices that challenge my thinking and offer a new perspective or am I surrounding myself with voices that confirm what I already think and believe?

After reading Chapters 5 and 6, these are three big ideas I am committing to thinking more deeply about:

  • “The practice of being aware of intent and impact is a powerful tool. It names a problem that can be so deeply embedded in individuals’ perspectives that it can seem unsolvable—that seemingly uncrossable gulf between ideas, when people can’t seem to find common ground.  Our hope is that kids start to understand that the messages we send can have a different impact than we intend due to the many filters we all have acquired as human beings (p. 124).”
  • “Committing to a learning stance is not just going into a conversation ready to listen; it is going into a conversation ready to learn. Essentially this means you are confident that you don’t know everything, that you will uncover your own misconceptions, and that you will walk away from the conversation having more knowledge (facts, perspective, emotions, compassion, thinking) than you started with. It means you are evolved enough to say, ‘I know my truths but I am going to listen and accept what this other person is saying as also a truth.  I am going to listen—not to respond, but to learn something I didn’t know before’ (p. 131).”
  • “There is no magic formula for making the world a better place. It happens in the moments we break our silent complicity, embrace discomfort, and have candid conversations about what stands in the way.  As educators, you and I are tasked with giving kids opportunities to show compassion, to be upstanders, and to realize the impact they have in society.  It’s an awe-inspiring responsibility, but it’s something you and I—people who believe in kids—are uniquely qualified to undertake (p. 134).”


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