Every day in this country, teachers, principals, and other school officials punish thousands of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous children more often and more harshly than white children, thereby denying them access to educational opportunities. According to Deborah Loewenberg Ball, Director of TeachingWorks and former dean of the University of Michigan School of Education, this is due in large part to the structural racism embedded in our society, as well as the fact that many of the methods teachers learn to manage their classrooms reinforce patterns of bias.
We created this video for our nonprofit partner, TeachingWorks, which strives to create a system for teacher preparation and support that disrupts inequitable patterns in classrooms. Our goal was to simplify TeachingWorks’ complex thesis that every day, teachers have the power to be part of the solution as our nation confronts vast disparities in educational outcomes.
How can teaching become a revolutionary act? It begins with the smallest moments in the classroom, which can have profound and lasting consequences. Small interactions between teachers and students—moments that a teacher may never remember—can determine whether a student walks away feeling seen or invisible.
Our strategy was to convert what had been a lengthy academic lecture into a short animation to vividly illustrate how subtle acts of teaching can perpetuate patterns of racism and oppression or, alternatively, contribute to a more just and equitable public education system. Such subtle acts might include how teachers pose questions; whom they call upon; whom they consider disruptive or simply curious; which students they expel out of the classroom to detention or the principal’s office; whom they praise and whom they critique.
We hope teachers and teacher educators see themselves and their students in the video and reflect on how they might contribute to reinforcing patterns of bias in their classroom. By showing how much power they have to influence students’ self-image and their academic progress, we hoped to inspire teachers to see themselves as a force to create a more just society.
TeachingWorks first posted the social media video on World Teacher's Day 2019 with a reminder that teaching has the power to help create a more equitable world. TeachingWorks continued to post the video on social media throughout the year and uses it as a tool at workshops, classes, and events for teacher educators, practicing teachers, and teachers in training, reaching our targeted audience well before they ever begin leading a classroom.
Social engagement since launch (Facebook, Twitter, & Vimeo):
The numbers confirmed people were watching and engaging with the video, and their comments assure us it resonated with them and inspired them to consider the power of teaching. Here are some sample comments: