Back-to-school message: Caring for ourselves, caring for our students, caring for community and our nation this school year 2020-2021

Schools and school communities have long been the places in this country where we begin to sow the seeds of community, belonging, and democracy. We welcome children and their families to a new year of discoveries. With new notebooks and technological devices and apps, we take these tools to build talents and share knowledge for a year of wonder and growth.

But this school year, we have a global and social context that no one could have written in even the most creative science fiction film ever made. A global pandemic, distance learning/hybrid schooling, racial uprisings and protests raising critical societal questions, and an upcoming election—all of these things are really happening. It’s no surprise that we have lost sleep, get anxious, and worry about what the future holds for our families, our children, and our collective school lives.

One of MnEEP’s strongest values is that “Relationships Matter.” By building stronger and healthier relationships with each other and within ourselves, we can build a more equitable world.

We know that it is not enough to merely share race equity in education tools and resources. As a team dedicated to centering relationships in building race equity, we want to share a special message of care for all of you as you prepare for one of the most challenging, and yet also inspirational, school years to come.

How are you caring for yourself?

“The root of compassion is compassion for oneself.” —Pema Chodron.

As we have become an increasingly more social media “show us all how happy you are today and post it!” society, it’s nearly impossible to log into any social media account and not see images that might make us think—what’s wrong with me? Am I the only one sad, angry or depressed?

Now, more than ever, it’s important to remember that so many of us are experiencing deep challenges. All of us at every turn are wading through emotions of sadness or anger or fear.

Caring for oneself is acknowledging how we individually might be feeling that day, that week, or in that moment, and being the first to tell yourself, “I am tired,” or “I don’t feel like myself. I might be sad or depressed.” 

Caring for oneself means listening to your feelings and needs, and allowing yourself to reach out to others if you need help in supporting your needs. A simple check-in every morning after you wake up (before checking your phone!) can put one in a mindful state of personal care.

As education leaders and advocates, we acknowledge that transforming our world takes energy, especially positive mental and communal energy.  Think about “taking care of oneself” as the first step in an advocacy campaign or teacher assignment or even a challenging online course set-up. We can tackle so much more knowing how we are individually feeling, taking care of ourselves, and then coming in to the school community with a clearer, positive mindset to build bridges and inspire others for growth and change.

Here are my picks for self-care reading:

Lasting Happiness In a Changing World:  The Book of Joy
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom
By Rick Hanson, Ph.D. with Richard Mendius, MD

Caring for our students of color and American Indian students

“Little. Don’t ever let someone call your life, your dreams, little. Hear me?”
― Jason Reynolds, from book

“You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.”
—Sandra Cisneros

We have learned the hard way that two viruses—the COVID19 pandemic and racism—continue to disproportionately impact our communities of color, students of color, and American Indian students. 

It is because of this critical moment—one of the most important school years in recent history—that the talent, development, and encouragement of students of color and American Indian students in our school communities should continue to be uplifted and seen as an essential campaign for human dignity and justice.

It is also vital to remember that while structural and systemic racism have created an education ecosystem with barriers and challenges, the joys and dreams of communities of color are vast and wide.

There is joy and brilliance in African American musical and writing traditions. There is beauty in the culture and language of Mexican immigrant students.  Asian-Americans have contributed their diverse talents and important political leadership and artistic contributions to this country. American Indian story-telling and environmental understandings are fundamental for the world to continue.

Let’s continue to instill respect for and uplift students’ cultural backgrounds among our educators and communities —to celebrate the diverse scientific, cultural, artistic, and leadership contributions of every cultural community.

This is an essential way we can care for our students of color and American Indian students in Minnesota and nationwide.

Caring for community and our nation

“The Opposite of Racism, Is Belonging”—john powell, Center for Belonging and Otherness, University of California.

Lastly, we want to send a message of collective spirit and solidarity to care for our state and our nation in this momentous time in history.

Caring for ourselves, addressing race equity in education, and lifting up the dreams and talents of communities of color and American Indian communities is community-building in action. It is in facing our community challenges and dreams fully—and co-creating school communities of belonging—that we show care for community.

Caring for our nation is facing the racial uprisings and protests we’ve witnessed all summer, with dialogue, education, solutions, and solidarity.  It is about encouraging democratic process of fairness, equity, and justice.

Standing up for truth.

This is care for our nation.

“Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.” – T’Challa, Black Panther (actor: Chadwick Boseman)

Posted in Our Voices, Race Equity

Jennifer Godinez View posts by Jennifer Godinez

Jennifer works in partnership with Minnesota communities to build Race Equity Plans and advance policies and practices that promote culturally responsive classrooms and encourage student success.
Posted in Our Voices, Race Equity

Jennifer Godinez View posts by Jennifer Godinez

Jennifer works in partnership with Minnesota communities to build Race Equity Plans and advance policies and practices that promote culturally responsive classrooms and encourage student success.
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