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Mid-year health and wellness check in: Questions the critically conscious educator must ask (and answer) right now

By Zwerger, Bolt, & Seymour

During the month of February, as we celebrate Black History, we often see performative statements, activities, and events abound. We encourage you to consider how this Black History Month has been a measure of the health and wellness of our alleged commitments to disrupting and dismantling anti-Blackness. At the beginning of this year in Questions the critically conscious educator must ask (and answer) at the start of this year, we prompted educators to consider the question “If I have the impact I hope to have this year, what has happened?” Below we offer questions to aid you in assessing the depth, reach, and evolution of your commitments thus far.  

        • How has Black History Month served as an extension of my centering and uplifting of Black brilliance, joy, and futures all year long? How will I carry this work forward beyond the end of February? 
        • When I consider Black history, am I honoring the full humanity of Black people or am I only centering exceptionalism, excellence and elitism?
        • How do I locate Black History in the current socio-political context, connecting present experiences with historical truth? How is the global pandemic impacting Black and Brown people disparately and what is my relationship to those disparities when considering health outcomes, access to care, and impact on family systems? In what ways is this current moment a reflection of a legacy of persistent generational disparities with roots in the history of enslavement, genocide, and resistance?
        • How have I grappled with and addressed the ways anti-Blackness lives in me? In those in my sphere of influence? Have I explored my anti-Blackness at the intersections of gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, ethnicity and other social identites I hold?
        • How have I nourished my anti-racist identity development? Have I built understandings of the ways that Black women (cis, trans, & femme) have shaped the way I move through the world? Have I committed to learning history that confronts legacies of injustice and oppression? How has my learning influenced the folx around me?
        • How have I named, unpacked, & repaired harm when it has occurred in my school community, especially harm that impacts Black and Brown students? 
        • How have I worked to strengthen my relationship to the youth & community I serve? How do I know that relational trust has been built?
        • What pedagogical frameworks am I studying and being inspired by to shift the way I work with young people? How am I staying nourished in my practice as an educator? How am I deepening my learning about and applying culturally responsive and sustaining education practices? Anti-racist practices?
        • How have students experienced the ways I have intentionally shifted to teach, engage, and relate in culturally responsive and sustaining ways? In anti-racist ways? How do I know this? If I am in a leadership position, how have those I lead experienced these shifts?  
        • What are the values I hold myself accountable to embodying? Do others in the community I serve share these values? How do I know? How might I be disloyal to these values, even with good intentions? How does being disloyal to my values undermine the work of racial and social justice?
        • How have I centered the brilliance & joy of my students every day? How do I show the young people I work with that I love them? How will I continue to do so?

It's quite possible that if you’ve answered these questions thoughtfully and critically, that you’ve been confronted with answers you didn't expect or answers that made you uncomfortable. Who are you turning to now to support you through this? How will you build a community of practice to continue to strengthen the depth and reach of your commitment?

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