Acknowledging your own bias is significantly more challenging that noticing someone else’s. One of the most challenging areas of learning for me this year has been that I, as a well intentioned white educator, am able to do harm despite my own desire and intention to support my students from all backgrounds. For me, the first step to being able to check my own bias was learning about where biases originate and realizing that virtually everyone has biases in some capacity.
The far more challenging next step was noticing when I had biased thoughts and actions, later engaging in reflection and implementing future changes. It was heartbreaking for me to realize that I was having negative thoughts about certain students or favoring others simply based on their appearances, behaviors, or my prior knowledge of them.
Being mindful of my thoughts, acknowledging them and actively working to shift them has allowed me to slowly notice a change in the frequency of these thoughts. That’s the thing about unconscious (or implicit) bias, once you become aware of your bias it becomes something else entirely- it is no longer unconscious.
I have found that supporting students in anti-bias work can actually be more straightforward than with other educators. Adults have had exponentially more exposure to biased messaging compared with, say, a ten year old. I also often find children to be almost universally accepting and welcoming of engaging across differences- when providing with the appropriate scaffolding and support.
Simply put, with young students, I feel that anti-bias work lies predominantly with exposure to diversity. Helping to facilitate students in finding commonalities between themselves and others is my jumping off point, using games as a way to fostering positive interactions between students from vastly different backgrounds. This lays a foundation for students can engage respectfully with each other in discussion- even about sensitive or challenging topics.
As far as helping other educators to check there own bias, that is slightly more challenging. The way I see it, the more time you have been alive the more you have been indoctrinated with biased messaging in the media, in social interactions, in schools- just to name a few. It takes significantly more work on the part of the adult learner to first acknowledge, and then break down their own deeply ingrained prejudices. The way I see it, this requires both willingness and effort from the educator, leaving me at a loss on how to handle situations in which one (or both) or these things are missing. There have to be strategies I just haven’t learned yet- and I’m excited to find out what those might be.
5/28/2019 04:38:07 pm
Thanks for the great read Haley! I too struggle with the idea of unintentionally harming students merely with my presence, but I think that the realization that our identities hold power, and how we use them can be radically transformative, is a powerful tool. I will be curious to see how you work with other educators from similar backgrounds to you to help them come to value equity and diversity as much as I know you do.
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