The Danger in Defiance & Disrespect, part 1

As someone one who has made it my mission to make muddy waters clear for students and teachers alike, I am forever looking for ways to make complicated conversations plain and theoretical themes practical. Why do the research if it can’t be used? Why schedule the PD but never come up with the practical protocol that makes it make sense in the real time triage situation that is a classroom? It’s always such a waste of time, money, and brain power when we have these flowery, almost emotional conversations around things like equity, inclusion, and bias. Why not use the momentum to move toward implementation?

Reflection on self is GOOD. I personally encourage teachers to engage in more of it. What we cannot do, however, is tiptoe around the bigger picture. So I always pull the lens out a bit. The bigger picture should always be: what can I do systematically to implement change now that I see that change is necessary? If you’re serious about eliminating bias and bringing equity into the classroom and school building, change shows up most often in the realm of the student code of conduct.

One shift when it comes to bias in particular is redefining what terms are associated with the disciplinary actions taken against students. You don’t need me to tell you how students of color—specifically black students—are disciplined more and more harshly in schools. This trend will never be eliminated at the teacher/classroom level because the way student codes of conduct are written leave things to the interpretation of the offended party. A teacher who holds a particular set of biased beliefs about black girls is not going to interpret the language of a legal document in favor of the student, ever. What can happen, however, is rewriting the language of expectations to be clear, concise, and applicable across the board. And a good place to start—a spot in student codes of conduct everywhere that can eliminate a good deal of bias—is at the juncture of defiance and disrespect.

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