SHANNON STANFORD


INTERVIEW


How has race impacted your life?


Growing up, I went through a school system that was predominantly Black. Most of my teachers were African American, the students were predominantly African American. At school, we were exposed to Kwanzaa, the Black national anthem, Black poets and Black authors in the Harlem Renaissance. It wasn’t until I became a college student that I realized other educational systems were not reflective of African Americans. When I became a teacher, I worked in predominantly African American schools. Kids would share their experiences of having teachers who told them that they wouldn't be anything. It shook me.


I’ve always had a certain level of understanding about who I am, and the things that I’m capable of, because I always had people teach me that growing up. I wanted that for my students, too.


Why is talking about race in the subject(s) you teach necessary?


People are not always aware of the impact that the educational system has on lives. As a teacher educator, I promise you an educator plays such a major role in the development of children, and their sense of identity. It's important that it's integrated in our practice, constantly looked at in a systematic way.


Most teachers aren't going into the classrooms and intentionally saying something that hurts their students, or ultimately affects their sense of self, but they just aren’t aware of their own own biases, how those biases impact us.


What was it like teaching this lesson or unit plan?


For my lesson “‘WHAT If…’: An Inquiry Approach to Healing”, I worked from a solution-based approach. Whenever there's a problem, whatever it is, and in this instance, we're looking at the issue of race in the classroom environment, we want to think of, okay, how do we engage students and offer solutions as an educator? Asking, can we actually do something about it? This lesson is a chance for educators to imagine what's possible. I also try to encourage educators to consider individual experiences, and identities, versus just coming in and saying, “Hey! I have the same one solution for 500 very different people!”

If you're teaching people, or trying to grow from a place of pain, fear, anger, sadness, it can be hard. As a leader in the classroom, it's important to do this self healing first. Then, you can be a model for others and walk students through the process, too.

I used the “If you want to help, heal” chapter in Tell Me Who You Are because, bottom line, you can't really help people if you haven't helped yourself first. It comes back to that piece of self-reflection. Understand how your patterns and habits will impact students, be on the lookout when you're in the classroom. Many of us carry around so much pain. There's so much involved. And if you're teaching people, or trying to grow from a place of pain, fear, anger, sadness, it can be hard. As a leader in the classroom, it's important to do this self healing first. Then, you can be a model for others and walk students through the process, too.

First, let's become aware of the fact that race is a social construct, a false system. Then, let's create another system together.

Once you start this healing process, start being more reflective on how you show up, as “‘WHAT If…’: An Inquiry Approach to Healing” encourages, then you do my next lesson, “Reconceptualizing Power.” First, let's become aware of the fact that race is a social construct, a false system. Then, let's create another system together. “Reconceptualizing Power” is about empowering educators to realize that, while this is such a daunting task, we can innovate and create a system that works for us all.


For “Reconceptualizing Power,” I used the “Race impacts everything” chapter in TMWYA because I wanted to give some foundational background. Sometimes people only think from their own perspective, like how am I affected as a Chinese American, you know? You may not be aware of what some Black Americans or Indian Americans are going through. So, “Race impacts everything” was perfect. This chapter humanizes the people within the system. To change the system, you first have to understand the system.


What would you like to tell any educator looking at your work right now?

If you share your stories, share how race has impacted your life, it gives permission to your students, regardless of their age, to tell their stories.

Model sharing and transparency. Those are key qualities. If you share your stories, share how race has impacted your life, it gives permission to your students, regardless of their age, to tell their stories.

Also, become a student in the classroom along with your students. Make it a learning environment for everyone, including yourself.



SHANNON STANFORD'S Lesson plans:

TYPE: Lesson (full class) TITLE: “WHAT IF…”: An Inquiry Approach to Healing CONTENT AREA: Communications / English / Social-Emotional Learning

GRADE LEVEL(S): 8th to 12th Grade

DESCRIPTION:

  • Students will undergo the process of writing an auto-ethnography as a strategy for promoting intellectual exploration of identity development, race awareness, and social responsibility.

  • Students will highlight and create meaning of their experiences through storytelling, self-analysis, observation, and discussion about larger cultural ideas.

Click below to download a PDF of Shannon Stanford's full lesson plan.

“WHAT IF..
.”_ An Inquiry Approach to Hea
Download ”_ AN INQUIRY APPROACH TO HEA • 65KB


TYPE: Lesson (full class) TITLE: Reconceptualizing Power CONTENT AREA: Teacher Education GRADE LEVEL(S): 9th-12th / Practicum Level (College Level)

DESCRIPTION: This lesson cultivates the analysis and awareness of how social systems, behaviors, and attitudes impact the teacher-student relationship and ultimately affect students’ learning experiences and sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. The lesson provides an opportunity for students to engage in reflective activities regarding their own attitudes about race, and allows them to engage in critical conversations about social responsibility and redesigning the classroom to reflect diversity and representative power.

Click below to download a PDF of Shannon Stanford's full lesson plan.

Reconceptualizing Power, Stanford
.pdf
Download PDF • 93KB



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Last Updated: October 2020

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