This Saturday did not bring sleeping in or drinking coffee while reading the newspaper or even blueberry protein pancakes.
This Saturday brought Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI). An institute that was developed by three entities that wanted to empower teachers to become teacher leaders who transform the teaching profession in the best interest of students and to transform instructional practice, education policy, and education associations: National Education Association, Center for Teaching Quality, and National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards.
I have the privilege of being a state coach for TLI. One of the activities we do for our first face-to-face meeting is Step Forward, Step Back. Another name is the Privilege Walk. It is a powerful activity and you never know what will transpire with the participants.
“Line up in a straight line and hold hands,” I told the participants as I stood in front of them. The participants were standing side-by-side in the sunlight. The day was too beautiful not be take advantage of some sunshine outside.
“Listen to each statement I read and follow the instructions. Hold hands until you can no longer hold hands,” I said. The participants glanced at each other with wondering looks.
As I moved to the side of the line, I began.
“If you are a white male, take one step forward.” Majority didn’t move.
“If your parents worked nights and weekend to support your family, take one step back.” Many moved back.
“If you have visible or invisible disabilities, take one step back.” More than I thought moved back.
Now the participants understood the activity and I started to see bodies leaning forward so they could keep hold of the hand in front of them. Some participants’ steps became shorter.
I continued to read. More hands dropped to the participants’ sides.
“If you took out loans to pay for your college education, take one step back. If your family took vacation abroad, take one step forward. If you are a citizen of the US, take one step forward. If you have been a victim or a family member has been a victim of physical violence based on gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation, take one step back. If…. If…”
Then I stopped, paused and said, “Now examine your position relative to everyone else, what is your initial gut reaction? Are you surprised at where you are? Did you come to any new realizations?”
There are always surprises, there are always uncomfortable feelings, but… there is also greater awareness.
Awareness is key. You can make differences when you are aware.