I sense a leaning towards the break in these final few days of December. Teachers feel it. In the department office, a colleague comments on the irony of a constructed time of joy and the lived burden of struggle. I silently vow to keep the classroom elevated, to lift the discussion in a high school course which is often focused on the struggles, the inequitable treatement of the marginalized, and to lean towards the joyful before the holidays

I sit with unresolved classroom conflicts feeling catatonic, listening for an absent inner voice, the silence deafening my thoughts of action. I stutter my way through, seeking support and leaning on others to help me confront these lingering tensions.

Consciously, I try to use my white privilege and lean towards the selection of texts with diversity in occupation, in way of life, in race, in gender, in age. But this leaning is fraught with fear and the sense of being a fraud.

Tomorrow, a male colleague will spend time sitting in a discussion circle with the males in my classroom. He will feel his way through beliefs on cultural appropriation, through the existence of white privilege, through rape jokes, through masculinity. I will sit in a discussion circle with the females in my classroom in another space. And we will feel our way through the discomfort which has rumbled beneath the surface and sometimes erupted.

I often feel my way through teaching, and chuckle at the irony given the freuqent and sometimes intensive study of pedagogy which occupies much of my world. I decide not to let up in these descending days of December; in fact, perhaps this is precisely the time to model the way through the struggle, lean in to learn. Maybe we can collectively feel that the joy and the struggle are bound in the moments of leaning in to the feelings and moving through them together.

Published by Melanie White

I am an English and Media Studies teacher, and Department Head of Fine Arts at Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am concerned with equity and antiracist practices while recognizing that I am speaking from a position of privilege and continuing to learn.

4 thoughts on “Leaning

  1. This line – “I often feel my way through teaching, and chuckle at the irony given the frequent and sometimes intensive study of pedagogy which occupies much of my world.” – really caught my attention this morning & it’s got me again tonight. I love how intentionally you lean in and I’m looking forward to hearing about the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What comes to mind while reading of ‘leaning in’ is my coaching training and the development of “rapport.” It occurs when people are deeply and respectfully aware of others’ feelings and are able to communicate well, predicated on mutual respect and trust…complicated. I am thinking about your opening and closing lines on joy and the burden of living the struggle – your word “collectively” is so important. There are layers of burdens, layers of struggle, not always easy to see even in ourselves, let alone in other — but leaning in is a beginning place. Trying to be aware, to see. Yet also being willing to reach for joy. For yes, we are bound together – our story is, in fact, a collective one.

    Liked by 1 person

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