From Failing to #DisruptTexts

I’ve been following Tricia Ebarvia, Munah Saleh, Dr. Kim Parker, Shea Martin, Colinda Cline, Debbie Donsky, and many more who are speaking openly and courageously about inequities and the need for greater representation in education. There are many voices demanding diverse texts in classrooms, and I would like to think of myself as one among this group.

But my demands, my practice, and the reality of the bookroom at my school have left me feeling like a fraud, a failure.

Let me explain. After the “Hard Conversations” workshop at UofO and some reflective conversations at school w/ BIPOC students, I decided to critically analyse the bookroom; I wanted to upack and examine the voices and narratives which are being taught in English classes. I’ve only begun the preliminary work, but the findings shocked and motivated me.

I decided to share the unpacking on Twitter and wrote:

As I post these charts, I must recognize my part in creating bookrooms that look like this:

Count of Gender of Author

Count of Race of Author.png


As I process this stark reality and share with colleagues who will join me in this work to change the dominant White narratives, my podcast partner reminds me that I just purchased a class set of novels, Every Day by David Levithan – a White, male, American author.

Yup. I did.

And, I even back up to defend my actions pointing out that I was honouring a committment to the students in front of me – the students who overwhelmingly selected that novel over 11 other possible diverse texts.

I support student choice in reading, but for White students, this might mean reading the same voice, the dominant White voice, over and over again. This does nothing to create empathy for the marginalized. This does nothing to disrupt the dominant White voices.

And then it occurred to me. I’m trying to do two things at one time sacrificing one for the other. I’m trying to move teaching away from traditionally White cannonical texts to more modern texts, saccrificing the marginalized voices in the process. I’ve been failing to #DisruptTexts outside of my Indigenous Voices class. And THAT is why these types of courses are so necessary. Because we will choose the path that we have always known, students and teachers alike.

I proposed that we could take a revolutionary approach in our English classes and have one other course with all BIPOC voices, maybe all Black voices. Maybe in grade 10. But “maybe” isn’t enough, and I must recognize my part in creating classes that centre White voices,  and do something about it. I have to recognize the failure before I can move to genuine disruption knowing I have so much more to learn.



8 thoughts on “From Failing to #DisruptTexts

  1. Right there with you … this work is so important. Have you read Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad. I am finding her book so helpful in thinking about how I am centering instruction and text. I highly recommend it. Thank you for sharing your story. These are the conversations we need to be having.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a big step and a good one to change the voices being heard. I personally think it is good to share diverse voices in all classes – helping students to think and compare the writing and experiences of the characters. I prefer the blending of voices but however you can get the unheard voices into the hands of students I say go for it!

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  3. This is a conversation I push for years in my school, but only in the past couple years did I feel as though we began to make headway. Now there are the limitations of what the district will approve. 😑 And since I retired in August, I can only hope others are pushing to include more diverse voices. I was lucky teaching AP Lit. I had a small budget I used to purchase books and did so w/out getting approval (I was supposed to, however.) One year I taught a NA lit class. Maybe one answer is at the high school level teach only women one semester, only black authors one semester, only NA authors one semester. But I see problems w/ that approach, too.

    I started reading What We Talk about When We Talk about Books this morning and am realizing we’ve created a whole mythology about reading habits from the past that simply aren’t true. Disrupting that mythology must be part of the conversation moving forward.

    Lastly, David Leviathan is great, and he is part of a marginalized group even if he is white.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You know that I share your sense of urgency – and I need to share the graph from the bookroom at my school (equally shocking). Over and over I remind myself that I need to find a balance between the sense that I need to do something NOW and I need to do something long-term. We must do both, of course, but I hope that you can forgive yourself a little (I didn’t mean to make you feel badly about David Levithan!!), as we move towards doing better. Onward, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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