An Abundance of Opportunities to Grow
Sheri Crooker, Washington Conference Instructional Coach
Treasured Educators and Fellow Servant Leaders in Ministry,
Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Takeaway; a weekly email typically prepared for, and sent to, Washington Conference educators (and a few other educator colleagues) by Sheri Crooker, instructional coach. This particular edition is designed to serve and support teachers as well as Washington Conference pastors and office staff.
I have experienced a myriad of feelings and emotions as the events and discoveries of the last few weeks have unfolded.
My heart remembers back to my little girl self (late 70’s) as I reflected and wondered aloud to my mom what I would’ve done “back then” (referring to the images I had seen from the Jim Crow era and the 60’s) if people of different races were mistreated around me and, most importantly to me at the time, if society made it hard to be friends.
I was born into a white family, grew up here in the Pacific Northwest, went to a small SDA school that was 99% white, and attended a SDA church that matched my school experience. AAA and WWU were also a part of my journey. These places of learning also matched the community in which I grew up. The world around me was giving me all sorts of messages that race relations were harmonious and that the “back then” problems had been fixed and no longer existed. It was from my ill-informed (ignorant) understanding of society, structures and frameworks therein, and imbalances of power that my innocent and heartfelt questions came as a youngster.
As a new teacher I moved from the west coast to the east coast, New Jersey to be exact. It was then I discovered the fact that Regional Conferences existed. I was rattled. I was flabbergasted. I wondered why I had not heard of this before.
In August of 2016 I accepted the current role I fill in the WAC Education Department as Instructional Coach. All instructional coaches center their work around 2 goals: improving student learning and improving student experience.
As the November 2016 elections came and went I noted a very real opportunity to understand for myself what our student experiences might potentially be. This realization hit me as I suddenly saw more of the reality of what remains in the fabric and foundation of our nation emerge in very upsetting and tangible ways. I painfully realized my little girl question about what I would do “back then” remained relevant now.
And so I dug in. I searched and learned, listened and grappled. I challenged myself and held myself accountable. I disrupted my own narrative and interrupted what I had thought to be true. I still am. I commit to continuing.
I call this kind of work “inside-out” work. Deeply and thoroughly shifting how things operate within organized structures is greatly dependent on individuals therein committing to inside-out work. I believe inside-out work is what Jesus invited His followers into.
I believe we cannot wait for the systems in which we work and serve to do that inside-out work for us, or before us. I believe the systems in which we live and work will greatly benefit from the inside-out work we all engage in and commit to. I also believe every single one of us is born with implicit bias. I believe no one is immune. Therefore I believe all of us have an opportunity to engage deeper within inside-out work.
My inside-out learning journey has been greatly impacted by books, podcasts, conversations, YouTube, social media, and my own personal prayerful reflections.
To remain open I practiced humility (recognizing what I yet do not know) and courage (the grit to continue). Along the way I kept a list of resources that most impacted me. I have attached that list to this email.
As you look at the equity resource recommendations perhaps you might wonder where to begin. With that in mind I have noted a handful of resources I would suggest to you as a solid starting point. They are:
Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment --> This podcast from Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History supported my understanding of important details regarding the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case. I now have a better understanding of why it is our current US education system looks and acts the way it does, including SDA schools. This episode also provided an opportunity to reflect on what stories are told, how stories are told, and why some stories remain untold.
This Racism is Killing Me Inside --> Ever heard black and brown folk share the exhaustion that is felt with the often expected burden of speaking for all black and brown folks? Also, ever heard how exhausting it is when white folk assume black and brown folk are ready and willing to fill in the gap of understanding? This podcast from NPR’s Code Switch will support the understanding of how simply living while black or brown in our society is exhausting enough, let alone carrying the burden of informing others fully capable of informing themselves. Weathering is real. Learn more as you listen to this selection.
Shots Fired, Part 1 --> Although this RadioLab podcast episode was made several years back it has a lot to inform us about where we find ourselves right now as a nation as protests against police brutality reach a global level. The statistics presented tell a story unto themselves, and the stories within the statistics are important for all of us to hear.
Charlottesville and White People --> I did a whole lot of learning about what I can do as a member of a white family to disrupt the current narratives in our society as well as why it is vital to pour importance, time, and value into making those conversations intentional and frequent.
“How to raise a black son in America” by Clint Smith --> Clint Smith is someone I look up to and admire very much. His TedTalk introduced me to the idea of “the talk” that exists in black and brown families that white families do not even have to think about, let alone interact with. No, this is not a hint at anything to do with the birds and the bees. This has everything to do with what is required to keep black and brown boys growing up, especially as adolescence approaches, as safe as possible as they begin to drive and explore the world more independently. It’s not what to do “IF”….it’s what to do “WHEN”.
- Erin Jones’ (and her husband, James’) LIVE from May 29, 2020 at 8:30 PM PST (found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) --> Erin Jones is a highly esteemed and decorated educator, a Christian, a social justice leader both regionally and nationally, and most importantly my friend. More of Erin’s work is included in the attached document. Erin is deep in the work of equity and looks for solutions rather than hovering over the guilt and shame the past can evoke. Erin has been volunteering her time during the Covid19 stay at home order to teach equity classes to both adults and younger people via Zoom. She is also in direct contact with our state edu-leaders as they make critical decisions. I know for a fact Erin prays for our state edu-leaders. :) Erin has also been doing a LIVE each Friday night since early March 2020. Last Friday’s LIVE (from May 29) is one I would highly recommend. Her husband (teacher and minister) joins her as they share, grapple, and grieve the death of George Floyd as well as look ahead at what black, brown, and white folks can do as tomorrow becomes today. If you are looking for an authentic and productive conversation during this time, this one is for you!
Notice I did not put specific links for the resources I shared. I did that on purpose.
Knowing we all use different platforms to absorb information, and knowing all of the resources I included above as well as in the attachment are just a Google search away, I trust that we are all surely able to access the abundance of opportunities of learning shared in this note. That said, if you are having a tricky time finding something you are interested in learning through, please feel invited to connect with me.
The attached resource list also contains a recent message sent out from Dan Linrud, the Oregon Conference president, with many powerful things we can all do to support equity and social justice.
I believe in our individual and collective potential to be bridge builders.
I believe this is important work. I believe if not now, when? I believe in you and me as we commit to learning and growing alongside one another. Those we are called to serve, as well as our very own selves, deserve our individual and collective time and dedication to further learning and growth. The journey is not comfortable. The journey is vital, all the same. Dig in!
As always, thank you for all you are and all you do.
Washington Conference Instructional Coach