Safety Zone: First, Do No Harm

As we ease into the summer months and reflect on the last academic school year, we have a lot to be grateful for. We’ve seen students fall back in love with learning. We’ve seen parents happy to send their children off to school. We’ve seen teachers demonstrate a level of innovation and creativity that had never been required before.

We’ve also seen the social, emotional, physical, and academic harm caused to P-16 students by domestic terrorists, whitewashed curricula, school violence, bigoted school personnel, and a lack of compassion and empathy. If a pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that there is only so much that we can control as parents, teachers, and teacher educators. So, what can we control?

WE have the power to hit the restart button and rethink not only how our schools have become unsafe spaces for Black, brown, indigenous, LGBTQIA, differently-abled students, but unsafe for all students. So how do we hit the reset button? How do we develop a new generation of teachers that know how to be safe and welcoming for marginalized and minoritized students?

The answer is simple but so complicated to fully execute because it is heart work. And heart work is hard work. This means living a life of culturally responsive practices that are person-centered, strength-based, flexible in terms of power and demonstrations of learning, and critically-reflexive (Hannon, 2019). It means that being a culturally responsive teacher is more than a job but a part of your belief system and personhood.

Long gone are the days when to be a teacher meant being a white women. Cultural and linguistic diversity is the very fabric of U.S. public schools. Now, more than ever, we must make an intentional commitment to restoring justice to those who have been excluded, removed, and disqualified from shaping the lives of young people because of prejudice, bias, and inequitable access to resources.

Our P-16 students deserve more from their school experiences and teacher preparation programs have the power to make that change toward equitable safety zones for all students and future teachers.

Submitted by LaChan V. Hannon, Ph.D.
On behalf of the Social Justice Committee

Hannon, L. V. (2019). Engaging my whole self in learning to teach for social justice. 

In J. Kitchen, M. Berry, S. M. Bullock, A. R. Crowe, M. Taylor, H. Guojonsdottir, L. Thomas (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices. (2nd ed). (pp. 737-762). Springer.