Friday, July 28, 2017

The Workshop: Part 2 - The Group Lunch

Stop me if you heard this one. A Taiwanese-American, a Filipino-American, a African-American, and a Latina-American walk into a noodle shop for lunch . . .

After my lunch with the African-American teacher, I came back the second day more open to socialize but still feeling introverted. The adventure from the day before put me in a better mind frame to respond more warmly to people, however I chose to retreat into solitude and had lunch by myself.

As we broke for lunch the third day of the workshop, he came up to me an invited me to join his group of colleagues. While I didn’t know him, he was known buy everyone there. Almost every workshop I’ve been too, there’s a younger teacher whose outward expression of enthusiasm hasn’t been dampened by the struggles of teaching. This is the person who always sits up straight when he sings, and is eager to answers questions and participate (even in a workshop full of complete strangers).

I loved watching him take in the workshop. He had an energy and an outward expression of optimism, that is no longer inside of me as it was ten years ago, but is something I admire. He was that guy, he was the life of the party, and he was the only other Asian-American man in the room. I’m not sure how we connected, but I think it was singing gospel music next to him and feeling our voices blend together as we picked out harmonies.

His group included the African-American woman I had lunch with on Monday and one more woman, a Latina-America teacher. She wasn’t as extroverted in her participation in the workshop as my Filipino colleague, but she displayed the same thoughtfulness that I had seen in the African-American woman days earlier.

The four of us clicked immediately as we walked to a small cafĂ© for lunch. We quickly entered into conversations about our teaching practice in relation to our own layers of diversity. Sometimes we misspoke in our use of terminology when talking about identity, and while we were quick to correct each other, the manner at which we did this expressed a belief in the other person’s thoughtfulness and positive intentions.

We had lunch together for the next two days. Feelings about challenging situations at our schools were validated, ideas were shared, and laughter never stopped in our conversations as a way to deal with the seemingly absurd and at the jokes we made to help us cope with our feelings.

Meeting these amazing teachers was the greatest part of the workshop for me. It was so encouraging seeing other teachers of color in a different places in their career sharing the same values, passion, and drive to make education more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

I’m lucky. I get to go back to a school where there is a significant amount of teachers of color with an administration who expresses through their words and actions a belief in the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. This is not the case for all of these teachers, and the time I spent with them was an important reminder of how blessed I am, but also how much things needs to change.

Sometimes all that needs to happen to help make this change a reality is eating lunch together, followed by a joyous toast.

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