From the BLTN Director: Conversations about Anti-racist Pedagogies and Ethical Teaching

May 28th, 2021 | By | Category: Featured, Spring 2021
Dr. Beverly J. Moss directs the Bread Loaf Teacher Network. She is also an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University.

When I think about BLTN’s commitment to youth advocacy and activism through literacy, teacher and youth collaboration across and within difference, and inclusivity and socially transformative pedagogy, I could not imagine, given our mission, how we would not engage in discussions about anti-racist pedagogies. We cannot be activists and support our students’ activism if we do not educate ourselves and learn as much as we can about the relationships between race and writing, race and language, and racism within the educational institutions in which our students learn and we teach. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery (and so many others), the racial inequities made visible by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the glaring racial divisions in the U.S. cannot be separated from our work as educators. BLTN needed, therefore, to take up anti-racist pedagogy as a central topic of discussion during last summer’s BLTN meetings and our bi-monthly fall 2020 and spring 2021 discussions.

We are fortunate that BLTN has a great number of valuable resources on which we can call to help us think deeply about some of these issues. Specifically, faculty and students–professors April Baker-Bell, Cruz Medina, Damián Baca, Eric Darnell Pritchard and BLTN fellows Kyle Smith, Genithia Hogges, Greg Booth, Veronica Foster, Kurt Ostrow, Alexandra O’Brien, Liz Farrow, Veronica Proctor, and Courtney Gamage–led us in discussions and/or provided us with resources to engage anti-racist pedagogies as our major focus. From week to week, we took on questions to refine and expand our thinking:

  • How do we have difficult conversations about race with our students? 
  • How do we engage in anti-racist teaching? What do we need to know?
  • What makes it difficult to have conversations about anti-racism and justice, in light of our region and student/faculty demographics (e.g., ethnic, socio-economic, education)? 
  • What are some concrete ways that we can counteract linguistic racism and language injustice in our communities and in our classrooms? 
  • How can we talk about social justice in concrete and actionable ways with digital technology? What might some folks already be doing that enact this? How can we incorporate social justice and digital practices into existing curriculum? 
  • What are we taking away as core commitments for our work in 20-21?

Often, we never know if these discussions or workshops have any impact. That was not the case for BLTN. Because of the generous sharing of resources and discussions during this past year, several BLTN fellows were able to go back to their schools and design anti-racist pedagogy workshops for their colleagues, or make changes (small to large) in their own practices. 

This summer, we hope to continue these discussions by focusing on “learning in community spaces.” This theme asks us to center the expertise, knowledge production, and practices that surround students in their home communities and which they bring to the classroom. As such, we draw on Alim and Paris’s notion of culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP). I argue that CSP is foundational to understanding the importance of anti-racist pedagogies. One of the major lessons from the summer is that anti-racist pedagogy is way more than a list of do’s and don’t’s in the classroom. It is about deep respect and ethical behavior toward minoritized populations and their linguistic practices. Our pedagogies should begin with this respect and ethics.

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