This episode was inspired by an Instagram post that I shared a couple of months ago regarding the history of public education in the United States. As our education system continues to buckle under the weight of problematic policies and bureaucracy, more and more educators and education advocates are choosing to speak out about the brokenness of the system and the need for change. In the book, Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein does an excellent job of providing historical context that lays out the foundation of the education system and why it was always destined to be this way.
It all comes down to one thing: our education system isn’t really a system at all. It’s not outlined as a right or priority in our nation’s founding documents, nor was there ever truly a top-down approach for public schooling. At most, it’s a loose confederation of policies and antiquated beliefs that have created the standard by which we have operated as educators. These same policies and problematic notions are also the roots of the teacher shortage crises and inequitable classroom practices that ultimately shortchange our students.
In this episode, I’m talking with Channing White, a veteran educator and strategic equity coach whom I’ve connected with through Instagram. Channing embodies what it means to live authentically both in and out of the classroom. She’s bold. She’s honest. She’s vulnerable and passionate; and when I shared my thoughts on the history of public education a while back on Instagram, Channing and I started a conversation that I KNEW I wanted you all to be privy to.
In our conversation, we talk about our thoughts on the history of education and how its origins are still impacting the field of education today - for both students and educators. We also uncover the many troubling inequities in not only our schools but the entire education system as well as what we can start doing - even if it’s just in our classrooms - to create the systemic change that’s so desperately needed in education.
During our conversation, Channing discusses:
The larger challenges that are plaguing the teaching profession
How education is decentralized and the impacts this has on making changes to the education system as a whole
The importance of both students and staff to be critical thinkers and to be able to challenge the status quo
What she’s doing in her classroom to push back on the system to start to create change
Inequities that exist in our schools and how they originated through standardization and lack of diversity during the creation of curriculum and standards
Channing wants you to know that proper mentorship is extremely important. The mentality that “good” teachers sacrifice themselves for the “greater good” has deep historical roots and is perpetuated due to damaging narratives that are sometimes started in preservice teacher programs and continue on because of school administrative expectations. Breaking through these narratives can be challenging; therefore, it’s important to find mentorship and a community that will create a space to affirm who you are so you can teach and live more authentically.
Also, she reminds us that humanity is at the core of the work that we do as educators. When we get caught up in “standardization” and see students only through the lens of their scores, we miss out on the opportunities to be intentional and create environments where ALL students can thrive. She points out that, the lack of diversity in those who determine the grade-level standards and create curricula, is doing our students a disservice. This lack of diversity creates culturally disconnected classrooms that are detrimental to the success of all students. Many in the field of education are so blinded by the overwhelming sea of expectations, that we forget about doing the inner work that’s needed to create change. It’s in this inner work that we can step out of our comfort zones to do the bold and radical actions that are needed to cause systemic change.
Channing believes that educators can live and teach more authentically by believing that they are ENOUGH.
Channing White is an educator and strategic equity coach. Her work is centered in sustainable teaching and learning practices. She consistently cultivates confidence and independence in primary learners through student choice, growth mindset, time management training, and peer support. She enjoys building relationships and reigniting school cultures. On socials, she thrives in building a community of teammates where authenticity and transparency affirms teacher humanity.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein