When the birth of my first child coincided with my husband being stationed in a new state, it felt like the right time to leave the classroom. After 13 years of teaching, I was ready for something new. I wanted to stay in my field, but I didn’t want to become an administrator.
Enter Welcoming Schools.
I received my first training in Welcoming Schools a few years ago at a District Diversity Committee meeting. I loved it. The new learning about family and gender diversity was engaging and relevant, and the mission of inclusivity resonated with me. Welcoming Schools is also completely manageable as a teacher. It’s an approach rather than a curriculum, so it’s not an add-on (and we all know how we teachers feel about “one more thing we have to do”). There are lessons and read-alouds to integrate, but it’s more about creating an inclusive classroom climate and responding to teachable moments.
After the training, I approached the trainer and asked her, “How do I do what you do?” We had a great conversation, and this year she gave me many opportunities to explore the work. I was interviewed by a reporter for CNN online and featured in a story about teaching kids about racism. That article led to opportunities to guest blog and interviews for radio and books. In February of this year, I attended the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference. I shared my experience on a Welcoming Schools panel and sat in on several dynamic break-out sessions. I felt so energized!
In many ways, my work in diversity and equity has always been what motivated me in education. It kept me sane in an era of standards, high-stakes testing, and evaluation. Translating conferences and meetings for Spanish-speaking parents made me feel good inside. Planning schoolwide and community events to benefit students and families filled my bucket. It allowed me to create an environment where a student who wet her pants in class (the week her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer) was met with care and concern from her peers instead of teasing. This work gave me renewed purpose, and it’s why I find myself where I am today.
I’m excited about the new roles I’m taking on in my life, as new mom and consultant. I think my learning and experience in each informs my practice in the other. I’m embarking on a new adventure, and I look forward to sharing it with you.