where is the love in ed reform? (working title of a work in progress)

labor day had me thinking about the work i do and how it is inextricably connected to love. a year and a half ago i decided to work for myself and pursue work that was rooted in love, committed to anti-racism and aligned with who i am and want to be in this world. it has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things i have ever done.

i struggle every day as a black woman (working) in america to find my space between love and rage and resistance and acceptance. this space was beginning to feel elusive especially in my professional world. i am trying not to harden my heart so i have been reading and practicing a lot about love lately. i find myself on lesson 79 of a course in miracles. i screenshot quotes about love and resistance. as of late it feels like my existence/survival/life depends on it. i have returned to bell hooks because she was instrumental to me in the past and because a good friend of mine was finding his way through and with her work as he seeks to embody more love. this definition of love from M. Scott Peck that hooks offers has been my north star these past months: “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. love is as love does. love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. will also implied choice. we do not have to love. we chose to love. (all about love: new visions, p4)

the large share of my professional life has been in education. i have worked in traditional public schools, charter public schools and with private schools. when i have been with children i know for certain my work has been rooted in love. i love young people. i love witnessing their growth. i want them to know that i love them and that they are love; especially the black and brown ones. when i am not with children (aka when i work with the adults, mostly white), i often struggle to find where i can exist as my full black self and quite simply be love within the education space. i am a lover. i am an educator. i am an activist. i am a storyteller. i am a realist. i am an optimist. i believe that the work of educating ALL young people in this country is an act of radical love AND is political. i believe that if you don't agree you are likely not in this for the right reasons and more often than not, you are white.

at the core of why the work i have been doing for over 20 years and very specifically the work in what is called “ed reform” has not been working for me is quite simply because most of it is NOT sufficiently rooted in the kind of love bell hooks talks about; it is not spirit building work. in this past year and a half i have been doing a great deal of reflecting and realize i have left several positions in “ed reform” in order to practice loving harder and did not even realize it -- not just love the noun. love the verb. love the choice.

there are thirteen chapters in all about love. i have something to say as it relates to each of these chapters about love and their brilliant connections to education. i have a long ass google doc where i am working it out. for now and as this new academic year begins for students young and old, may i offer to the educators out there, especially the white ones (#ijs) educating black and brown children:

clarity: give love words (chapter one) - get clear on why you are doing this work. make love a part of your work. know that your way of being & showing love is not the only way. put love in your vision and mission statements. ask about love in your interview processes. make love a core value. most importantly -- stop creating a dichotomy between loving students and the attainment of “academic achievement” -- they are not mutually exclusive. the insistence that they are is oppressive and loveless. full stop.⁣

verta