Author Archives: Lindsay Romano

Lindsay’s UnEssay

UnEssay: A Pre-Service Course Designed to Develop Embodied Anti-Racism in White Educators

You can read the full proposal, along with some suggested activities, a list of programs and teachers doing the work of collective healing, and my resources here.

Guiding Questions: 

  • How can we develop ways to better care for one another in schools?
  • How can we better equip white educators to cultivate radically caring and compassionate classrooms? 

Course Aim: The goal of the course will be to push students to consistently become aware of and question/interrupt the dominant narrative in their lives and classrooms. It will push them to consider their implicit biases more deeply and their role in enabling and propagating structural racism. It will provide them with tools to take into their lives and classrooms to continue the work of embodied anti-racism.

Course Design: The course is designed to facilitate the development of embodied antiracism in participants. Building on the model of somatic learning, each class will include an experiential component, one that seeks to explore the body, experience, and emotion more deeply. The second component will be conceptual in nature, incorporating the mind into the experience and vice versa. These activities will be integrated, encouraging and reinforcing embodied learning.

Thank you for reading! Feedback welcome 🙂

Romano Week 13 Post

A quote that resonated deeply with me this week was, “Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. If Black lives matter, so should Black thought, especially when it comes to any agenda for educational equity or social justice in schools. Black people have the answers. Who will listen?” It made me consider HOW more Black voices can be brought to the center and what that will take. It also made me think a lot about WHY we aren’t centering Black voices first and foremost when that seems so necessary and obvious. One idea that came up for me when considering the why, particularly in thinking about all of the white bodies controlling aspects of the agenda and narrative surrounding educational equity and social justice in schools, is that it gives them control over the outcomes and ultimately, enables them to keep their interests top of mind. It made me think back to some of our initial class readings that discussed the concept of “interest convergence” and how white social justice advocates, when working separately from black educators and communities, are living into that idea. If they can control the narrative, they can ensure that their interests are not compromised. It then made me think about my own role in this work as an ally and when I have truly embraced allyship (which, in its true form, would have me working alongside and for the black community, as opposed to occupying spaces where the black community was not at the center or leading the conversation) and when i have been in rooms that were primarily white, promoting a false sense of watered down advocacy. I have a lot of work to do and am eager to continue learning and unlearning how I can support and truly be an ally in this work.

Romano Post: Hope and Healing

This week’s readings and video left me thinking a lot about hope and how essential it is to cultivate a critical hope in ourselves as educators so that our classrooms become spaces of critical reflection and action. Critical reflection without hope is misery, and hope without critical reflection is false, a lie. “False hope would have us believe in individualized notions of success and suffering, but audacious hope demands that we reconnect to the collective by struggling alongside one another, sharing in the victories and the pain. This solidarity is the essential ingredient for “radical healing” (Ginwright, 2009), and healing is an often-overlooked factor for improving achievement in urban schools” (Duncan-Andrade). This week, I have also been thinking a lot about this idea – the idea of the illusion of individualism and the reality of collectivism. When we talk about critical hope, it means we are recognizing the system and our role in perpetuating or disrupting oppression. So much of the deficit rhetoric that we hear about students is directed at the individual, and it distracts us from critically analyzing the system. Critical hope, to me, means critically examining the system and critically exploring the opportunity that we all have at each moment to either perpetuate or disrupt, and the decision that we have to lean into acts of disruption. When we shift our thinking towards a more critical consciousness, or an awareness that our freedom is tied up in one another, we can experience empathy. We can feel empathy only when we genuinely understand and feel our connection to one another as human beings. By recognizing the humanity in ourselves and others, we can experience this collective solidarity and join in our collective fight. “Second, community organizations provide pathways to action, which compel individuals and collectives to claim power and control over sometimes daunting social conditions” (Ginwright). This quote speaks to the recognition of our role in collective suffering and victory as well as the NEED for us to work with our communities in this work, because we can’t do it alone. 

Lindsay Romano Week 10

The readings this week definitely left me with mixed feelings and some questions. First, Yosso’s notion of community cultural wealth I feel is an important response to Bourdieu’s theory of “cultural capital” which has been used (or mis-used) in many cases to justify deficit beliefs about communities of color and to support the notion that they need “fixing” in order to better “fit” into capitalist society. A response to this theory or the mis-use of this theory is important. However, as my classmate’s have mentioned, placing the “community cultural wealth” into a similar paradigm as “cultural capital” similarly seems to reduce the humanity of communities of color to six categories of wealth, which still suggests that outside of these categories there is deficiency. It almost seems to reduce the inherent wealth and value of being human and makes it seem as though that needs justification and isn’t enough. I love Sohini’s connection to Audre Lorde’s words: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” and agree that the framework of community cultural wealth seems to be born out of the same foundation (capitalism) as cultural wealth, and while they exist on different ends of the spectrum, they are still on the same spectrum. I wonder what it would be like to rebuild the entire house on a completely different foundation, where we wouldn’t need to justify or describe wealth because it was so clear and evident because our society was in touch with our humanity and the humanity of others. While that’s said, I do think there are some important contributions to the field that come from this piece. For example, Yosso claims that “CRT shifts the research lens away from a deficit view of Communities of Color as places full of cultural poverty disadvantages, and instead focuses on and learns from the array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities and contacts possessed by socially marginalized groups that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged… CRT centers the research, pedagogy, and policy lens on Communities of Color and calls into question White middle class communities as the standard by which all others are judged (Yosso).” Acknowledging this shift in focus and redefining the “standards” that we use as a society to judge communities based on the white middle class is an important acknowledgment, and the six forms of capital help to shift the focus away from what’s wrong to all of the things that are right. However, I think in the new house that we build, we won’t have to justify or clarify one’s capital as being worthy because being human will be enough. 

The second reading this week was an excellent case study of school leadership. One quote that stood out to me was: “Just because we work for the whole, not the I, does not mean that our leadership is less important. At times, it is even more important. You can sound like you know everything, look so well put together and know nothing. That is the “I” culture, but this work is about relationships, this work is about people, this work is about kids” (Rodela & Rodriguez-Mojic). To me, this quote points to the most important aspect of leadership: relationships and dialogue. It made me think a lot about Freire’s approach to leadership, where the leader is in constant dialogue and continuously learning from those who she leads. Putting kids at the center and working in relationship with the school community is the only way to lead a school in a transformational way. While reading about the principals gave me a lot of hope, seeing the statistics on the number of Latinx school leaders compared to white leaders was disheartening and left me wondering about what next? Where do we go from here? How do we flip these numbers on their head? Why are these numbers so small? It made me think back to our readings about the history of Brown and the shift in leadership from leaders or color to predominantly white leaders and teachers in schools and it made me question what needs to be done to return to a community school model in which the school is led by community leaders that look like their students. This might also require rebuilding the house…

Lindsay Romano Week 8 Post

Reading about SFSJ and Johnson’s leadership has left me feeling INSPIRED. The shift towards a radical care, a care that encompasses the tenets of critical care along with a radical hope seems to be ingredients for true and lasting change. How can we fight for sustained change if we can’t envision it? If we can dream of it? “Since Johnson viewed the education landscape as full of possibilities for liberation of marginalized communities, he was less inclined to feel constrained by policy and context than others might… Having a firm vision in “what could be,” therefore, drove Johnson to believe that anything was possible; rather than seeing constraints, he was solution-oriented…  It is essential, then, that the school leader maintains a level of intense and almost unbelievable optimism if they are to lead” (Rivera-McCutchen, 2020). These three quotes really stuck out to me because they are powerful examples of the authentic and radical care that seemed to drive Johnson’s vision and leadership. From his “Johnson Bulletins” to the Community Circles to Johnson’s presence in the school and relationships with students, families and staff, this vision and commitment to hope, social justice and change seemed to be so embedded and genuine. The article speaks about Johnson’s support of his teaching staff and how he showed them care similarly to how he showed care to his students and their families. “Johnson came to understand that he needed to actively support teachers in order to help the students achieve success. He admitted to me that he was beginning to recognize that encouragement, alone, was insufficient” (Rivera-McCutchen, 2020). This quote and his commitment to supporting his school community left me wondering who supports him and how he receives care. One idea that came to mind was the reciprocal relationship he seemed to foster with his school community, but I wondered how someone with his incredible energy and commitment receives and is cared for to sustain that energy. I wonder how school leaders in general receive adequate support and care and if the lack of care for leaders could be contributing to the high turnover rates of leaders in the urban context. How can we foster more school communities by actively caring for more leaders like Johnson?

Lindsay Romano Week 7 Post

There was a clear distinction made this week between “soft” and “hard” care that really spoke to me. Teachers who exhibit “soft care” are “Sympathetic … teachers who take pity on students’ social circumstances may have good intentions, but this may ultimately harm students as it lowers academic expectations” (Tichnor-Wagner & Allen, 2016, p. 410). On the other hand, hard care is seen as “…the combination of high expectations for academic performance that teachers place upon students (Katz, 1999) and [the] supportive, instrumental relationships between students and teachers” (Antrop-Gonzalez & De Jesus, p. 423). There is a fine line between soft and hard care and reading about the two concepts along with the examples of both displayed in schools further pushed my thinking. To embody hard care is to believe that our students are intellectually capable of rigorous learning. It is to believe they are capable, set high expectations, and then support them in reaching those expectations by building strong relationships grounded in trust. “Unless there is a fundamental belief that students are intellectually capable of meeting rigorous standards, other forms of caring will not work. Teachers may believe that lowering standards for students is caring when, in fact, they are inadvertently holding students back” (Rivera-McCutchen, p. 676). This quote demonstrates the necessity of mindset and belief in our students’ capabilities as a starting point for hard care. It also points to the challenge that I see in teachers adopting hard care in their classrooms, which is the confusion that lowering the bar and making the work less rigorous can feel or appear to look like care. I think that in order to embrace a firm belief in our students’ abilities, a critical examination of the role that race plays systemically in preventing some groups historically from accessing educational opportunities is imperative. “A critical care praxis begins by acknowledging that, to care for students of color in the United States, we must seek to understand the role that race/ ethnicity has played in shaping and defining the sociocultural and political conditions of their communities… To critically care for students, it is also imperative to interrogate and seek to alter the ways in which educational care is unequally distributed along racial/ethnic line” (Rolon-Dow, p. 104, 107). It is in this interrogation that we are able to acknowledge how systems of oppression have impacted our students and ourselves. It is through this interrogation, I believe, that we are able to check our own mindsets and when and if they are impacting the expectations that we are setting for our students. 

School leaders play an integral role in cultivating a culture of critical care in our schools. By making “changes to the vision that they promote and the programs they introduce in order to support their school in (a) forging strong interpersonal relationships between students, faculty, and administration and (b) holding high expectations for student success in high school and beyond” (Tichnor-Wagner & Allen, 2016, p. 410), leaders are able to ensure that teachers are moving towards hard care and are adopting a mindset and pedagogy grounded in critical care. I am left wondering about how school leaders can model hard care with their staff and how important it is that they uphold and model high expectations for their teachers so that it can trickle down to students.

Lindsay Week 6 Post

As someone who has been working in education for nearly ten years now, I find that I spend the majority of my time thinking about education and the education system. It has become almost a default to blame our social ills on the school system and all of the problems within it – the inequitable distribution of resources, poor teacher preparation, etc. In the same vein, when you see the education system as the institution to blame then it simultaneously becomes the institution that we need to fix. As Miller et. al names, “The prevailing thought seems to be if we fix the schools, the rest of the ducks will fall into order, that is, employment and home ownership rates will increase, crime and drug use will go down, and so on” (Miller et. al 2011, p. 1080). The readings this week poked holes in this assumption and I am left grappling with the question: “Why do we put so much of our attention and resources into trying to fix what goes on inside low-performing schools when the causes of low performance may reside outside of the school?” (Miller et. al 2011, p. 1080). This profound reminder makes me think a lot about the need for more interdisciplinary work. Given the complexity and pervasiveness of the problem, we need to work together across disciplines in order to see and respond to the interconnected nature of oppression across all institutions. Freire reminds us of the importance of solidarity and dialogue as tools for our collective freedom and must be relied upon in order for social change to occur. He reminds us that we must hold space for both critique and hope in the fight for freedom and that above all, “love is required to maintain hope in the face of despair” (Rivera-McCutchen 2019, p. 237). While critique alone can lead to feelings of despair, love and hope provide the energy to sustain the fight and to retain a vision of possibility.

Week 4 Lindsay Romano Post

This week’s readings helped me to appreciate the many ways in which critical care shows up in our schools through black women teachers and leaders. I loved unpacking the concept of mothering and motherhood in schooling and how a woman’s natural inclination towards mothering and parenting can and should inform their teaching. In the Beauboeuf-Lafontant article, she mentions the ways in which mothering for many black women educators is “a matter of fact” and an “emotional strength.” It was powerful to read these words alongside the concept of mothering because so often in our capitalist society, the act of “mothering” is looked down upon and perhaps even seen as weak. This article flips this notion on its head and instead places motherhood in highest esteem, as something that comes natural to women and that is a key in our collective liberation.

Beauboeuf-Lafontant also likens care and love in teaching to the bible and the ten commandments, stating, “Thou shalt love they students as you would love your own children” (Collins, 1992, p. 178). This statement speaks to me deeply and makes so much sense, yet I have been in so many classrooms where there feels to be a void of love, or rather, a lack of focus on love and care. We forget that we are working with human beings and that human beings need care in order to grow and thrive. A connection to religion was also discussed in the Witherspoon and Makoto Arnold article, who discussed the ways in which theological caretakers exhibit care. It made me wonder about our “secular” public education system which is so often void of spirituality and if spirituality and spaces of worship can actually teach us a lot about critical care. The exploration of “The Black Church” in the article sheds light on the ways in which Black spirituality has come to be located in resistance. It also sheds light on the ways in which black women educators resemble pastors. This connection to spirituality is profound and necessary (Witherspoon, 2010). Similar to mothering, spirituality comes naturally. In our secularized world, however, it has been looked down upon and even discouraged in public schools. Placing spirituality and a spiritual practice in the center of teaching practices places care at the center. “Much like a pastor, these women not only believed in ensuring the academic well-being of their students, but also in providing holistic care of mind, body, and spirit” (p. 224). This holistic approach to education is necessary. I am left wondering: Why have we lost this approach in so many classrooms, and how can we regain it? How can we better care for ourselves so that we can focus on our students and care for them as we care for our own children? How can we foster our own spiritual development so that we can also foster it in our students?