Introducing Nepantla Cohorts
Written by Esther Song, Nepantla Teachers Community President
When I first saw the news about George Floyd, my heart sunk. I didn't watch the video. Instead I wondered, "How many were not captured on video? How many Black deaths had no national outrage?" There is a deep problem in the United States: an ingrained belief that people with darker skin color are less worthy, less intelligent, more violent, more dispensable. These beliefs lead to horrific actions that cannot be justified. But every person and institution bears responsibility for dismantling the racist beliefs and actions that we see are prevalent today. Math educators are no exception. (Mathematics achievement is used to determine who gets access to privileged and higher paying careers. It is used as identify intelligence. Those who are celebrated as the highest contributors are consistently white and male.) Math educators must also take their part to dismantle racism in mathematics education.
As a math teacher for nearly a decade, I've been to many professional development workshops, conferences, and seminars. Most of the ones I tend to go to are about social justice in the math classroom. I always feel so inspired and motivated in the moment. I try to adapt a few changes in the classroom the day I get back from listening to an amazing speaker... but inevitably I go back to what I'm used to doing. It's hard making long term changes, especially when it feels like you're alone.
As a leadership team and classroom teachers, we realized a need to form a bridge between the amazing social justice speakers (or pre-service programs) and what happens in the classroom when the bell rings. I've seen many teachers who went into teaching because they wanted to do something about societal injustices and turn around to leave teaching because it felt so hopeless. I don't blame them. Teaching is set up to be isolating, guilt-driven, and to perpetuate oppressive norms that uphold the status of those in privilege. These are the reasons that it is even more important for teachers to have support.
Nepantla Cohorts are 10 week virtual communities. They are about teaching math as a political act, one that involves assessing power dynamics and making changes toward liberation. We include a facilitator as a coach who also provides additional resources. We invite speakers on panels to share their perspectives as experts in social justice and mathematics education. And we plan to work on specific contexts: yours. Because context matters. It's only one hour each week, because we're teachers and we're exhausted. Additional reading and videos are voluntary. We hope you'll join us. You can find the interest form here.
The 2020 Summer Cohort is a shortened version, only 4 weeks. The focus is on navigating racism in math education. Our invited guest, Melissa Adams Corral, joins us in the third week with time alotted for Q&A. Most of our cohorts will be open to all educators, but our first cohort will be limited to BIPOC math educators. This was due to urgency more than anything else. Returning to school after a season of nationwide protests and during this COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionately impacts BIPOC, we wanted to support BIPOC math educators with a sense of community as we head into the most uncertain school year we've ever encountered. You can learn more here.
Thank you for reading this blog post. We continue to be encouraged by your support.