Brave Space To Talk About Race

Teacher Development Grant

 2020-2021 Project Summary

Jon Jagemann

Milwaukee Public Schools • Milwaukee, WI

Project Brave Space to Talk about Race will aim to create a space to provide resources for staff members to have conversations about race and the role of race in their classrooms, school, community, and the lives of the students they are educating. This project will create two cohorts for teachers to engage in this work. All teachers who are new to teaching in Milwaukee Public Schools are identified as “new educators” in the district and are required to attend a 3-day New Educator Institute before the beginning of the school year. These teachers can also optionally attend a monthly, after-school, networking session on a variety of topics. This Cohort will consist of 50 new educators, to participate in a monthly book study during those after-school networking sessions with the book, “New Teacher Book” from Rethinking Schools. The authors wrote this book with the idea in mind that communities of color need teachers dedicated to the lives of every student who will work towards reaching the needs of the students. Oftentimes, students have already been told at school or within the community that they are not worthy; the book aims to build a mindset and skill set to build academic strength in students. Teachers will help accomplish this by fully knowing and understanding a student and all their needs. From the editor: “We need teachers who learn how to develop curriculum that ties students’ lives, history, and academic disciplines together to demonstrate their expertise when top-down curriculum mandates explode across a district. Our school districts need teachers who can advocate against the dumbing-down of curriculum, against testing mania, and against turn-ing our classrooms over to corporate-created curriculum. Our country needs teachers who understand the connections between race, class, and tracking. How else do we make a lasting change?” The second cohort created will take place at specific schools, allowing staff members to be engaged in Courageous Conversations about Race. Ten schools with the highest disproportionality will be invited to apply to be part of this cohort. Each school will identify a Courageous Conversations about Race facilitator who will attend a monthly professional development going through the activities for that month’s book study. Talking about race can be difficult, causing many individuals to become defensive, escalate situations of race, or avoid the conversation altogether. Within Milwaukee Public Schools, 90% of the student enrollment are minority students; MPS needs all staff members to understand issues surrounding race and be readily able to have conversations with colleagues and students about race. As a district, the protocols and best practices from Glenn Singleton in “Courageous Conversations about Race” have been used to create a brave space for staff members to open conversations about race with colleagues and students. The project will teach teachers the protocols to create brave spaces to talk about race and provide a space to practice with their colleagues in the cohort. Teachers will then carry this work forward to have conversations about race back in their classrooms with students.

Back to Project Summaries