Hedreich Nichols

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SmallBites Friday Five 4-23-21

Once again, I have 5 important prompts for reflection. This week, think of them in terms of your students and staff:

Why do you think police violence in the US is so much higher than in other democratic countries?

Why do disciplinary practices in schools tend toward punitive measures over restorative ones?

What is one way you can bring restorative practices into your daily routine?

Name 3 ways that you can make room on your campus for respectful discourse on divisive topics?

How can you change from leading discussions to mediating discussions?

The weekend before the trial verdict, the video footage of the police shooting of 13 year old Adam Toledo was released. And before the verdict could be read, Ma’Khia Bryant was killed in Ohio. Some people see police doing their jobs. Some see criminals being killed unjustly, instead of stopped in some less lethal way. Hopefully, everyone sees tragedy.

Unfortunately, these are the times in which we pull out our own violent instruments. If, indeed, the tongue is mightier than the sword, than we kill each other a million times over by attacking each other instead of the problem. Racist. Woke lord. Misogynist. Homophobe. We judge and rail against behaviors and even people themselves; those making, in our estimation, questionable choices. It’s not that there are not behaviors deserving of these labels. The question is, will calling a spade a spade help someone gain a different perspective?

There are many more and less logical viewpoints to every argument. Who gets to decide what is more logical? Unfortunately, most of us always think we are in the right. And mostly, we all equally hate to be told we’re wrong. So then what? Now what?

We have seen humanity prevail. Sadly, through a trial that retraumatized many. What if Derek Chauvin had instead apologized, pled guilty and offered himself up as someone who made a horrible mistake that he wanted to make amends for? What if the officers who beat Rodney King had set that precedent in the 90s? What if someone had reminded them that they hurt someone and had to find a way to make amends. What if we all believed in an eye for an eye, not as revenge, but for restoration?

As educators, it’s imperative that we teach our students to listen with empathy, apologize when wrong and make amends when we can. Pointing out how a behavior impacts another should be a regular part of what we do. Explaining how a wrong can be righted and how that benefits us all should be a daily occurance in our classrooms.

Yes, there are racists, homophobes, misogynists, woke lords and generally mean-spirited people. But calling them those things will rarely bring about a change of heart or a desire to right wrongs. When we stand in our classrooms and on our campuses ready to hear opposing viewpoints with respect–even for those viewpoints we find unworthy of respect–we are teaching respect, civility and empathy. And when we resist the urge to call out our students and colleagues in favor of pointing out wrongs that can be righted, we miss an opportunity to inch a little closer to a more equitable society.

This week, start making plans, in your corner of the educational world, to promote unity. Not the Kum By Ya pretend we all get along kind, but the kind that allows for respectful discourse even in a room full of vehemently divergent viewpoints. Explicitly teach your students and staff to opt for respect over righteous indignation. Teach them to consider how others feel and build a foundation based on civility and humanity, if not commonality. As long as empathy is the centerpiece, we’ll get there.