To be “woke” means aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)
Everyone wants to be “woke.”
This is a trend that is happening amongst educators. Don’t get me wrong… woke principals and teachers is a good thing. However, one could do too much or focus on only doing one thing. Some may be unaware of how to be “woke” in schools. It may feel like that to implement “wokeness” is too intricate and involved. But being “woke” is actually very practical; very pragmatic in practice.
Reading books from writers of color is good to do. Also, talking to people and exploring issues of bias and privilege is a great thing. Some schools engage their teachers and administrators in training and learning communities that explore these issues. This is a very “woke” thing and more schools should engage in this work. But what does this (“wokeness”) look like in the context of teaching and learning?
I think that White teachers and administrators should explore implicit bias, White privilege, and how White supremacy shapes the functions of our systems and institutions – especially public schools. But I also believe that there are some very simple actions a school can and should take to be a benefit to the community. What makes you woke, in my opinion, isn’t simply what you know, but how you use what you know to empower others. All power to all the people can begin in the schoolhouse.
Here are some practical things your school can do to be “woke;” that is, use what you know to empower the community where you serve:
- Host voter registrations for parents and voting age students.
- Staff should attend municipal and regional council meetings with parents and interested students.
- Invite local political leaders to host meetings open to the public at your school building so parents and residents can attend.
- Host volunteers from the business and non-profit sectors to provide free training sessions/workshops to parents and students on various subjects that address community needs.
- Invite community activists and advocates to deliver lessons to students regarding community, history, science, and literacy.
- Provide evening and Saturday library and computer access to parents to handle business.
- Host a job fair for parents.
- Collaborate with other schools to host a city-wide college fair with representation from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) and HSI (Hispanic Serving Institutions) for students – where colleges offer on the spot admissions decisions.
- Create a community resource library (in partnership with the municipal library) where individuals can purchase or borrow books and materials that are culturally relevant, affirming and uplifting; social, political and economic uplift.
- Leverage paid internships for students during the school year and summer internships in June, July, and August.
- Encourage students (especially young men) to pursue teaching as a career with a future teachers club of some sort.
- Open the school gymnasium a few times a week for open gym basketball runs for students and parents in the community (especially Saturday mornings).
- Eliminate punitive disciplinary structures i.e. detention, suspensions, and expulsions. Replace them with restorative justice disciplinary structures. Here are some places to go to get help with that: LINK1 LINK2 LINK3
- Pilot a food co-op program with the parents whose children attend your school.
- Add a vocational (technical) component/program to your school where students can learn culinary, auto-mechanic, electric, HVAC, computer programming and music production skills.
- Work with your local university or community college to offer college courses for credit at your school – walking distance for most parents – for reduced tuition.
- Provide resources for undocumented and immigrant families on naturalization, economic support and educational support.
- Work with local lawyers and/or law school students at a local law school to offer pro-bono services for parents and families.
- Select willing parents and community stakeholders and groom them to participate as a member of the school board and/or city council
- Require students in social studies and literacy classes to read text that challenges White Supremacy, Capitalism, Patriarchy, and the Military-Industrial Complex.
I am sure that I am leaving some suggestions out. As you read and circulate this article, share your suggestions in your postings and feel free to email me your suggestions. I’ll be sure to add them to the list and submit your name for the credit. The point of “wokeness” in the context of the school is to become a beacon of light to bring forth fruit to the community you share with the people. Implementing some of these will help to institute your school into the fabric of the community in a way that will make your school indispensable. Being embedded into the community will make your community indispensable as well.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!