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well, this is a little complicated but

1) i teach in a school staffed almost entirely by white people who have all kinds of prejudices and intolerances (myself included!!) to deal with; who have never, in the 6, now 7, years i've worked there had any kind of diversity training or tolerance training or whatever the fuck you want to call it training because the general consensus (unspoken though it is) is that we are all smart, compassionate people who "know how to deal with racism" (because all it takes is being smart and compassionate, of course, no need to look at your own shit);  and who cannot manage to keep the few african-american boys we do get in school.  hmmmm.  what does that say about us?  it says "time to unpack your shit!"  so today we finally began to do it.  thank god.  a really cool organization that teaches people how to talk about racism and acknowledge their own issues with it and become skilled in helping each other with stuff that comes up (say, for instance, one of our many white boys calls our one black kiddo (sheesh dare i even type it?) 'nigger'.  what do you do and say and how?  i have some ideas about it but i want to make sure they're good ideas. and why i wonder do we only have one or two black students at a time? i wonder about a lot of things).

2) i have had conflict with one of my colleagues for 5 years.  she was my mentor and close friend the first year i worked there, and her decision to turn her back on me was deeply hurtful both on a personal and a professional level.  i could never discover why she changed towards me even though we had a mediated conversation with our boss (bad idea, bosses should probably not mediate conflict issues with their employees when they can't mediate their way out of paper bags) because she had begun to attack me verbally in staff meetings--she is very aggressive and controlling and began to actually try to boss me around in front of our boss.  i have some ideas about why she changed towards me the way she did, of course, i'm not dumbwitted.  but she doesn't really communicate on an emotional level and refused to really engage with me around it.  and it really was a horrible time.   the conflict has affected every part of my job since it started largely because we are such a small staff (7 teachers in the day school) and we can't avoid each other.  two years ago, it was bad enough i told my boss that i wanted to leave.  she persuaded me not to but it's been a hard road to walk.  and a sad one too because in the last year or so i've come to recognize again that she is a really great teacher and a good person and i miss her. 

all of which leads me to after our first dialogue workshop today.  i sat across from her, tearing up, while she talked about some really hard stuff from her youth (native american and polish, she had a teacher tell her that she'd be drunk and stupid and this is so clearly part of why she is the way she is that it makes me weep) and thought to myself that enough was enough.  so afterwards i asked her for a few minutes.  and i said that whatever had happened between us all that time ago, i was sorry about it and that i deeply respect her as a person and a teacher and i miss her.  and that i just needed to tell her that.  and of course i was teary because this was ages in the making.  and we hugged.  and she said she'd like to talk to me about it more some time.  and i feel like i won a prize. 

so, go team me for finally looking at my shit and dealing with it!  and now i might be having some fun at school again!

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
sinkwriter
Jul. 24th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
Good for you, good for you!! I'm so glad you reached out to your former friend and colleague and that it looks like you two are reaching a new corner in your relationship. I hope your friendship -- and your school, as the staff works for necessary change, which is so important -- continues to grow in a positive, healthy, beautiful direction. Good luck, and thanks for being so brave in sharing this with us.

~ Sherry :)
la_tante
Jul. 24th, 2008 05:04 am (UTC)
sherry!!!!
how nice to hear from you. thanks for your sweet words. i appreciate that you took the time to read this particular entry. it is a big deal to me and i'm glad to have your feedback.
hugs,
julia
shutthef_up
Jul. 24th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
Oh, excellent on both fronts!

Man, it takes some serious courage to speak with your former (and hopefully future) friend. You're amazing!

And yes, it's also good to hear that your school is going to help everyone look at their shit. You know, I've lived in hispanic neighborhoods almost my entire adult life and I still need to examine my shit. Seriously. I find that for me there's always something new to look at, you know?
la_tante
Jul. 24th, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
hey thanks so much! and you're absolutely right--there's always something new (and sometimes old) to look at and it's important to be open to those viewings, you know what i mean? i really appreciate your support!
hyacinthian
Jul. 24th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
That's great that you got to reconnect with someone and deal with racism. Yeah, that was an odd way to phrase it, but seriously.

And the diversity training thing sounds great! Is it just for the teachers/staff or for the students as well? Because coming from the high school I did, sometimes it's hard to imagine how racist/discriminating other students can be. And I think diversity training is a great way to take down those barriers and whatnot. Yeah, I'm starting to sound like a self-help book, but yeah...good for you! :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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