I have been doing a lot of listening and observing in a different context since I began my new role as an associate professor at a university – the differences between the high school and university environment would be no surprise to anyone. But the similarities may come as a shock, or at least raise an eyebrow. It’s still a place of tolerance and not inclusion.
So my work is spreading to the university level as well – as I look back on my experiences in K – 12 classrooms over the past twenty years, as a parent of two younger teens who has observed school from the other side and in this new situation – I believe there many areas of reflection and then action – schools, families, corporations, religious communities.
Reflect on this ….
- Normal does not exist, it never has – we should stop talking (thinking) about our community in terms of the ‘regular, normal, average’ member. (Read: Who do you see as normal, regular, average – are others below/above, ab normal?)
- Our own bias, learned as we travelled through life can be UNlearned, but it cannot and should not be ignored.( read, when I see a black male with a hoodie walking towards me what do I think or feel)
- Most people, educated or not, American or not, immigrant or not – most not all, defer to a heteo normative, white, secular mindset and vocabulary when they meet people for the first time (Read: listen to the questions you ask or are asked when you meet someone for the first time, what do you do? What does your husband do?).
- We don’t like to see people alone and when we do we feel sorry for them assume they are lonely – but we reluctant to include them because we assume their singleness denotes a personality defect. (People on their own sitting in a cafe, at a bar, walking the beach)
- We as a society, or as individuals are obsessed and I mean OBSESSED with our phones. To the point of being intolerant of human beings around us (read people on the bus reading your phone stop bumping into me, or walking into me on the sidewalk, in am meeting put your phone down and look at your colleagues)
And now I (not so humbly) offer my reflections on ACTION….
- Talk about this with your kids, students, coworkers, friends, family. What does it mean to be ‘normal, regular’ average or different’? Try taking those words OUT of your vocabulary altogether.
- Take the implicit bias test online (everyone has a bias. just need to admit it) https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html Work every day to address your own bias.
- Avoid making assumptions about everyone you meet – (marital status, race, socio economic background, political affiliation). When you feel yourself doing it, pull back assume the exact opposite – trick your brain!
- Envy people who are alone, or at least admire them, maybe it’s their choice, maybe they are a self-aware introvert, maybe they just need some peace and quiet.
- Put down your phone people, myself included. Engage the other people in your immediate surroundings, eye contact goes a long way to acceptance.