Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Privilege Walk

This past week in school, another principal in my district came to my school to lead a diversity awareness activity I'd participated in before in grad school, but this one was a little different.

For those who may not know, the privilege walk involves a facilitator giving series of statements and individuals responding non-verbally by stepping forward or backward, or in the one I did in grad school, we crossed a room in response to the prompts.

The one we did at school this week was much more powerful for me. Though the statements were similar or often times the same, crossing a room did not have as much of an impact on me as having everyone begin at the same point and then need to step forward or backward based on the prompts.

I really had an "aha" moment with this one - how can we expect children to make it to the finish line if they're not even allowed to begin at the same starting line?

I was, predictably, toward the front of the room having been given many privileges. My parents told me I could be anything I wanted. I had way more than 50 books in my home. I never had to go hungry, I studied the culture of my ancestors in elementary school, I went to summer camp and I never had to adjust my mannerisms because of my race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. I graduated from undergrad with zero college debt except for what I stupidly ran up myself on credit cards. I have been very privileged and perhaps a little spoiled.

I just keep having the visual in my head with success being the finish line and seeing kids being pushed back further and further away from the starting line but still being expected to make it without someone helping them get to at least the same spot other kids may be.

I'm still trying to process all of this and what I can do to help my students get to the starting line so they can really take off and get where they want to and need to be.

We're taking the kiddos to the Aronoff Center on Tuesday. Providing these experiences that I simply took for granted I think is a start.

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