On Saturday June 10th, Mutual Morris held a Teach-in to Teach Truth in Madison, in collaboration with Radical Pedagogy Institute and the Zinn Education Project as part of the nationwide Teach Truth Day of Action. Students and teachers from the community, Drew University, and Rutgers University organized the local action to combat local school board proposals on: book bans, removal of Critical Race Theory education, anti-science education curriculum revisions, and anti-sex education/LGBTQIA+ inclusive curriculum. A small and powerful crowd of concerned citizens including students, parents, and community members gathered to share stories, learn together, and organize for collective action in support of diverse students and inclusive curriculum.
“Attending a community organization’s Saturday classes, much like this teach-in, was where I learned the truth,” Leah Owens said to the crowd when relating her own testimony of becoming a politically conscious educator. Owens is co-founder of Radical Pedagogy Institute with Brandie Waid. The two teacher educators established the Institute for the purpose of sustaining anti-racism in education efforts in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent uprisings. Professional learning sessions for educators are held virtually along with conversations open to all on the Institute’s social media accounts.
Dorothy Helmken, one of the organizers, is a graduate student in Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, where she studies education, and the Director of Mentorship for the Fair for Emerging Researchers, an organization that introduces socioeconomically disadvantaged middle school students to scientific inquiry through experimental design. Helmken spoke of her own experiences with the intersectionality of queer identity and education, stating “As a member of the queer community, I have gone decades without seeing myself represented in the course material I am expected to learn and to teach.…As a queer woman in STEM education, I still experience resistance when I push for inclusivity in spaces typically dominated by men.” She ended her speech with a reminder to the audience that “Every student can learn, every student has a right to learn, and it is my goal to make sure that every student has the freedom to learn.”
Elisabeth Sauerman spoke at the Teach-In; as a rising senior at Drew University with majors in Public Health and Environmental Studies, she is heavily involved with civic engagement on campus. Previously, Sauerman had hosted and co-organized a Climate Change Teach-In on Drew’s campus. Sauerman brought this experience to the Teach-In, speaking about the intersections of environmental justice and public health.
She emphasized that “Environmental issues and health issues are not disparate ideas that need immense work to be brought together, and they exist naturally in the world. Environmental justice concerns itself with humans and their relationships with their surrounding environment. Health is also connected to place, in this way.” Sauerman urged attendees to be civically engaged within their communities at any level possible and to learn more about the intersections of environmental justice and public health in their daily lives and in the classroom.
Renee Shalhoub, one of the organizers, led an activity on identifying and cultivating a caring community through a concentric circle exercise. She says “Community starts with us everyday. Times are difficult and everyday presents a new challenge, whether it’s climate change, education or for our lgbtqia+ and BIPOC siblings, just existing. The power of completing an interactive exercise like concentric circles is to strengthen our community ties and remind us that we are all surrounded by love. And we are all here for each other!”
The Teach-in to Teach Truth organizer’s next action is a Mutual Aid in the Classroom virtual presentation on Friday, June 23, from 7-9pm. Transformative power and local organizing is at the heart of mutual aid, a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. Bringing the principles of anti-racist organizing to a classroom involves the practice of decentering and dismantling hierarchical structures. The classroom and broader educational settings perpetuate these institutionalized practices. Mutual aid is a solution for equitable restorative justice practices.
This introductory session provides a safe and supportive learning community for parents, students, teachers, and education professionals to explore mutual aid and how it can be implemented in the classroom. We will review the principles of mutual aid, and consider how these principles can be taught and practiced in our community learning environments.
To sign up and learn more, please email email@example.com or register for the zoom workshop here- https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIqd-mgrDwqGdMAcpUmzOEWT2Km7XjJ6veL