Welcome to PoCC

Greetings fellow PoCCers! My name is Shayna Cooke and I am the Director of Educator Development for World Leadership School. At WLS, we use strategies and tools that help teachers begin to reimagine teaching, allow space to begin to make a pedagogical shift from a teacher centered environment to a student centered one that allows students to critically think about the world around them, and develop problem-solving skills as they look out in the world. I am attending PoCC to increase the tools in my own toolbox relating to diversity and inclusivity when it comes to our student travel and educator development curriculum.

As a newcomer to the People of Color Conference, I am already thinking back to an email I received from the committee with suggestions on how to get the most out of the week. These powerful suggestions continue to resonate with me:

  • Listen. Listen. Listen. Listening empathetically to others and yourself may be the most important contribution you can make to the PoCC experience.
  • Recognize that you may feel uncomfortable, but that does not mean you are unsafe. Being uncomfortable is a part of learning and growing. Acknowledge any discomfort you feel. Ask yourself in those moments why you feel the way you do.
  • Participate fully in your affinity group each time it meets. Attend with a growth mindset. Affinity groups are designed to help build community and to explore our racial and ethnic identities. They can also help you better understand your role in systemic forces and conditions that impact individual and group experience.
  • Keep in mind that best intentions do not always align with impact. We all carry power and privilege in our identities. Your desire to participate should not result in undermining or dominating a space created to be empowering.
  • Remember that attending this conference is not the end of your work. When you return to your school community, explore additional opportunities for advancing racial equity and social inclusion through workshops, seminars, speakers, books, films, articles, and expert guidance in the field. Commitment is ongoing.

As a white woman, I find these words to be powerful and profound. I appreciate the work of the PoCC committee and their mission to create a space for marginalized people to be seen, heard, and valued for who they are — not just what they represent.

This conference will be exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. This conference demands that we be self-reflective and real about who we are and how we hurt or help the people of color in our lives. Here, we can learn how to be effective allies, but we can not do that until we do the honest work on ourselves. Only then can we move forward. I look forward to meeting this challenge head on this week, as we begin to deconstruct what we think we know about a complex and multifaceted issue that needs our full attention.

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