I commented recently that I “have no chill and rage often,” about things, especially when it come to race, privilege, and especially when it comes to those things in education. I think it matters, a lot.
I’ve sometimes wondered if I should tone it down, but at the end I am surrounded by folks who remind me that I shouldn’t. That the work has to continue. W. Kamau Bell’s piece on This American Life only drove that home, when the father he interviewed said that he doesn’t let anything go, because, as Bell noted, “you can’t just keep letting your boundary get pushed.”
I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people don’t like that. That’s fair. I’m not a particularly aggressive person, but I am fairly persistent.
Still, “rage” isn’t normally a positive term applied to teachers, and I don’t want to give this perception that to be attuned to how racism plays out means that my classroom is filled with out-of-place anger or a place where my students don’t find joy.
So, just in case, here’s what Rage means for my classroom, and the educator I try to be.
Rage is asking tough questions, and refusing easy answers.
Rage is a refusal to shy away from “the controversial,” or “too tough” discussions.
Rage is refusing to assume their innocence to support my complicity. Rage is accepting that the tough topics and the controversial discussions might be my job.
Rage is making space for the texts overlooked, the activists ignored, the history erased. It is refusing to give up when there’s no pre-made curriculum for the texts kids should read. Rage insists we create the curriculum we never had.
Rage is refusing stagnant practice, it is the internal insistence to create for them, innovate for them, change the game for them, push my boundaries for them. Rage is also knowing that sometimes they need to do that instead.
Rage is honesty. Rage is letting them know as many sides as possible. Rage is baring the burden of their shock and hurt, and sharing yours. Rage is letting them have space to be angry, to grieve, to be frustrated. Rage teaches Ferguson even when it doesn’t “fit” the lesson plan. Rage pulls up the #CharlestonSyllabus to create the lesson, makes kids question where they get their food and why it matters. Rage explains “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during warm ups and sets aside “social justice Fridays.”
This is what Rage looks like in my room.
Rage lets them question the “why” and the “how” and pushes them to question more. Rage affirms their emotions. Rage lets them be angry, sad, and empowered. Rage loves them in their youth, their growth, their malleable opinions, and doesn’t necessarily create more Rage, just more questions.
Rage creates space for them to glow. It insists on lifting them up. It insists on creating spaces for them to shine. Rage insists that they create their own holidays, celebrate their culture, tell their stories. It is a joyous Rage that giggles when they begin to subvert the norm, just be being their marvelous selves.
Rage cheers them on, laughs with them, grows more with them, delights in them. Rage sees their light and begs them to “rage, rage against the dying light.”
Joy comes too. Joy is the deep heaving sigh at the end of a sprint. Joy is the letter full of fifteen photos from a student. She hopes your summer is “a hit,” and she wanted to let you know she got her aunt to go 50 miles to the farm we read about and she met the farmer and she talked all about the book you read in class.
Joy is seeing the fruits of Rage. It’s not always more Rage. Sometimes, it’s just light. It’s the strength to keep raging.