Don’t Give Up: Change the System From Within

Change the system

I’ve been up and down with systems thinking all this week in the Making Learning Connected MOOC. What I mean by that is that I’ve had days where I have been playing with a systems thinking approach and other days where thinking about systematic inequities has me struggling with how to address problems that seem larger than me.

The chart above is something I made the day after being a guest on Teachers Teaching Teachers, where our topic of discussion was systematic racism and disenfranchisement. The show had an article adapted in The Atlantic from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book — Letter to My Son — that we collaboratively annotated before getting on the air. This led to a discussion about race and the impact on students, and the role we have as teachers to try to make things better.

I was honored to be in the conversation but struggled with my role as a white teacher in a predominantly white school district in a suburban community where so many of students have no reality of the world of black or Hispanic students in urban centers affected by socio-economic issues and police brutality and a political system often set up through gerrymandering to keep their communities out of power.


It’s not that I don’t talk about race and slavery and the ways in which our country is both an amazing experiment in beliefs and one that was constructed on the most heinous of ideas — enslaving others to create a strong economy. But it often feels as if those discussions are not reality for my young white students, and I need to find more ways to bring the experiences of others into my classroom. I need to extend their world from beyond our classroom walls and the boundaries of their small community. I need to do that in a way that respects my students and respects the experiences of┬áthose we talk about.

Teachers for change

By the end of the TTT show, our collective message of compassion and understanding of those from different experiences than we have, and the need for real conversations about the real world with all of our students, continued to resonate with me. But I was also reminded by Chris Rogers that we need to move beyond talk, and shift into action to make change to the system.

Everything might be broken, but if it isn’t teachers who can help fix it, then who?

Peace (let it be),

  1. You do more than talk. And when did talking get such a reputation as not doing. We do need to do more than talk, but often talking is just the next logical step. And who is to say that can’t be your role. Who is to say that your post here and your work annotating on TTT isn’t the beginning of something much bigger…or not. You might just inspire the person who does something more. I say keep on facing the issue as locally and as possibly as you can make it. I say you are doing good in the world with words and comics and the whole catastrophe.

    • Terry
      Thank you.
      I know I do, too, and I am trying to do more. I know I can’t toss the world on my shoulder, but I can be attentive to the students in my classroom and know that the words I choose to say and the way I say them, and the learning that we do, might make a difference in a small part of the world, and maybe create ripples outward.
      But I appreciate the kind words and resonance from my friends, too. We’re all doing good work. Keep on keeping on.

  2. Kevin,

    Just by making an effort to map this complex problem and reflect on it in your blog, and the CLMOOC community, you’re modeling a process that I hope thousands will duplicate.l

    Earlier this Terry did a remix to a process map posted by Christy Ball. I then added my own ideas to Terry’s version. Others have offered their own comments.

    This process can, and should, duplicate in schools, faith groups and businesses all over the country. If more people are taking time to map their own understanding of the problem and the solution, and comparing maps to each other’s work, we will begin to have more people on each side of this issue doing deeper learning and reflection and more interaction and engagement. Over time that might be the path that leads to a different reality.

  3. Kevin, you do so much in so many different spaces. Energy. I’m inspired and nudged out of non-activity. The messages in colourful posters and comics go in more easily without resistance.

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