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Mr.

Jacksons Introduction To Todays Advisory

Today is the first day of Warrior Week, which is a series of events, across this week, organized by ARHS student groups, that are designed to help our school better understand the messages of Calvin Terrell. The specific theme of the week is: From Cowards to Warriors: Courage to Act. When Calvin visited us in September, he challenged us all to be warriors a community that has the collective courage to interrupt injustices big and small, but especially those that play out under our own roof. In todays advisory, we want to start the week in a concrete way, focusing on the recent experience of an adult member of the ARHS community who is a person of color. Rather than talking abstractly about the issue of racism, our belief is that talking about an issue that actually happened here makes more educational sense. Last fall, while in school, Ms. Gardner, a math teacher who is new this year to ARHS, had two experiences in the space of 24 hours that left her deeply unsettled and questioning her own personal safety. As a person of color, these experiences left her wondering whether ARHS could ever become her professional home. Weve prepared a video of Ms. Gardner describing and reflecting on these experiences. Each advisory will watch it shortly. We ask that you take Ms. Gardner in and allow her to teach you.

Carolyns Personal Story: Racism at ARHS What Amherst Regional High School is known for is its acceptance and inclusivity of all people regardless of race, color or creed. I came here excited to immerse myself into the life of a school that seemed to embrace fully the American experiment. What I have found working here instead is that there is a subtle exclusion that is actively at work. As one of only a few teachers of color working here at Amherst Regional High School, I am dismayed to nd an incongruity with the schools stated philosophy and my own. My personal story since I began teaching here in September includes examples of both individual and institutional racism. On an individual level, I have been personally targeted because of my racial identity. During rst trimester, on a regular October school day, a threatening note toward me was found in a bathroom. A Deans investigation revealed it was written by a student. This experience has left me feeling very unsafe in this building. That day, it was most difcult for me to teach through to the end of Eperiod. As soon as school ended, at 2:20 pm, I locked my door in fear avoiding afterschool help, avoiding interactions with anyone, with everyone. I worried about my safety in getting to my car, in getting home to my special needs son whose primary

support is his mother, a woman of color, a teacher at this high school where he, my son, during his high school years, refused to continue to be a student because of his own personal experiences in this building. It was Mr. Jackson who unlocked my door that afternoon and escorted me to the parking lot. I am remembering now how I had to ght my very sense of lucidity as I walked onto Amherst Regional High School property the following morning. While trembling internally, I entered Mr. Jacksons ofce before school per our agreement for what was to be a quick check in and update on the previous days events. Here is what unfolded instead: Mr. Jackson presented me with yet another shocking revelation, another personal affront. My classroom door sign with my name and room number was defaced with a racially motivated derogatory slur. I WAS BROKEN. In tears I left the school premises that morning unable to work, unable to perform my duties as an employee of the Amherst Regional Public School System. My thought How could I have been so wrong in my decision to move to Amherst Regional High School, to leave a comfortable position at Northampton High School where I worked for over ten years? As a mother, a woman of color, a mathematics teacher, a person the insidious effects of the racism that I have endured are psychological, they are emotional, they are social, and they are physical. My discussion with our administration since these personally distressing incidents has included a push for honest conversations about racial consciousness. My agenda is straightforward: We need to be engaged in transforming our school community into one that does not only pay lip-service to equity and equality, but one that actually does something about achieving it. On an institutional level, I nd that as a teacher of color in this school, there is very little room for my perspectives. I nd that students are not equally prepared for postsecondary life. One thing that is disturbingly clear to me with the Amherst school system is that all students are not given an equal chance for advancement. In my estimation, the system is very closely aligned with a system of structural racism and stubbornly adheres to it. In the eld of mathematics, for example, Black students are systematically left out of honors classes. Based on my observations throughout this school, I question whether the general expectation of teachers for the success of students of color equates to the levels of expectations teachers have for White students. These ponderings leave me deeply disheartened. There are many signs, both subtle and ongoing, that prompt me to conclude that our school system does not do nearly enough to recognize the needs of students and teachers

of color. Denying our needs, our ways of seeing the world, our styles of learning, our perspectives, and our experiences denies us of our humanity. It is a hard reality to embrace that we, ARHS community members, are of lesser humanity and lesser importance because of our race and ethnicity. We should all be equally given a chance for advancement, and equally high expectations. Every member of our community is complicit in this system, as racism is an all hands on deck issue. I challenge us to create a school community that pushes equally hard for students of color to get into honors classes as White students; that punishes with equal urgency or discretion the infractions of students of color and White students; that is as eager to teach in ways that honor the experiences and learning styles of students of color as it is to teach White students. Everybody has to be committed to seeing racism end for it to end. Doing little things to make it better does nothing to make it end. Believe it or not, the presence of racial prejudice demeans us all, it renders us all less human, and it takes from us all. To our White students: your classmates of color are simply that, classmates with the same wants, needs, desires as yourselves. They struggle with similar teenage and familial issues. Our students of color: you are important. You matter. You are not strange or exotic. You belong here just as much as anyone else does. The way you see the world is as legitimate and valid as anyone elses view. And you are as capable of success as any other student here or anywhere. Let us please use this opportunity to address this specic issue that of racial inequity as practiced in this school and wider community. Let us explore it despite the discomfort it will undoubtedly bring and refrain from conating it with other issues that often wittingly or unwittingly present an opportunity to escape a direct address of the ugliness of racism. I am committed to seeing us all enjoy a school community of people who ll each others lives with the wonder of each other; who each help to weave a colorful fabric of varying stories, perspectives, ways of being that makes us enriched in equal proportion. I challenge us to create a school environment that is warm and welcoming and accommodating to all who are a part of it regardless of where we come from or what we look like or how much resources we have at our disposal. This is entirely achievable. The rst step in achieving this has to be the robust desire to see it done.

This is where this discussion must begin and end: at the place of acknowledging and embracing with equal conviction the humanity of us all. For the Amherst High School community to be a place of inclusion, high achievement, full student and teacher involvement and engagement, a place of acceptance and love, then there must be an unwavering embrace of this truth.