New Teachers’ Roundtable is a supportive community where educators engage in personal reflection and critical dialogue about racial, cultural, and economic justice in New Orleans public schools and are inspired to take action with their students’ communities to build a more liberatory education system.
Beliefs (assumptions behind our work):
- in liberatory education. This is education that promotes critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and collaboration; is rooted in students’ life experiences and affirms each student’s culture and unique qualities; empowers students to make important decisions about their lives and communities and take charge of their learning; demonstrates empathy and compassion; empowers everyone to work towards creating a more just and sustainable world.
- that liberatory education will look different in different places among different people. Therefore it requires that everyone involved (students, teachers, parents, etc.) commit to practicing and continuously discovering what education for liberation means in our city, community, school, classroom, etc.
- we must actively work to dismantle oppression. As educators in a local and national context that is highly unjust we have a responsibility to challenge racism, economic inequality, sexism, homophobia, ableism and ageism in our schools and classrooms.
- we must examine our own complicity in and/or connection to systems of structural privilege and oppression. The effects of our racial, class, gender and sexual orientation identities cannot be ignored when we consider our relationships with our students and their families. We must explore how we are implicated in the suffering of other communities.
- teachers must be students of culture: that of our own people and of our students’. The study of our own cultures makes apparent subconscious values and prejudices that we implicitly teach and helps us relate to our students as more complete human beings. The study of our students’ cultures helps make our teaching relevant and increases our humanity and our humility*.
- that excellent teaching requires continuous support, ongoing training, inspiration and dedication. It is not something that comes quickly or easily. What our students need is educators who are committed for the long haul and systems, policies and organizations that support teaching as a career**.
- that new teachers need support, appreciation, mentoring and opportunities to join in efforts for justice. While new teachers may be connected to many of the unjust aspects of the current system, new teachers do not deserve the blame for structural problems, and they cannot be expected to solve structural problems on their own.
- that new teachers in New Orleans have a lot to learn from veteran, New Orleanian public school teachers. The dedicated, career educators who served in these schools before Katrina (the majority of whom were African American women) have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They were wrongfully terminated en masse. It is our responsibility to seek out their mentorship and lift up their contributions.
- in community decision-making. Critical decisions affecting schools should be made by the people who are most impacted--students, their parents, community members, teachers and other school staff. As educator-activists, it is our responsibility to build honest, open relationships and use our power and access to promote community decision making.
Organizing Principles (how we do our work):
- We strive to model liberatory pedagogy in our meetings and events by making them as engaging, participatory and democratic as possible.
- We believe in the power of story sharing to build community, solidarity and shared analysis and improve our practice as educators.
- We believe that love, honesty and intimacy are necessary ingredients for personal growth and transformation. We strive to foster a safe atmosphere where participants can be their whole selves.
- We aim to move new educators towards a place of action that connects them with the broader community through our work.
- We practice accountability through sustainable relationships across difference with educators, activists, cultural and spiritual leaders, youth and elders--deepening our relationship with and understanding of the place we’re in.
- We distribute resources equitably. Mindful of the fact that our privilege makes it easier for us to get funding for social justice work, we pledge to use at least 50% of the money we bring in to support ongoing, people-of-color-led, anti-racist community organizing/organizers in this city. We determine wages not just by hours or experience, but by need as well.
*This means not only learning about unique and beautiful music, food and celebrations, but students’ histories, traditions, home languages and the wisdom and lessons to be found there as well.
**We encourage new teachers to find this support and training by joining communities like United Teachers of New Orleans, which has been the center of education justice work in the city for over 75 years.