Elisha Smith Arrillaga: Back to School

For the fifth part of this series, we asked our experts to reflect upon the things we need to consider as we prepare to reopen schools this fall. “What human, organizational, and/or technological infrastructures do we need to put into place to support sustained periods of learning at home and/or more frequent handoffs between teachers and caregivers over the course of the school year? To what or whom do we need to pay closer attention as we plan for the reopening of schools? What might we be overlooking?”

Centering anti-racist teaching strategies in the return to school

Elisha Smith Arrilaga

Elisha Smith Arrillaga, PhD, is Executive Director of The Education Trust–West.

As I sit here on a Sunday morning thinking about the collective fear, uncertainty, and grief of a nation continuing to struggle with racism, I consider what needs close attention as we plan for reopening schools. As a mother of a young boy of color and as a leader of an education equity organization, I believe more firmly than ever—when schools reopen, educators must use every tool at their disposal to center the humanness of black students and of all students of color. If we don’t return to schools that see the humanness of every student, regardless of race, we cannot change the inequities we have accepted in education for far too long.

What does centering the humanness of students look like, especially in areas where we see the largest gaps for students, like in math? It means that as schools consider what standards-aligned math lessons look like this fall, it is imperative to think about developing a “‘repertoire’ of teaching practices that counter racist habits”’ and ensuring educators can do this virtually. It also means that schools start designing for reopening by centering the needs of the most vulnerable students first. And if we want a radically different return to school, with radically different results, we must center the humanness of students in ways we never have, implement anti-racist teaching practices, and see the value and promise that every student brings. It’s the only way we can create a new and better reality together.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Akimi Gibson | Elisha Smith Arrillaga | Esther Wojcicki | Gregg Behr
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin | Molly McMahon | Robert Tom Kalinowski | Tom Liam Lynch