We belong…

I’m going to be honest, I’m not a very confident woman. There are so many times I question what I’m doing, worry about my ability to make things happen, and hate any type of attention, even the positive kind. I am a work in progress and will continue to improve my feelings of adequacy and become more confident. Although my confidence sometimes wavers, I wholeheartedly believe I am so blessed that I must use my abilities to provide opportunities and blessings to others within my pocket of influence. In my old age, I have become more laser focused on trying use my power for good and open doors and opportunities for others. Recently, however, I’ve started to realize in order to open those doors of opportunity, I must crack them open and walk through them first myself.

I don’t see myself being special; I just see myself having more responsibilities than the next man. People look to me to do things for them, to have answers. -Tupac

Over the past 9 weeks, I was fortunate enough to experience several first: be selected to attend Geo Teacher Institute at Google Headquarters, do my first Ignite speech, be selected and attend the hardest PD of my life at Picademy, and officially graduate with my Ed.S degree. I don’t list all of these things to brag, but to reflect on how blessed I am and wealth of opportunities I’ve experienced. I also realize all of these first were opportunities or doors I needed to walk through to make me better not only as an educator and member of the edtech community but as a person.

Just like I fight to bring opportunities for my students, I must fight and show up for opportunities as well. To be honest, it is sometimes difficult to fight for personal/professional opportunities. The desire to continue engaging in this 12 round boxing match of applying for, getting, and feeling like I belong in these new opportunities is exhausting. This fight is unrelenting like a monsoon that doesn’t seem to be letting up against me or my fellow edtechs of color. I’ve continued this fight not only because we need educators of color represented in these edtech spaces but also because when I do, I model to my students and fellow educators that we belong and should be there. 

It is continually frustrating to attend events, institutes, or conferences and see the same faces over and over and over again. Its like a whirling top ride at the carnival that I desperately want to get off because its making me dizzy and nauseous. On the other hand, seeing individuals of color keynoting or being featured speakers at edtech events is like a special ride at the carnival. You know that one unique ride when its working people enjoy it so much and can’t wait to ride it again. Unfortunately, most days and at most conferences that unique carnival ride is covered by a large, dark tarp instead or has a big “Out of Order” sign on it. It is so deflating and disheartening to see that diversity and efforts to diversify edtech spaces are truly lip service. People talk a good game, even have a keynote speaker of color one year, but they are really batting 2-18 in the series or shooting free throw bricks like Shaq. 

I’m tired of this. I truly am. To battle feelings that you don’t belong or are not good enough to be included is exhausting. Having door after door slammed on your toes or chairs at the peverbial table that should be for you being extended instead to your colleagues who don’t look like you and have less experience than you takes an enormous toll. Now imagine battling these things consistently for most of your life….not so fun, huh? 

As an edtech of color, I am now starting to feel no matter how many letters I have behind my name, accolades, or even veteran claasroom experience I might have, I still probably won’t get invited to sit down at the edtech cool table and be included with everyone else. I’m actually staring to become cynical about it now. When I do get offered a chair, it must be a blood moon or solar eclipse because it probably won’t happen again in 50 years, right?  

Ruha Benjamin so fiercely and eloquently spoke to many of these issues at ISTE just a few months ago. And one would think, hey maybe the monsoon is letting up. What Ruha said made sense, resonated with people, and garnered a lot of attention and conversations. Look at that, the rain is letting up some. Just when I thought I saw a ray of sun trying to peak through the clouds, I open other edtech conference flyer. A huge rain drop falls onto the middle of flyer and the rains start pounding me again. 

Unfortunately, this problem I don’t have the clear cut answer to. I’ve looked to my edtech shero Rafranz Davis for answers. She recently wrote a blog expressing her feelings and gave me some answers.  I’ve decided I will just continue to fight the good fight but now boldly ask: When will those who’ve toiled and done this work get a chair to the edtech cool kids table?  Do we need to build our own chairs and pull them up to the table? Will I get offered one of those coveted chairs? There is one thing I’m certain of and confidently believe: I belong at the table and so do a lot of my other brilliant and talented edtechs of color.

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