I signed up to be part of the CWP Environmental Literacy and Justice Collaboration on a whim. I did not fully understand what being part of this collaboration would entail, but the loaded words of environmental, literacy and justice excited me. I believe in trying to leave a smaller carbon mark on the world by recycling, reducing plastic waste, reusing when we can and so fourth. I know I need to work on being better at these tasks, but I want to help the environment more. I am part of the SJVWP and have taught high school English to students of all backgrounds, focusing on multilingual students. Education and literacy is a passion I live for and I enjoy instilling the love for reading and writing to my students. Justice is important now more than ever, especially with all of the events of the last four years like the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality marches etc. As a member of the BIPOC community I have witnessed injustices in our society that still need to be worked through. Therefore joining this group meant I could work on all of these important issues.
Walking through San Jose State that morning was invigorating. I had not been San Jose State in decades and seeing the community of locals walking their dogs that morning or getting in their morning exercise, was calming. I could not find the location of the Sweeney Hall but Quin, another SJVWP colleague from Sacramento asked me if I was part of the SJVWP and together we found our way to the right place. He must have seen on my face how lost I was that morning, since he was lost too and together we found a way to get into the building.
Once in the correct room I was greeted by kind faces, eager leads and good energy. I was at the right place for sure. There were other teachers from San Diego and other places on the projector because their flight had been cancelled last minute but they were still going to participate through Zoom. The kick off started with Hopeful read/write/share after reading Care is the Only Useful Revolution by MOsley WOtta (Jason Graham). This was a powerful read for us as a group reminding us of what is important in our lives as educators, parents, partners and human beings. It reminded me of how important it is to take care of myself as I try to help my students and others around me. I once again reflected about the hard work I do as an educator, but also of the past years of the pandemic and all of the work we all put in to get through it. Now we are at a point where life is returning to normal but the energy we used during that time might need to be replenished in our current states. Self-care and allowing ourselves to heal is essential moving forward. Then we were given leaves to complete a 4 Leaf Pallette Words of Hope that was fun and inspirational. It felt nice to smell the fresh scents of the leaves and feel their different rough and smooth textures as we traced them on white paper with our crayons. It was a small and powerful way to connect our thoughts and writing with nature. A simple activity that many of us at our tables decided to eventually try with our students back home.
My education of the important work this group would be collaborating on continued as we reviewed Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs). I was further educated on how human beings impact the environment as well as how much we depend on this earth. The conversations at my table continued as the concepts of redlining came up and the conversation of explaining this concept to our students came up. Some thought it some districts may be too conservative to approach this topic while others mentioned ways to at least begin the conversation with. A group member mentioned how she is connected to a lot of the information from the EP& Cs through a family and they explained how much money the government and spends on cleaning the environment after it has been affected negatively by humans. There has to be a better way for human beings to exist on this earth in a way that is cleaner and respectful.
Later on we moved on to the Collaborative charting via Google docs with 5 principles in table with room for examples of lessons/activities with students. This collaborative piece was exciting because all of the members in the room and those on zoom were able to write in the same document and share lessons and activities they have completed with students. There were examples as well as helpful links that I found very useful. Many had worked with their students on researching how humans affect their environment as well as how to create a community garden at school. Some of these ideas got my mind racing on what I would be able to bring back to my classroom.
After lunch we worked on our Climate Venn Diagram in order to reflect on what we are doing on our campuses and in our classrooms. We all had to reflect on what are you good at as well as areas of expertise/passions. We were asked important questions such as: What work needs doing? Where will you focus? What do you enjoy? What delights you? What can be work for a lifetime? My mind was racing as I realized I did some things that helped the environment, but there was more I want to do. The possibilities became endless in my mind as I reflected on all of these questions and completed my Venn diagram. The big focus lead to the question of what are our initial thoughts for implementation this year? We wrote a one sentence description on the front of your index card. We also wrote one worry that might block progress on your work on the back of the card.
The next step was to group up with two other people and share our cards. I heard so many fascinating ideas about things that some teachers had done or were going to do that I felt a deep inspiration for my class and my school. Many had the same hesitations as I did and the same issues of what or who would block the progress of our work. Solutions were brought up to one another on how to possibly work to get past these obstacles.The support I was great as I talked to teachers from all over California and I felt less alone in my concerns. I want to look into bringing an Environmental Club to Hanford West High School. The task seems relatively easy at first, but when I think of making the time for it and finding students who are interested, my mind got stumped. My colleagues gave me words of wisdom on how I could incorporate elements of an Environmental Club into the two clubs I am already adving at my school site, if I feel taking on one more club might be too challenging for this school year. I am currently communicating with the ASB teacher about possibly being grandfathered into Environmental Club here at Hanford West since it is not currently active, or working with another teacher who has a club with components of what I feel my Environmental
By the end of the kick off I was excited to go back to my school and make some important changes. I am exited of the work I will be completing through this collaboration. There are many possibilities and changes to make at my school site, city and community. I am glad I am now involved with this program and the opportunities it will bring!
Other helpful resources provided to us:
- Write Now Teacher Studio
- California Writing Project Group
- Write Out From “Calling In” by Xiye Bastida (10 tips for being a climate justice advocate)