A Brave Community at the AFT Teach Conference

Our AFT Teach Conference workshop this weekend was about creating a “brave community” to address race and racism in our schools. Co-facilitators Daniel Coles and Marieke van Woerkom report that educators came to the workshop ready to share, take risks, build connections, and learn. 

AFT Teach Circle


When we returned from the AFT Teach Conference last Saturday, our Morningside Center colleagues encouraged us to take the rest of the weekend to relax and recover.

Yet as we spoke with them about the conference, we realized we didn’t need to recover.  Our two-part workshop “A Brave Community: Groundwork for Sustainable Ways to Address Race and Racism,” though dealing with the painful topic of racism in the U.S., had left us feeling more energized than when we’d left.

Amid the bustle of the conference--the many workshops, meetings, powerful speakers and protests— we had the pleasure and honor to spend three hours with a remarkable group of educators.

Together, we departed from the usual workshop practices by creating a shared circle space in which personal experiences and wisdom could be shared. We slowed things down by sending a talking piece around, inviting all voices into the space, which allowed connections to be built across the diverse cultural and racial backgrounds represented in the circle.  We reflected on our individual racial histories before turning to an activity that explored the devastating collective history of racism, codified in U.S. law.

Throughout, participants showed an eagerness to learn, contribute, lean in to their discomfort and participate fully in this shortened version of Morningside Center’s 3-day “deep dive” workshop on Educating for Racial Equity.

It was an important reminder that, even as the headlines continue to show us that racism is a potent and ubiquitous force in our society, the will to challenge it – and to create a different kind of reality – is also strong, and, hopefully, growing.

We send our gratitude to all the educators who participated in our “brave community,” and to the AFT for making that community possible.