In spring 2022, the Study Council at Syracuse University and the Intergroup Dialogue Program collaborated to develop a supportive online community for educators of color across Central New York.
Facilitated by Courtney Mauldin, assistant professor of educational leadership, and third-year doctoral student Easton Davis G’21, the Educators of Color Dialogue follows a similar framework and pedagogical design adopted by the Intergroup Dialogue Program, developed from the University’s participation in the Multi-University Intergroup Dialogue Research Project.
At Syracuse University, Intergroup Dialogue—directed by Professor Gretchen Lopez—offers academic courses and co-curricular dialogues that focus on race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, class, and faith-based identities. Each opportunity brings together students and community members from diverse social identities, sometimes with a history of conflict or limited opportunities to engage in meaningful discussion of challenging issues.
The Educators of Color Dialogue also leveraged partnerships formed among the School of Education and multiple Central New York school districts by the Study Council, a research, networking, and support collaboration led by Professor Leela George and East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District Superintendent and School of Education alumna Donna DeSiato G’04.
After signing up for the Educators of Color Dialogue, teachers received a welcome kit, including a journal in which they could process their thoughts and ideas after and between dialogues. They also received the book “Creating a Home in Schools: Sustaining Identities for Black, Indigenous, and Teachers of Color,” which help to extend the group’s conversations.
“The conversations we held were open and very vulnerable,” says Professor Mauldin. “People showed up as their true selves and had a space to share what they were experiencing in their districts without fear of backlash.”
Easton Davis spoke at length about his experience facilitating the first Educators of Color Dialogue and how this experience informs his doctoral study, which “centers Black bodies and (re)defines well-being.”
Q: How would you describe the Educators of Color Dialogue?
It’s a collaboration between the Study Council and Intergroup Dialog initiatives. We held dialogue sessions between Jan. 24 and May 16, with 13 participants spread across Syracuse city and area schools. We invited educators with multiple, intersectional identities that ranged in years of teaching experience—from three to 17-plus years—and various grade levels, including kindergarten, third, fourth, sixth, ninth and 12th grades.
Professor Mauldin and I worked to create an affinity space for these teachers so we could engage in dialogue around topics such as social equity in schools and develop resources to affirm educators of color experiences.
Q: In Intergroup Dialogue, trained facilitators frame co-learning, encourage open discussion and guide a group process designed to build trust and explore intersections. Does the Educators of Dialogue follow this process?
The Educators of Color Dialogue follows a similar process and structure used to sustain dialogue; however, our dialogue was co-facilitated by two individuals who identify with members of a similar or shared racial and ethnic identity groups—Black, African American or Latinx.
The content and curriculum were based on the educators’ interests. We created an overview of various topics, including the history of teachers of color, exploring social identities, naming conflict and establishing a community of care for students and educators.
Most intentional in bringing together these educators of color was centering our perspective in healing. Part of our intention was rooted in a healing justice approach, given the current social and political climate and what teachers of color experience, including often being one of few in a majority White profession and feeling burned out because of the pandemic and social uprisings spurred in 2020.
That’s why we centered what healing looks like or feels like—affirming their experiences as enough, while also acknowledging larger systems of inequality and oppression.
Q: Could you expand on what you mean by “larger systems of inequality and oppression” in this context?
Our group sometimes discussed how larger systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, and homophobia are reinforced within institutions such as education, especially for educators of color.