This weekend CFJ youth leaders and staff led a powerful bias training for Long Beach Unified School District teachers and administrators. The session was a unique twist to traditional trainings that center conversations on adults rather than students. CFJ youth leaders led the space and trained LBUSD staff participants on the ways implicit biases show up in the classroom and the impact they have on Black and Brown students.
Implicit bias, if unchecked within the education system, grows to systematically oppress students of color and prevent them from reaching their full potential in our schools. It’s insidious and shows up in both everyday practices and larger institutional policies. Thankfully, this prevalence also means teachers and staff have just as many opportunities to interrupt biased behavior.
While this type of honest discourse around race and inequity can sometimes cause discomfort, Assistant Superintendent Jill Baker reminded LBUSD attendants that bias training is crucial “to create a movement with CFJ so that at some point we can say every student who walks in a classroom is a reflection of what [LBUSD’s goal] is, including addressing bias and implicit bias.“
Teachers and staff were encouraged to dig deep and reflect upon how biases are formed and where they can show-up in the classroom. CFJ students leaders and staff helped to create a brave space for participants to be candid with each other and acknowledge everyday interactions that reinforce our biases.
One LBUSD teacher acknowledged: “It’s a quick thing I might pose, like share [with the class], but [students] might not want to because we’re strangers to them or it digs up trauma.” In this scenario, CFJ youth leaders suggested staff look deeper and try to connect with a student, rather than viewing their lack of participation as defiance or disinterest in school.
Building space for conversation and relationships allows staff and students alike to feel comfortable communicating their needs and perspectives to each other. It also allows teachers and students to be seen and promote authentic engagement in the classroom and beyond. While real, lasting transformation in our schools will take time, the commitments made by LBUSD staff to identify and explore ways of interrupting bias are crucial to one-day dismantling the racial injustice threaded throughout our public education system.
CFJ is committed to continuing to work alongside and support efforts to build Relationship Centered Schools in Long Beach, leading together with the district for schools that allow every student to thrive regardless of race or zipcode.