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A moving account of the possibilities of fighting racism in our schools

Taking It Personally

Racism in the Classroom from Kindergarten to College

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Ann Berlak and Sekani Moyenda

"Taking It Personally needs a warning label: DANGER, it should announce, IDEAS UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE. OPEN AT YOUR OWN RISK. Berlak and Moyenda guide us into the depths of racism, peeling away layer after layer, revealing the pervasive American devil in all its complexity. If you start the journey, you may want to turn back, you may want to look away, you will certainly want them to lighten up. But stay to the end and you will never be the same. This is a brave, embracing book—honest and unrestrained, filled with pain and grief, but never despair. In the end it is about transformation and redemption and the possibility of a more just and joyful world. Take the risk."
William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of A Kind and Just Parent

When Sekani Moyenda, an African American elementary school teacher, accepted an invitation to speak at a graduate education class, neither the students nor Ann Berlak, their professor, could guess that her presentation would spark an outpouring of emotion and a reexamination of race from everyone involved.

The "encounter"—as it was called—was an expression of Moyenda's anger at the institutionalized racism of our educational system, a system whose foundations are reinforced and whose assumptions about race are reproduced in the graduate school classroom. Forcing everyone involved to rethink their own race consciousness, Taking it Personally is a chronicle of two teachers and their own educational progress. In processing their own responses to the encounter, along with their students', Berlak and Moyenda meditate not only on their own ideas on teaching and learning, but also redefine the obligation a teacher has to his or her students.

Personal in its approach, yet grounded in significant currents of educational thought, Taking it Personally will be a must-read for any educator or educator-to-be who is committed to teaching in our diverse classrooms.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"For those who contend that racism is all but dead in the United States, this book gives us a laser-focused look at real multiethnic relationships in new millennium classrooms. Through the eyes of two thoughtful, honest, and compellingly articulate educators—one black, one white—we learn that there is yet much work to be done."
Lisa Delpit, Benjamin E. Mays Professor of Urban Educational Leadership, Georgia State University, and author of Other People's Children

"This is one of the best, if not the best, book about the microdynamics of racism in the classroom that I have ever read. I think it will become a classic. It is well conceptualized—a cross-racial teachers' dialogue framed by the two authors' race-awareness autobiographies, beautifully written, and absolutely riveting. I truly couldn't put it down."
Dr. Maurianne Adams, Chair, Social Justice Education Program, School of Education, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

"A moving chronicle of two teachers' journey confronting racism in education. ...the two authors skillfully dissect racism and its manifestations in today's classroom. ... A great book for teachers and teacher educators alike.
Rethinking Schools

"[T]his book reveals the possibilities for fighting racism in our schools. Berlak and Moyenda meditate not only on their own ideas of teaching and learning, but also redefine the obligation a teacher has to his or her students."
New York Review of Books

"This book is not just a text, it is an intense reading experience and I would anticipate a similar experience for every reader, regardless of race."
Anthropology and Education Quarterly

"...an extremely valuable guidebook for those trying to develop classroom management strategies in urban schools.
Radical Teacher

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Contents

Series Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction

Part I. Our Racial Autobiographies
1. Sekani: How I Got My "Black Attitude" Problem
2. Ann: How I Developed an "Obduracy of Tone"

Part II. All Right, Who Started It?
The Classroom Encounter and Its Aftermath
3. Sekani: The Bootcamp Presentation: Classrooms in Crisis
4. Ann: Picking Up the Pieces: Processing Is Everything

Part III. What’s Going on Here?
Analysis
5. Ann: What Makes You Think She’s Not an Expert?
6. Ann: Fantasy and Feeling in the Classroom
7. Sekani: The Love Letter
8. Conclusion

Notes
Bibliography
Index

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About the Author(s)

Ann Berlak is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Elementary Education at San Francisco State University.

Sekani Moyenda teaches reading and is the administrator for computer and network technology at Rosa Parks Elementary School in San Francisco.

Subject Categories

Education
Race and Ethnicity
Sociology


In the series

Teaching/Learning Social Justice, edited by Lee Anne Bell.

The series Teaching/Learning Social Justice, edited by Lee Anne Bell, is concerned with educational practices that promote democracy and equality in a diverse society. "Social Justice" is used as an umbrella term for the many topics and concerns connoted by the terms democracy, equality, and diversity, while the term "Teaching/Learning" emphasizes the essential connections between theory and practice that this series examines. Books in the series will look at a broad range of educational arenas to examine the many ways people engage diversity, democracy, and social change in classrooms and communities. The series will draw on the lived experiences of people who struggle to critically analyze and challenge oppressive relationships and institutions, and to imagine and create more just and inclusive alternatives. The series' focus will be on both popular education and education in formal institutions, and its audience is educators and activists who believe in the possibility of social change through education.

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