For December’s professional development session, Promise Corps coaches learned about the history of racism in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, were trained in mentoring Black youth, and ended the day with a virtual holiday party, bringing the corps’ 2020 to a close with some cheer. Though this school year has brought numerous challenges in the virtual setting, coaches have still found ample learning opportunities both in professional development and in their Zoom classrooms, and have been able to forge connections with each other and their students.
The day began with a session by Shebani and Albert from the MacArthur Foundation, in which they discussed the school to prison pipeline and how criminal law has impacted communities of color throughout the country’s history. In Philadelphia specifically, they spoke about the racist legacy of Mayor Frank Rizzo and the firebombing of the MOVE complex in 1985.
In the afternoon, the coaches were trained in mentoring Black youth in a session titled, “Knowing Thyself – Must Know ME to Build and Effective WE.” In this session, the coaches learned about how their own lived experiences and identities bear an impact on the way they interact with students, even if it is not always explicit. With the objective of moving from cultural competency to critical consciousness, the coaches participated in activities and a discussion that had them analyze the way their personal identities intertwine with power dynamics within their student-mentor relationships.
As an African American woman working in education, School of the Future coach Olivia said, “[This] is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and passion behind why I became an educator in the first place. It was very informative and I believe we all took something away from it.”
To end the day on a lighter note, Zoraida had planned a virtual holiday party that included a festive costume contest, a mystery door puzzle, and an imaginary gift-giving extravaganza led by Bethany (gifts ranged from a private island to instant college degrees). The front door challenge, in which coaches had to try to guess which door belonged to which colleague based on a single hint, posed an interesting exercise for the coaches, most of whom have never met in real life!
“We haven’t even met in real life yet, and I can recognize everyone’s front door,” said Emma, also from Future, laughing. Emma’s observation speaks to the coaches’ ability to form connections with each other despite the challenges of COVID.
With the calendar year coming to a close, Future coaches also took the chance to reflect on the lessons of 2020. Emma said she learned the importance of cutting herself and others more slack and being patient.
“Everyone is struggling because of COVID,” she said. “Maybe in different ways, but we are all struggling.”
Olivia also highlighted how the pandemic has called for a heightened sense of patience and adaptability.
“Because of COVID I had to change my routine and the way I do things on a daily basis,” Olivia said. “It has taught me to slow down and that I don’t always have to be busy or stick to a routine.”
Kaitlin Junod- College and Career Coach at School of the Future