Sing A Rhythm

Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves

For the second year, our faculty and staff have used a collective book read as a way to ground and define our whole staff professional development for the school year. Last year, we read Carol Dweck’s book Growth Mindset, and spent the year thinking more deeply about the implications of applying a growth mindset to our work as educators and ourselves personally. Through all-school meetings and small and large group discussions, we used the book as an opportunity to connect around a common theme for our work at WSG.

This year, we’re delving into Dr. Monique Morris’s book, Sing a Rhythm Dance a Blues, as our whole school read. Dr. Morris wrote the book as a follow up to her groundbreaking research, book, and documentary Pushout, discussing the school to prison pipeline and the near crisis facing Black Girls in schools. Sing a Rhythm Dance a Blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown girls creates discussion and a framework for exploring what schools could and should look like to fully embrace and support young Black and Brown girls. It is the perfect topic for us to explore as a school composed of girls of color, and is especially connected to our current exploration into defining our pedagogy and all makes WSG special each day (naming our “special sauce”). From policies and procedures to curriculum, teachers, administrators and the community that defines a school, this book has been a great springboard for our team, challenging us to explore all that needs to be uniquely considered and developed in a school that truly focuses on liberation for girls who are typically underserved in their schools.

Discussions with our WSG staff have been robust and plentiful, particularly on our own school experiences as young elementary and middle school students, the discipline policies we remembered in the schools we attended, and the impact that has on our adult selves working in schools. We’ve also explored some of the defining statements in the book (“real queens fix each other’s crowns” as an example) and how those connect to WSG students and our school environment. It has been invigorating for our staff to collectively determine ways to enhance our understanding of best practices in schools serving young girls of color, as a step towards better serving our students.

Recently, we expanded our book study by convening a book club for our WSG volunteers. Because of COVID and distance learning, our committed volunteers have not had the same opportunity to volunteer on campus with our students, and are missing the ongoing connection to WSG. We thought this book club would be a great way for our volunteers to understand, and also contribute to, the exploration that we are undertaking as a staff. Over the course of a month our volunteers read the book and joined in zoom meetings for group discussion. Since our volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds both personal and professional, it was important for us to provide insight into our student’s experiences while in school and our overall educational approach. Learning more about the experiences of Black and Brown girls through the context of broader research also provided an additional lens to understanding our students.

When we say our mission is to ignite the joyful pursuit of learning, we don’t mean only for our students. We were excited to share in this ongoing learning with our dedicated volunteers and members of our community – something that we hope to continue even as we return to campus. What started as a bridge to keep us connected during COVID brought forth valuable conversations and and again demonstrated the commitment of our wider community to best understand and serve our students.