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Groundwork: Middle School Principal Joe Truss Tackles White Supremacy

In this episode of the High Tech High Unboxed podcast, Alec spoke to Joe Truss, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, about Joe’s decision to tackle “White Supremacy Culture” head-on with his staff, and how that has played out so far.

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Show Notes:

Table of Contents:

Who Joe Truss is & why we’re talking to him (0:37)

White Supremacy Culture, defined (1:02)

White Fragility, defined (1:44)

Growing up in the Tenderloin (2:24)

Why Joe was academically successful when most of his friends weren’t (3:57)

Tracked classes and White Supremacy Culture (5:52)

How writing is taught and White Supremacy Culture (6:29)

Reading: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Chris Emdin, and We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love (8:16)

Joe’s initial approach to teaching: “social justice wrapped in white supremacy culture” (9:41)

Joe’s journey to transform his school’s practice begins (14:00)

Reading: Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond (14:31)0

The year of tackling White Supremacy Culture begins with “Brave Norms” (14:54)

Joe describes the staff’s first day back from summer break (15:28)

Reading: “Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue Around Diversity and Social Justice” by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens, from “The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections from Social Justice Educators” (16:02)

How Joe would prompt first-day discussion differently if he did it today (21:52) What happened after that first day back, for Joe and for the school (25:17)

Joe’s mentors and how he found them (27:19)

Reading: Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun (29:59)

Joe introduces “White Supremacy Culture” and “White Fragility” to the staff in December (32:36)

Getting into the risks to Joe’s own position of tackling this (37:16)

What happened next: January (47:35)

Connecting White Supremacy Culture to School Discipline (49:42)

What Joe’s doing with his staff this year to build on last year (52:01)

Joe’s long term goals for the school (55:30)


More about Joe Truss

Check out Joe’s website, and follow him on Twitter here: @TrussLeadership.

Joe is leading a full day workshop on Dismantling White Supremacy Culture coming up on Saturday, November 2nd. Details can be found on the site.


And one final shout-out…

The English headteacher who told me the line about “what happens on a wet Wednesday afternoon” is Andy Raymer, now-retired headteacher at Matthew Moss high school in Rochdale.


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