029 - Liberating students from a colonized system of education with Miriam Freed
How her own professional struggle led an education leader to understand the link between trauma, learning and social injustice in the classroom.
Miriam Rachel Freed spent the early part of her career working in education for underserved communities. She had tons of new ideas about how education could be reformed, but felt that none of it was being met with enthusiasm. She became the black sheep of the school system.
On a personal journey, she reconnected with her own experience as a student, remembering what effect trauma had on her own life at that time. Even in her socioeconomically privileged position, and despite outward indications of success (good grades, large group of friends, well liked), Miriam remembers a lot of suffering - depression, anxiety and self harm to get away from internal pain from her past. But she realized that these struggles in her teenage years were waking her up to her own needs for support and a safe space to connect with herself and her own truth.
She observed the impact that trauma had on learning and that no amount of teaching tricks, tools, or materials could supplement that deeper call to look within. She could see what her students needed, but had no power to change the structure that was not serving them.
Although she worked within a system that conflicted with her own values and vision for education, she knew that coloring too far outside of the lines could risk her students performing poorly on tests that could determine their future. She was conflicted, internally and externally, about what to do and how best she could make an impact. So she took the leap to leave this system and started doing justice work from the outside in.
Now, in a time where many are speaking about the need for social justice work in many institutions, Miriam boldly notes that we must address trauma that results from injustice in order to address injustice itself.
In this episode, we explore the deeper emotional layer that needs to be addressed if we are going to do social justice work, the importance of bringing ethics into education in our classrooms, and the struggle of working within a system that neither fits your values nor responds to the need for reform.
If you would like to learn more about Miriam, check out her website here: https://miriamrachaelfreed.com/
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The Break Down. Wake Up. Season 1 podcast is sponsored by JAEC Foundation: Rethinking Mental Health.