By Nayoung Weaver & Rama Ndiaye – AIELOC Fellows

“Education […] helps people to understand the character of the oppressions, exploitations, exclusions, and destructions committed against humanity.” – excerpt from the AIELOC Equity Statement

We just want to be teachers. We entered this profession to give hope to our future generation. One of our biggest desires is to help our learners discover that critical thinking skills along with well-rounded knowledge are tools that can improve humanity as a whole. As the AIELOC equity statement highlights, students need these tools to understand the permanent oppression and exploitation present in the world in order to dismantle them.

We just want to be teachers because empowering learners with global, historical, and cultural contexts and understanding is one of the best ways to improve our society.

We just want to be teachers because one of the most rewarding aspects of our profession is witnessing learners flourish as they discover the different ways in which their humanity is valued and that they, too, can have a positive impact on our world.

We just want to be teachers because we know that fostering our students’ global-mindedness can help them cultivate progress and cherish, with love, the importance of our interconnectedness and our shared humanity.

We just want to be teachers. Yet, since Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ)  became more globally mainstream, marginalized international educators spend more time and precious energy towards dismantling racist systems that have taken centuries to build.

We just want to be teachers. Unfortunately, the burden of a meaningful, well-established, and culture-wide anti-racist school environment continues to fall on BIPOC and other historically marginalized educators and leaders. This oppressive practice can no longer be the norm.

This open letter is a call to action to all members of the international school ecosystem:

  1. To white educators and leaders:
    1. Turn to each other and reflect on your prejudices;
    2. List your privileges and meaningfully use them every day to support educators, students and families of color;
    3. Be humble when marginalized educators and leaders share their stories. Take it for the love that it is and attentively listen to their lived experience;
    4. Be aware and self-reflect on your fragility when marginalized groups need their own space;
    5. Fight for hazard pay for marginalized individuals;
    6. Support humans over institutions.
    7. Seek out and learn BIPOC stories and intentionally de-center dominant narratives.
    8. Work to dismantle the racist system not serving all
  2. To BIPOC educators and leaders:
    1. Understand and reflect on your internalized oppression;
    2. Fight the impulse to continue laboring under the white gaze;
    3. Find safe and brave spaces to keep telling your stories;
    4. Reach out to marginalized students;
    5. Heal: invest in your self care;
    6. Create solidarity with each other;
    7. Amplify and uphold each other;
    8. Disrupt discriminatory practices as a team.
  3. To white DEIJ consultants:
    1. Educate every client about your privilege;
    2. Give up your platform to BIPOC consultants;
    3. Amplify the voices of anti-racist BIPOC;
    4. Consistently and continuously educate yourself about your role in this white supremacist world.
  4. To accrediting organizations:
    1. Hire BIPOC-vetted and anti-racist accreditation peer evaluators (such as consultants from AIELOC);
    2. Seek out the voices of BIPOC international educators at every school you accredit;
    3. Require all international school human resources (HR) offices to be trained in and comply with anti-racist philosophies;
    4. Officialize community voices – especially those from marginalized communities – as part of the accreditation assessment;
    5. Tie accreditation with meaningful anti-racist work (if you do not know what that is, return to self-reflection and come back to it);
    6. Hold institutions accountable by providing conditional accreditation or by taking it away;
    7. Recommend boards of schools to dismiss leaders who continue to be performative in their anti-racism work.
  5. To international recruitment agencies;
    1. Advocate for qualified, racially, and ethnically diverse educators. If they cannot meet these needs, provide support to allow candidates to seek alternative organizations;
    2. Seek out and listen to marginalized voices regarding fairs, recruitment processes, retention, etc.;
    3. Be transparent about recommendation letters;
    4. Hold schools accountable that are not hiring or retaining diverse educators/leaders;
    5. Maintain an ongoing database of educators/leaders’ evaluations to prevent retaliation from leaders towards educators leaving a hostile environment.
  6. To journalists, editors, investigators, and other media:
    1. Collect the stories of BIPOC international educators;
    2. Find the patterns of racism and the covert silencing that continue to be cultivated in international education;
    3. Expose the mediocre leaders and the harmful practices they inflict on their communities;
    4. Expose the web of the “old boys’ club” and “white affinity groups” that continue to uphold each other and maintain a racist system to keep marginalized people in the margins.
  7. To lawyers:
    1. Find a way to fight for marginalized educators who remain in the “grey land” of not working in their passport country but not quite in their host country;
    2. Lobby for international laws that will protect populations that remain in neo-colonial pockets of international schools;
    3. Create legal precedence to protect international school populations from continued abuse from perpetrators who manipulate the system.
  8. To law enforcement:
    1. Recognize the systemic oppression against marginalized populations;
    2. Investigate hate crimes for what they are;
    3. Avoid putting the burden of proof on the victims;
    4. Hold hate crime perpetrators accountable.
  9. To the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other international human rights organizations:
    1. Include international school education in investigative reports;
    2. Oversee child protection policies at international schools;
    3. Maintain a database of human rights violations at international schools;
    4. Collaborate with international law enforcement to create a system of accountability.
  10. To ALL of our educators: Do, rinse, repeat each day:
    1. Self-care
    2. Self-awareness
    3. Self-love
    4. Community

To our beloved students: We see you, we hear you, we want to be here for you. The international school ecosystem should be proud of the courage you demonstrated when you shared your painful stories and how the oppressive systems in place stifled your identity and your humanity. We hope this open letter will be a wake-up call for those who have the power to make meaningful change.