Cultivate Optimism: A Community Dialogue

“I’m weary of the ways of the world
Be weary of the ways of the world
I’m weary of the ways of the world”

~ Solange, “Weary” from Seat at the Table

Between the recent shooting of a security guard by a police officer, the prom photo of high schoolers doing the Nazi salute, and the treatment of Black women journalists, I am feeling discouraged and finding myself crying in small bursts throughout the day. These stories are not isolated incidences. Rather, they are reflections of people’s beliefs, actions, and ways of constructing their worlds and relating to others.

As an educator and researcher, I tend to bend towards optimism. I keep a balance between being informed and realistic about the world and being hopeful of what can happen and what young people can become. This balance was seen this past weekend when I spent time with my women of color writing group. As we expressed our thoughts and feelings about the social climate, I was firm in understanding my impact, knowing that I can make small changes in my work in education and children’s media and technology. In my role, I acknowledge these social problems have existed for generations, and I am committed to doing something every day to make it better.

Yet, if I were to have this conversation with my colleagues today, I don’t believe I would have the same amount of enthusiasm and belief in my influence. Many times, when social issues are presented in the media or in my daily experiences, I am able to process the events and channel my energy into my work. As an educator, researcher, and writer, I use those fields as opportunities to dialogue about and create multicultural and anti-bias learning experiences and media for children. It is my way of doing something to make a change. But the past few days, feelings of hopelessness are coating my optimism. My sensitivity, which I consider an asset when working with children and families, is making me increasingly aware of a perpetuation of old ways of thinking, being, and doing that continue to harm and oppress children, youth, and adults from diverse communities and backgrounds.

In order to do my work, I know moving past weariness and pessimism is required. I must embrace the optimistic Amanda. At the same time, I’m finding it hard to connect to and embody feelings and beliefs of hopefulness. This sentiment is not only experienced by me; I am aware of others who are having a similar struggle. I want to know how are those who work with children and families (whether you are educators, researchers, media and game designers, policy directors, etc.) are maintaining optimism? What is your source of strength for doing your work? What makes you believe in a better future for the next generation?

Please share your stories either by entering a comment below or posting on social media using the hashtag #CultivateOptimism. Together, we can build community and keep each other inspired. We can remind each other of the influence we make in improving the social climate for children and their families. 

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