Letting Go of Power: Who is the Teacher?

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At the time of her ignite talk, Fatimah Salahuddin was an Ethnic Studies Teacher at Roots International Academy, which closed its doors in June 2019. “After attending several draining board meetings in January that led up to the closing of my school and going on strike a month later,” shares Fatimah, “I was completely and utterly exhausted, and in many ways broken.” In this powerful talk, Fatimah shares how she shifted power to her students during this difficult time by redirecting authority and helping students build agency by being the teacher.

“I [asked my students] in a reflection — ‘How has being the teacher helped you build empathy?’ And some students told me ‘It taught me to care and stay paying attention.’ Or another student — ‘I know how teachers feel when we rude.’ […] by letting go of power, it empowers our students.”

Watch Fatimah’s inspiring Ignite Talk below! And follow the #pictureofpractice hashtag to see more Ignite Talks and leadership from our 2018-2019 Teacher Fellows. To learn more about Agency by Design Oakland’s work supporting teachers during the 2019 Oakland strike, read our blog posts Post Strike Reflections: Why Systems Thinking Matters and Making as an Act of Healing.

“Maker-centered learning is important, particularly in the context of Ethnic Studies, because it can empower my students to challenge the very social structures and systems that have been created without them in mind.”

Fatimah Salahuddin is a Bay Area native and a long time community organizer and educator. Before her current position as an English Teacher at Fremont High School, she was an Ethnic Studies teacher at Roots International Academy. She recently received her graduate degree in Education from Mills College, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies (‘14).