Find out how we dismantle white supremacy culture from Matthew Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire.
Matthew Kay is one of our wonderful workshop presenters at the upcoming Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in Schools 2021 Conference June 14-18th. Read all the other presenter interviews here: Shane & Jamila
Register for the DismantleWSC Conference here learn about our presenters below.
Interview with Matthew Kay
What type of student were you and where did you find joy?
I was a very energetic learner, but I was never a particularly good student. At least not in any traditional sense. I had massive problems at a private middle school, almost failing 8th grade. I was in high school and “got my act together”, I still rarely got any grade above a B. I rarely turned anything in on time, and even though learning new things gave me joy, doing the work did not. This frustrated teachers, because standardized tests showed much more ability than work product. This switch to taking pride in my work didn’t happen until college.
What is the most destructive force in schools?
High-stakes standardized testing and inequitable school funding are the most destructive forces. The former allows people to apply the veneer of equity to poisonous systems – allowing bad guys to shift blame to teachers and students for multiple things that are not their fault. It also dries up all of the fun and interesting parts of learning. The latter for obvious reasons. Not only do students not get the opportunities that they deserve, but students in my city have been actively poisoned because my state has spent decades failing to provide enough funding for us to fully repair the toxic buildings in our city.
As we return back to in-person learning, what should we prioritize?
We need to make sure that kids are not asked to “catch up” academically. We just need them to re-engage socially and make sure they are close to okay emotionally.
When it gets hard, where do you find inspiration to continue fighting for justice?
I just make sure that I stay tuned in with my students. The more I know them – beyond schoolwork – the more I viscerally want the best for them.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
I love coaching! Basketball, Football, and my Slam Poetry Team.
What is your favorite book, song or movie of all time? Why?
I love My Cousin Vinny! This was our family comedy growing up.
About Matthew Kay
Matthew R. Kay is a proud product of Philadelphia’s public schools and a founding teacher at Science Leadership Academy (SLA). He is a graduate of West Chester University and holds a Masters in Educational Leadership with a Principals’ Certificate from California University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of the acclaimed book, “Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom.”
At SLA, he teaches an innovative inquiry-driven, project-based curriculum. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of Philly Slam League (PSL), a non-profit organization that shows young people the power of their voices through weekly spoken word competitions. The PSL is the only season-long, school-based slam poetry league in the United States.
He deeply believes in the importance of earnest and mindful classroom conversations about race. Furthermore, he believes that any teacher who is willing to put in the hard work of reflection can, through the practice of discrete skills, become a better discussion leader. Driven by these convictions, he is passionate about designing professional development that teachers find valuable.
Matthew lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Cait, and his daughter, Adia Sherrill.
More info about his work here: www.notlight.com