Anthony Ase, Secondary STEM Facilitator, Renton School District & Sound Discipline Board of Directors
What is your role in your school district?
I am a Secondary STEM Facilitator for the Renton School District. Essentially, I spent a lot of time in my own classroom getting things together for some years, and now I get to help other teachers set up their classrooms to achieve their goals.
My really big push this year is to help teachers to act as a facilitator – trying to facilitate conversation with students instead of conversation at students. I love being in the classroom with kids, but this is a step up. I get to have greater influence to make decisions that affect thousands of students.
What brought you to this role?
This past summer I was asked to apply. I had thought I’d teach for four more years, and this kind of job is actually what I wanted to do when I was done teaching. And who asked me was a big deal – she was formerly a tech person and her husband was one of my mentors when I first started teaching. The fact that they knew who I was and what I do in my classroom, and thought that they wanted to take what I do in my classroom at the local school level and offer that process to other classrooms district-wide let me know that the district was in a space to understand the value of what I am providing.
How does social emotional learning (SEL) inform your work?
A lot of us were parented by people who weren’t in touch with their emotions and couldn’t possibly give us what we needed. I was raised by a single mother to be all the things she never had in a mate. I like the way I turned out, but that’s not maybe the healthiest way to go about raising a child. Parents and grandparents can’t really teach proper emotional regulation (and SEL skills) if they have not learned it themselves.
It’s a new realm for teachers as well because social emotional learning is not what you signed up for when you decided to be a teacher. But it is important to be able to teach: you have to have a relationship with your students in order for them to care about what you’re teaching. In order for them to have a relationship with you, they have to know what a healthy relationship is.
Right now, SEL is baseline work. Not being able to regulate or understand emotions is the barrier between “I can survive” and “I can thrive.” If I want to thrive, I’m gonna need to understand how to regulate.
It’s not like, “I’m angry…Now let me turn this off and not be angry so I can thrive.” No, it’s more like, “I am angry, and I want to pop off…but what are some other things I can do that can get that anger expressed, that allows me to still be in charge of myself as a human and that allows me to get the reaction from society that I want?”
I have a two-year-old so I get to see raw emotions a lot! He now is articulate and aware enough that he can make the choice. He can say he is sad AND he wants to play with Mommy. Then when we ask if he can do something other than screaming so he can play with Mommy AND be sad, he can ask for a hug. He can now do that, at two.
Which Black Leaders have influenced your work and life?
We still don’t know the work of so many Black leaders and their impact. We know the impact of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, because you can’t deny them. I came across Marcus Garvey, but not until my 20s. I didn’t know until I was adult that the Black Panthers were the ones who established the WIC program. I cannot know all of the influence of the Black leaders because we haven’t been able to hear about so many of them.
I am going to go with Talib Kweli, who is an American Rapper. He started rapping in the late 80s and didn’t get super popular, but those who love him, love him a bunch. He was a niche performer. He paid attention to the world around him in Brooklyn and rapped about that.
He now does a podcast called the Peoples Party. He went from a small following as a niche performer in the 90’s to now one of the top podcasts. What he is doing is showcasing the work of people from what he calls, “The Culture.” They have been doing the work and Talib says, “I want to give them their flowers while they are still around.” Some of the best conversations with contemporary artists anywhere, and so much more.
Coming back to my job, for people of color, there is a wage gap and there is a more distinct power gap. We aren’t seeing Black men and women with power until they own their own companies and have influence like that. My new role now in the district, working with a Peruvian colleague, allows me a step up in power. I can now have a bit of say.
Stepping up in that power gap is what we need to do. I don’t want to rest on my laurels and give it all to Gen Z to have to fix everything… No! To not repeat the history that James Baldwin has talked about and written about, I need to put myself in positions where I can make a difference and make positive change.
Anthony was interviewed by Sound Discipline Facilitator Glenda Montgomery.