Schooling in the United States has been shaped by racism, and black and brown students have been subjected to institutionalized conditions that sideline their identities, assets, and humanity. To correct this terrible injustice, we need anti-racist teachers who have abandoned color-neutral ideologies, understand oppression, know how to teach about horrific racist events, and see students as unique human beings. We need such teachers, even as many states attempt to restrict their work with laws and policies limiting discussions of race and racism. We need such teachers, but are they getting the training they need?

Often teachers in the classroom don’t think so. In my work with schools, districts, and higher education institutions, the criticism I hear frequently is that too much professional development time is spent providing theories and frameworks and not enough time focusing on what looks and sounds like anti-racist teaching in practice. Teachers are asking how to translate anti-racism research and theories into what they do every day in their classrooms and schools.

Ensure teachers are equipped with basic skills required of anti-racism educators, nine essential components of the curriculum should be incorporated into all professional development for anti-racism teachers. Here they are with concrete suggestions on how trainers can help teachers develop these skills.

1. Build a common understanding of concepts related to race, racism and anti-racism. Teachers must first understand “anti-racism” as a term and a concept in order to begin to think about how they can develop the knowledge, literacies and skills that will support their development as anti-racist teachers. Trainers can work with teachers to collaboratively develop a common definition of anti-racism and a chart of core competencies required of anti-racism educators.

2. Questioning our own identities. Teachers need to consider their own racialized identities and biases, especially when making decisions in the classroom. Trainers can guide teachers by asking questions about their experience, including how their home, school and community have addressed race and racism and how this affects their ability to relate to students with different identities.

3. Examine and deconstruct racist stereotypes and tropes. Teachers need to identify and break down racist language and concepts so they can see how they contribute to racial oppression in schools. Trainers can guide teachers in identifying common stereotypes and tropes about students of color and provide counter-stories and research that refute mainstream narratives about students’ abilities, assets, and intelligence.

Teachers often think they are not getting the training they need.

4. Understand the history of racism in education. Teachers should have historical knowledge of the erasure, violence, and exclusion that Indigenous, Asian, Black, and Latino students, families, and communities have faced in the American education system. Among the many topics trainers can choose to explore are atrocities like the Native American boarding schools that forced the violent assimilation of Native students; and the eugenics movement’s ties to the intelligence tests and standardized tests we use today to sort and label students.

5. Develop anti-racist teaching skills. Teachers need to develop skills and understanding to meet students’ interpersonal needs from an anti-racist perspective. Trainers can explicitly guide teachers through frameworks such as “community cultural richness” that describe how to see, affirm and use in the classroom the knowledge and skills that students bring from their communities.

6. Critique how curricula and school policies shape classrooms. Teachers should examine their own school’s policies and programs for bias. Trainers can lead teachers to critically evaluate an education policy or program in their own school to identify racist language and outcomes. Teachers can then rework the policy or curriculum to achieve anti-racism goals.

7. Engage collaboratively with students’ families and communities. Teachers need to build relationships and networks that encompass community efforts related to race and education. Trainers can invite parents and community members to a training session as guest speakers to work collaboratively with teachers to address issues rooted in racism.

8. Provide strategies to maintain anti-racist practices in the event of racist resistance or events. Teachers should be prepared for resistance from students, families and colleagues. Trainers can provide concrete examples of racist events in schools and ask teachers to act out scenarios and develop action plans to solve the problems.

9. Train anti-racist teacher leaders within each community. Teachers must become local experts and leaders in the fight against racism. Trainers can prepare teachers to train colleagues at their respective sites using this framework.

There is no doubt that anti-racist teachers are necessary and needed. Now is the time to invest in ensuring that teachers are prepared and empowered to undertake this work that is so important to the well-being and future of our nation’s most precious asset, our children.