Maria Hase is the Social Action Coordinator for Desert Southwest Conference. After participating in a Jurisdiction-Wide "Conversation about Racial Justice" August 1, she was prompted to share her recent experience.
Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seemed everything went wrong, but at the end you realized that the important things went very right – that God was in control? I woke up in tears when it hit me how God worked in my life this week and continues to do so.
Last week I started working for a new school district. I am a Speech-Language Pathologist. One of my obvious roles is to get students to talk and communicate. During orientation I transferred my membership to the local education association, and I was invited to do a “kraftivity” at the Arizona Education Association on Saturday. The “kraftivity” was making a sign for our classrooms. I love rainbows, so I made my sign a rainbow sign.
Proudly, I texted it to one of my best friends, and her response shocked me. “Remind me again what age group you will be working with? Are u intending to put your name behind the pride flag – is your intention to start a conversation with your staff and students?”
My response was, “I’m working with 5th-8th graders. My sign’s intention is inclusivity. All are welcome. My church is a reconciling congregation and I voted to be one, but rainbows mean far more to me than the Pride flag. Last year I was asked to write an inclusive prayer for the legislative session and I wrote it about rainbows. They are a symbol of the Navajo nation’s sovereignty, for example. In my area and in windows around the world, rainbows were posted as a sign of hope during the pandemic. When I see a rainbow, it is a sign to me that God is pleased.
There’s more behind the reason for the rainbow but you get the idea….if it starts a conversation, I welcome it. Rainbows are symbolic and meaningful to many peoples and religions.”
My friend texted back, “Maria, in my opinion your job is to teach kids and increase their speech and language! Not preach! You are not their parent. I would be livid if my kid was getting a “woke” conversation without my consent. With the attempt of inclusion remember there’s another group that you’re disregarding! Why not be a friendly teacher who loves all her students and teaches them to the best of her ability! That’s all the kids need!”
My response, “That’s what a rainbow symbolizes to me. A friendly teacher who welcomes ALL students and teaches them to the best of her ability. I’m not preaching or giving a woke conversation. It’s a rainbow.” Her response, “I hear what u are saying but you know what it symbolizes and so does everyone else! Your 5th to 8th graders are well aware!!” I texted back, “Look up rainbows. They have many many meanings to various groups. It’s not just the symbol of the Pride flag. To me rainbows are inclusive because of what they mean to various peoples and religions.” Her response, “I guess we have to agree to disagree (heart).” My response, “Works for me! I love you!” Her response, “(heart) u 2 (smiley face)”
Fast forward to school the next day. I put my sign up in my classroom – front and center, and my rainbow welcome sign from Mission u above my door. I attended the scheduled training sessions during orientation and periodically was given time to work in my classroom. Fast forward to Wednesday when the entire staff returned, and it wasn’t just us newbies any more. My principal wore black and white. She looked sharp. On Thursday she wore black and white, too. Half of the staff was very colorfully dressed. In hindsight, I was, too. Thank you, Lord, for directing me to my colorful striped dress. On Friday, when we went to the district welcome and celebration at Grand Canyon University, my colleague wore bright pink next to me. I wondered why. That afternoon as I was putting up my bulletin board my colleague walked by carrying a very heavy load of colorful paper. I do not know if she is a member of the LGBTQIA community, but I suspect she is. She was accompanied by another staff member. As they entered the building, I remember the woman carrying the heavy load saying, “I got this,” loudly. As she walked past me in the hallway, I remember commenting, “Good thing you have someone to help you with that.” The staff member accompanying her looked at our colleague, smiled, and remarked, “I’m supervising.”
That afternoon we had a legitimate lockdown. There were fugitives running loose in the neighborhood. When the lockdown ended, our Principal called us into our end of the day staff meeting early. I noticed she was once again wearing black and white, and the guy who sat behind me on Thursday – wearing a bright orange shirt – was seated to my left, and he had his hat on backwards – kind of like a maverick. I also noted he was wearing black and white. He then looked at the Principal and very intentionally turned his hat around, as if to signal he was in compliance and on board. During our meeting our Principal referenced me as “Ms. Maria” and talked about how I had said in our exceptional student services meeting that I had stressed the importance of teachers being at students’ Individual Education Plan and Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team meetings to share about the students’ social emotional learning. This morning it hit me that the staff was having a quiet “spirited debate” if you will without me knowing. I was entirely oblivious to the social cues. It took me until 4:10 a.m. Sunday to realize what transpired. I woke up crying, because of the way God worked through me this week. My Principal’s subtly communicated verdict is that the sign must go.
My verdict is that my rainbow colored welcome sign from Mission u above my door, and my “safe space” rainbow sign by my door will remain. I will use my National Geographic rainbow projector to keep the rainbow in my room. I love rainbows. We are all colors in the same rainbow. Ladies who attended the Living the Charter for Racial Justice training by Bonita Jane Miller, Jo Lawson and Deb Williams on August 1 – there you have how it all played out….You were right. My sign can go, but people cannot change their color.