Written by Meredith Bortz
Do you care about our youth? Are you passionate about creating the conditions for all students to succeed? Then #SafeSpaceConvos is for YOU! Calling all teachers, administrators, school support professionals, non-profit leaders, parents, mentors, and youth advocates from coast to coast. We invite you to join us.
#SafeSpaceConvos is a regular Twitter chat for educators and others who care about our youth to talk openly and honestly about pressing problems for students. Launched in February 2018, the chat series is hosted by Vivett Dukes, a middle school teacher in NYC and outspoken advocate for marginalized youth, in partnership with Sevenzo, a non-profit whose mission is to create the conditions for educators to connect and lead change so that all students thrive. Every other Monday evening, we come together to share perspectives, listen and learn from one another, and co-construct solutions. While the topics change from week to week, the conversations always prioritize an honest exchange of diverse perspectives to fill our heads and hearts so that we can better serve children.
As we prepare to kick-off the 2019-2020 season of #SafeSpaceConvos, I sat down with Vivett to share more about the chats.
Meredith: Sevenzo has always been committed to connecting and empowering educators, but the idea for #SafeSpaceConvos was yours. What sparked the idea? Can you tell others how our collaboration began?
Vivett: First of all, it’s so good to be back! The summer has been great, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss our #SafeSpaceConvos fam! #SafeSpaceConvos was borne from a personal need that I had for a place where I could discuss ideas, challenges, dreams, and questions with a group of people where I was free to let my hair down and be myself. All too often on social media we only see the best and the most politically correct responses to things. I wanted to bring some more authenticity to the traditional ed chat arena. I had already been working with Sevenzo since its inception and when I pitched it to the team, they were on board. A year and a half later and here we are, still going strong! I could not ask for a more supportive group of folks to rely on for professional and personal encouragement.
Meredith: What makes a conversation a “safe space” conversation? What norms are set? What kind of environment do you try to create for these conversations?
Vivett: A “safe space convo” is rooted in the belief that we can have difficult conversations and even disagree with another’s perspective without becoming nasty and resorting to personal attacks. That unproductive style of communication has become the norm in online and offline spaces. There is no place for that in our #SafeSpaceConvos chats. We are all about inviting diverse perspectives and creating a space where it’s okay to be vulnerable, where you can ask questions, and show up fully as yourself.
Meredith: Some are quick to say “oh, it’s just a Twitter chat,” but we have found this forum to be so rich. Personally, I know that I sign off of most chats feeling energized and inspired, and sometimes deeply touched by the personal stories and diverse perspectives that are shared. You and the #SafeSpaceConvos community were also recently recognized for driving Twitter conversations and educator thinking about equity. What do you think has made these chats powerful?
Vivett: I leave feeling the same way — fulfilled. Even if the problem is not “solved,” it’s not about that. I walk away feeling more equipped to handle whatever it was we were discussing in the chat. I’ve intentionally carved out a space and a pocket of time where not only is it okay to be vulnerable, it’s required. That level of honesty and authenticity resonates with people. That’s what makes #SafeSpaceConvos so powerful.
Meredith: #SafeSpaceConvos have touched on everything from mitigating black child trauma, to reading and writing literacy, to mental health and everything in between. Can you share 1-2 memorable moments from past #SafeSpaceConvos? What have been some of your favorite topics?
Vivett: That’s tough because in each chat someone, without fail, says something that is just so on the mark. Let me think… I’d have to say one of the early chats will always stick with me. Our online community was just being formed and a discussion of creating safe spaces for teachers and students from the LGBTQ+ community touched me deeply. I had no idea how many teachers and students have to remain “in the closet” because of personal safety. I don’t think I have a favorite topic. I just really appreciate when we explore what’s going on in education, in real time, with real folk — no pretenses, no keeping up appearances.
Meredith: Who should join #SafeSpaceConvos?
Vivett: Anyone and everyone!
Thanks so much, Vivett! We just love meeting everyone that comes into this community. As the school year gets underway, #SafeSpaceConvos will resume on Monday, September 9, 2019 at 8:30 pm ET / 5:30 pm PT. Chats will take place every other Monday thereafter. We hope you’ll join the conversation.