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Becoming a Growth Teacher

Dan Berry – October 27, 2022

Dr. Lucretia Carter Berry and Dr. Tehia Starker Glass have published a new book called, Teaching for Justice and Belonging.

As we all know, learning to talk about race and have conversations that are productive and healing can sometimes elude us.  This leads to shutting down and not having the important conversations.

Their book is designed to help educators and parents become more effective teachers.  Part of that effectiveness is also to make sure it’s presented in a way that it can be learned.

Some curriculums are better than others.  What Lies Between Us – Fostering first steps towards racial healing, is such a curriculum.  Although it does a lot of the heavy lifting it still requires the facilitator to have the tools to help people learn.  It requires that we know how to provide an environment where people can actually learn.  I have to say that this doesn’t always come naturally.

I heard it once said that not every leader in a leadership position is a leader. I think that we could all attest to that statement. We can also surmise that not every teacher in a teaching position or role is a teacher. As one who has been in a leading, teaching position most of my life, when I first heard that statement, it resonated with me and challenged me to grow my leading and teaching abilities.

In Teaching for Justice and Belonging, Lucretia and Tehia used “The Seed Growth Metaphor.” I love this! It’s so helpful! In the first chapter, they welcome us to their garden. They quoted Liberty Hyde Bailey who said,

A garden requires patient labor and attention.  Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions.  They thrive because someone expended effort on them.

I think that it’s fair to say that our decision to be involved in this work has opened a new garden of opportunity in our lives.  

When it comes to learning about race/ism with our families or even our friends, some of us are staring at freshly turned over soil.  We know that we need to have these conversations, but it’s all new. Some of us may have noticed a new sprout coming out of the ground. While some of us might be staring at a nice plant. But what we all have in common is if our involvement in this work is to continue and be meaningful, we must be intentional, focused and willing to do the hard work of love.

Most of that work starts with us, begins with us! Let’s all learn from the Seed Growth Metaphor they have shared with us. A seed when it is planted, must go through a process for it to grow and bear the fruit that is was destined to bring. Who of us doesn’t want to enjoy the fruit?

The fruit in this context is having successful conversations and developing people who labor in the deconstruction of racist policies, structures, and systems. But we can’t become so anxious for the fruit that we lose sight of the growth process. If we patiently labor in our own soil, expend effort, do the hard work of love in our own hearts, the fruit will come, the doors will open.

May I offer you an opportunity to reflect?

  1. Now that you have started this journey, what are some of the things you have learned about yourself?
  2. As it relates to your journey, what are you struggling with?

Millennia have passed with flawed people like me doing it all wrong, but I must believe that somewhere along this journey, there are multitudes of people like you and me who will find our way into fostering the healing that is so needed.


Dan Berry is the author of Navigating Diversity In Our Most Segregated Hour, a Certified Instructor for the What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness courses, and advises individuals and organizations on how to take first steps toward racial healing through Bridge Building Solutions.

He has pastored for forty years in Iowa.  After pastoring in predominantly white spaces for several years, he began to realize the need to bring about racial healing in the body of Christ. For the last 30 years he has worked to bridge ethnic and cultural divides, a work that has led him into confronting the churches complicity in upholding systems of racism.

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