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Elizabeth Shaw



Recorded by

Diana Lempel

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This interview with Elizabeth Shaw was conducted remotely via Zoom on July 31, 2020. Elizabeth is a school librarian and part-time religious school educator at a Jewish elementary school in Manhattan. She described her belief in the school library as a place where children can be themselves and feel supported in their curiosity even if they don't always thrive in the classroom. She also described the close family network that exists for her both within the school at home. She then narrated the beginning of lockdown and the turning point for her when she started sending unlimited books home with the kids, even though she knew this would signal to them that a big change was coming soon. She described her feelings of powerlessness as the administration and parents struggled to get things under "control" and the extent to which her job became totally digital, and much more circumscribed in terms of her relationships with students. Elizabeth and some of her fellow teachers have participated in Black Lives Matter protests and developed an ad-hoc, teacher-to-teacher approach to covering classes and supporting each other to be able to participate in public actions and still meet their work expectations. Abolitionist teachers in the public sphere and some senior teacher leaders at school have provided a model for her about how to be thoughtful and radical as she navigates this period without any formal collective power among teachers at her school. Moving forward, Elizabeth would like to find more opportunities to develop community and organizing capacity with other teachers.

Interviewer Bio:

Diana Lempel is a mother of two young boys and a descendant of 20th century Italian immigrants, Mayflower passengers, and at least one professional medium. Her world-making combines women’s and family history with fiction and performance, and a strong attention to place, community, magic, and labor. Diana has served as the Mass Humanities Scholar in Residence for the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival, the Doing History Curator at the Cambridge Historical Society, and the Researcher in Residence at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park’s exhibition “Visionary New England.” She received a MUP in Urban Planning + Design and an MA in Landscape Studies from Harvard University.

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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.

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