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PACEs in Early Childhood

Wheel of Power and Control - Schools


This was originally posted on my Rise to Resilience blog on March 17th. You can view that post on my blog here, as well as see the newest post that answered "what is the opposite of power and control?" (The answer: personal responsibility and empowerment.)

Survival sometimes means not responding to oppressive behavior directly. To do so could result in physical harm to oneself, even death." - Beverly Daniel Tatum

Some folks close to me are aware of what I have been experiencing at work over the last two and a half months as we bring more children back to in-person learning. Inspired by the toxic and abusive experiences that I have had during this time as well as previously, I adapted a version of the Wheel of Power and Control for Workplaces to be more specific to schools.

Another variation of this could easily reflect the harmful experiences that students have at the hands of some teachers and other adults in their schools.

During the process of a grievance I am currently navigating, I have referenced the Workplace Wheel of Power and Control to document experiences to which I have been subjected. Some of those are reflected here. Others I have experienced in the past or had colleagues share with me that they have experienced.

I chose the quote at the beginning not because it entirely relates to my own experiences - in this context and as a white, cis-het-passing, able-bodied person, my privilege is high while navigating experiences of this nature in the workplace. I chose the quote because for many other people, specifically educators who are Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other People of Color, navigating workplace abuse can mean risking much more harm.

For anyone who is in survival mode while living within oppressive boundaries of work or home, not responding can be a matter of maintaining your safety.

Being able to identify what you are experiencing as violent, harmful acts can be validating and empowering.

The image is limited in that it cannot exhaustively reflect all forms of how power and control show up in schools for teachers and other staff.

Another important piece of analysis is the overlap between characteristics of white supremacy culture and the areas of this wheel. I have included the common characteristics I have identified - though it is important to note that all characteristics of white supremacy culture are pervasive in the education system.


Quantity over quality

Only one right way


Either/or thinking

Fear of open conflict

Power hoarding


I believe all of the behaviors seek to achieve one overarching goal: maintaining the comfort of administrative staff at the expense of others.

Have you had experiences of this nature working in schools? What have your experiences been like?

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