The Equity Corner Blog
Thank you for visiting the "Equity Corner" Blog page. I think it is important that I share with the community the work that I have been involved in. Stay on the lookout for a bi-weekly look at what I have been up to, the plans I am putting into place and vision for the future. Also, follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@CP_EdEquity), highlights and happenings.
"When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower."
From Virtual to Relationship Based LearningPosted by Cameron Poole on 9/15/2021
One thing we learned as educators from the pandemic is the importance of our students' humanity and their social-emotional well-being. Equity talks went from discussion of standards, assessments, and skills, to remembering learners are emotional, human beings who need love and a sense of belonging to thrive. At its core, education is people coming together to learn with and from one another. Physical proximity can help build relationships, but having it stripped away has pushed us to create more intentional spaces for students to connect with each other and their teachers.
As educators in the School District of Clayton, our focus has been on relationship-based pedagogy. "In a relationship-based pedagogy, teachers must be reflexive about our place in a given context and receptive to the lived realities of our students. Relationship-based ideologies and practices help build healthy rapport and interactions with our learners." ("Rediscovering Relationship-Based Learning" Christina Torres)
On September 3rd, our entire district took part in Professional Learning centered around Goal #2 of our Strategic Plan - We will commit to the educational growth of our learners through an equitable, personalized, and individualized learning experience. After a joint Empowered Learning session, educators were able to choose from a variety of mini-workshops that matched their content area. All of the items were based on relationship-based learning and pedagogy. Below are some of the workshop titles -
- Movement Matters - Incorporating Walk & Talks into Your Classroom Routine
- Empowering Learners through Reflection Conferences
- Student Voice and Choice and Culturally Responsive Teaching Through Art
- Using Math Games to Empower Elementary Learners
- Knowing Our Students Well: Begin by Listening
- Creating Nonfiction Text Sets to Support Choice and Engagement
- Problem-Finding & Problem-Solving: Humanizing Ourselves by Humanizing Others
The awesome thing about this day of learning is that it was led by educators from within the School District of Clayton. It was truly a day of collaboration, innovation, and growth. The titles listed above were but a fraction of all of the options to choose from.
Teaching through relationships, when done well, recognizes the human stories of the learners themselves, as well as that of the teacher. It is an approach that embraces our complex identities, biographies, and the stories we bring that serve to humanize the subjects we teach. When students are able to make this connection between their lived experience and their learning, via teaching through relationships, they begin to see themselves as co-learners along with their teachers. Such a feeling is empowering.
In a post last year, I wrote that reaching equity is similar to reaching Nirvana. While saying we’ve reached Nirvana is super premature, we are definitely on our journey towards it, on our Noble Eightfold Path. In regard to our learners, as long as we keep the right understanding, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration, Nirvana will be within reach.
The Good Work PersonifiedPosted by Cameron Poole on 9/1/2021
We often “talk” about equity work a lot. For example, where the inequities lie, strategies for dealing with inequities, and what happens when we ignore them. Our Professional Development offers strategies, rich discussion, and self-reflection, but what does the work actually look like in real time? Below is an email I received last week from a teacher who is doing awesome work with our kiddos. The email is a prime example of what we mean by humanizing a student, understanding their perspective, and tailoring our approach based on their humanity and perspective. It is equity work, personified.
One of my students is a frustrated learner who would typically be stereotyped as extremely active, "life of the party", "class clown". For example, at Meet the Teacher Night, [the learner] opened their desk, dumped out their book bag of supplies, closed the lid, and walked off with hardly a wave or comment. Thanks to Cameron's leadership, I changed my mindset from "active kids are tough on me" to a more humanizing "my system is tough on active kids". Thanks to Nisha's leadership, I overcame my feelings of aversion and moved to connect. Thanks to my building principal's leadership, I connected to [the learner] and their mother through a virtual home visit and learned about [the learner’s] fears of failure, which literally keeps them from sleeping. Thanks to Milena's leadership, I gave [the learner] a clicker counter, to empower [the learner] to learn to control their disruptive outbursts (the learner went from 14 the first day to 4 the second day to none sense). Thanks to my counselor's leadership, [the learner] already can differentiate when they’re in an "Upstairs Brain" executive control state or a "Downstairs Brain" limbic state - they’re using this vocabulary before any of their peers. As a result of your dedication, their mother expressed relief and hope for [the learner’s] success during the school year.
I am very thankful to serve in a district where the leadership is affecting real, equitable change so that all children feel included and reach their potential excellence rather than focusing on being number one in test scores and, subsequently, widening the achievement gap.
Thank you School Leaders and Board Members for the new Strategic Plan and your sacrifice to see it come to fruition.
Let’s break down the email from the awesome educator. When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. That is the mindset that the educator had in the email. We are not in the business of “fixing” learners. That notion implies that as educators we’ve done everything perfectly, and as learners they’ve done everything wrong. The educator worked to “fix” the environment for the learner, rather than “try to fix” the learner.
Once the educator developed the proper mindset of humanization to view the situation, they were able to overcome the angst with confronting an issue head on. Humanizing and building perspective is empowering for not only the learner, but for the teacher as well. It gave the teacher the ability to muster up the courage to confront the situation.
At that point, the educators worked as a village to serve the child. They did what they do best. Differentiated learning tools and strategies were used, open communication with students and parents, and understanding of the social and emotional state of the learner. The rest was history at that point. Crisis averted, inequity averted, humanization accomplished.
The situation is a personification of the goals within our strategic plan. This is equity at its finest. This is what we are about.
Our Equity Work Summed Up as Preparation for a MarathonPosted by Cameron Poole on 8/18/2021
Recently I was reading an article about marathon running. I’m unsure how I came across an article on marathon running as I’ll never run one, but it was very interesting and reminded me of our work in providing educational equity for all our students. With equity being such a hot topic, and push by a lot of districts, this summary fit perfectly -
Marathon running around the world is at an all-time high, with seemingly everyone signing up for, or thinking about signing up for, this iconic distance wherever you turn. This means more people than ever are looking to find out about what a marathon is really like to run.
This is important because we want to make sure that equity in our district isn’t just a trend. I have the confidence that it is not. Our strategic plan adopted last year (through 2023) is predominantly focused around equity and the well-being of all our students. Professional development within the district revolves around our strategic plan in ensuring a personalized, individualized, and differentiated learning experience for each student. In June, our Board of Education passed Policy ACIB: Educational Equity, forever cementing equity as a staple within our district. Educational equity isn’t a trend in the School District of Clayton, it is here to stay.
In the article, there was also mention of “no preparation is ever enough.” This portion stated -
Training is about more than the running. It’s about finding the right mix of food, water, gear, running form, and even with a plan in place and guide to follow, you still need to figure it all out for yourself and test it in practice… One last word on preparation is to make sure you do it in all kinds of weather, not just when the weather is great… Better to have some practice in bad weather, after all, that’s part of the whole marathon “experience” as well.
As we continue to ensure educational equity for every student, we are doing more than just reading books (in the terms of a marathoner, running). We center our work on humanization and expanding our moral communities. That is done through engaging our students, parents, and stakeholders on how we can better meet their needs. We are committed to doing that, even in “bad weather” (meaning hearing what might be hard). Our educators are putting themselves in vulnerable positions to hear of past harm done to students. We know that putting ourselves in vulnerable positions to learn, and being transparent about our performances will lead to the School District of Clayton being an even better place, where all students can grow as learners in head and heart.
When starting a new, popular initiative, there’s always a weird, semi-optimistic feeling. A marathoner put it as “the start of the race is weird/exciting/awkward.”
… It’s common when at home before the race to question everything you were so sure about… Most people arrive at the marathon far too early… With the nerves dancing inside of you, the thought of hanging around anywhere else just doesn’t seem right… With an hour to go, it all starts getting serious… Gradually the sea of runners you’ll be packed in with will roll out and it will feel somewhat anti-climatic as you cross the start line (where’s your starter’s pistol?). That feeling of being slightly underwhelmed will quickly be forgotten as it all sinks in: you’re here, running the marathon. You’ve made it.
Everything we are doing is to prepare ourselves for the race towards ensuring educational equity for every student. Once we’ve created the policies, elevated the department, created and gone through the professional development, it’s game time. At that point, we will have everything we need to run the best race possible.
At this point in time, we are still in our marathon prepping stage. We are pinpointing inequities in our systems, and making the needed systemic changes -
- The District’s Strategic Plan
- Policy ACIB: Educational Equity
- Changing the requirements for Gatekeeping opportunities (i.e. Gifted placement and Honors Placement to be equitable - numbers are up in both of these categories for students of Color)
- Professional Development Structure
- Hiring and Retention (both at all-time highs for teachers of Color)
- Pulling new data and creating new data-keeping systems to dive deep into our practices
- Implementing Anti-bias Anti-racist standards into our Social Studies Curriculum
- … the list goes on...
As these changes are rolled out and a part of our systems, then it is implementation time (time to start the race). Stay tuned this school year as we begin to run many marathons, as it will have its stages, the same way our preparation has.
Listening = Empathy = EquityPosted by Cameron Poole on 8/5/2021
Welcome back from a long deserved summer. We have a lot to be proud of, but still tons of work to do. To end the school year, we passed Policy ACIB: Educational Equity. I’m super excited for us putting our equity mission into policy, such a powerful statement. Now the real work begins. Equity is now more than a mission, it is an expectation.
The foundation of our work being successful was stated eloquently in our ABAR Presuppositions:
We recognize those experiencing inequities as the experts of their own experiences and needs. We must listen to and validate the stories and ideas of those experiencing said inequities and take proactive steps to dismantle the inequities and systemic policies that have caused harm.
We must listen to and validate the stories. That’s the key. We’ve listened for years, but have we listened the right way? We have focus groups, professional development, student testimonies, and other forms of truth telling, but were we truly listening? Here are four ways we’ve listened in the past that need to change.
Rooted in the social need to connect.
Rooted in the need to help others
Rooted in satisfying our own curiosity.
Judgment and Criticism Listening
Rooted in our need to be right and determine our place within a hierarchy.
Voice in your head:
Compares your experiences to those of the speaker. This creates inattentiveness to the speaker’s story.
Voice in your head:
Generates solutions, and filters speaker’s information to support your solution.
Rehearses solution for when the speakers stops talking.
Voice in your head:
Unconcerned with the speaker's main focus. Focuses on details relevant to the listener.
Voice in your head:
Discredits what was said.
Assigns power and superiority.
Potential Dignity Violation:
Dominates… Shifts the focus of the conversation by elevating the listener above the speaker.
Potential Dignity Violation:
Presumes incompetence… Enables dependency and communicates low expectations.
Potential Dignity Violation:
Degrades differences and uniqueness… Elevates the listener’s interest at the expense of the speaker’s interest.
Potential Dignity Violation:
Blames and shames… Erodes self-esteem, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and relational trust.
“I did that, too. Here’s what happened…”
A colleague shares details of a frustrating relationship, and your mind focuses on one of your own frustrating relationships.
“Here’s what you need to do…”
Gives unsolicited advice for what someone should do.
A friend shares a story of mistreatment at work, and you ask, “How do you like your benefits package?”
Interrupting a story with tangential questions.
“If she just would have…”
“Oh, how ludicrous!”
“Let me tell you what’s wrong with what you just said…”
Figure 7.1 Unproductive Patterns of Listening - Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity (171-172)
As we continue to take a humanistic approach toward our equity work, listening properly will be the deciding factor on the direction we are able to take the work. If our listening is rooted in any of the unproductive patterns listed, we will continue to perpetuate inequitable practices. We will start by empowering our student’s voices, and giving them the platform to speak. We will then follow that with actually listening. We must listen to empathize, listen to heal, and listen to prevent harm.
Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self (Dean Jackson).
Challenging Values and DiversityPosted by Cameron Poole on 6/9/2021
“Diversity that somehow constitutes itself as a harmonious ensemble of benign cultural spheres is a conservative and liberal model of multiculturalism that, in my mind, deserves to be jettisoned because, when we try to make culture an undisturbed space of harmony and agreement where social relations exist within cultural forms of uninterrupted accords, we subscribe to a form of social amnesia in which we forget that all knowledge is formed in histories that are played out in the field of social antagonisms.” - bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
Multicultural education is a set of educational strategies developed to acknowledge and respond to ALL demographics of students. It provides students with knowledge about the histories, cultures, and contributions of diverse groups; it assumes that the future society is pluralistic.
I have recently been reading Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks (she purposefully doesn’t capitalize her pen name). The quote used to start this blog really hit home for me. bell hooks was on to something when she said “we try to make culture an undisturbed space of harmony and agreement where social relations exist within cultural forms of uninterrupted accords.” In acknowledging ALL perspectives and demographics, and how their histories correlate with one another, how can we expect for it to be an “undisturbed space of harmony?” I like to think of a truly diverse and multicultural classroom as organized chaos. Just imagine tons of viewpoints, perspectives, demographics, and cultures clashing, learning, and comparing from one another. The teacher serves as the facilitator and leader of this chaotic environment. Using multiple sources and culturally integrated curriculum as the seeds of the clashing, learning, and comparisons. If we truly want to culturally integrate our schools pedagogically and curricularly, we need to embrace the organized chaos, and prepare our teachers to lead the chaos. Harmony and chaos do not mix.
“We subscribe to a form of social amnesia in which we forget that all knowledge is formed in histories that are played out in the field of social antagonisms.” bell hooks dropped some jewels with this quote. Social antagonism is essentially an antagonistic or exploitative social relation. It is characterized by the moment of objectification, where the dominant appropriates some of the product of the subordinate's labor, i.e. they act towards one another through the medium of that object.
History and literature is built on the foundations of social antagonism. Every war studied, every law created, every triumph by a character in a book, has its foundations in social antagonism. How can we truly teach our subjects without embracing social antagonism at the foundations? If we truly want to embrace the essence of a multicultural education, teachers have to be okay with leading the chaos and getting out of their comfort zones, which means diving headfirst into the social antagonisms. Administrators must be support systems for the teachers as they grapple with the chaos leadership. Students have to be okay with feeling uncomfortable, but it is our job as educators to build relationships with them, so that we can work with them through their discomfort. We have to make sure ALL students feel equally protected, so that they can feel uncomfortable. This is where we often drop the ball. The protection of our students is vital. We are more likely to share and be open, when we know we are protected. Parents have to be okay with their children being a part of the chaos, and need to act as support systems as well. This means they must put themselves in the same space as their students, and grow collectively as a family. Achieving a multicultural education is a collaborative effort between ALL stakeholders. When we are able to do this, this is what bell hooks means when she refers to “education as the practice of freedom.”
The pushback to multicultural education usually lies with the disagreement of embracing the social antagonisms for what they are. It’s usually combatted through political mudslinging, or other forms of debates (i.e. critical race theory). We must truly embrace multicultural education at each of its levels. Until we are able to do that, we are all bark with no bite.
Critical Race Theory and Hard HistoryPosted by Cameron Poole on 5/13/2021
Critical Race Theory vs. Teaching Hard History
Per dictionary.com, the definition of a theory is the following:
- a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.
- a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation
To put it plainly, a theory is an explanation or conclusion derived from a set of facts or outcomes. In society, there are certain truths. A theory serves as a well-researched explanation as to why those truths exist. For example, let’s say that I am a police officer and my numbers for traffic stops are analyzed at the end of each year. Let’s say that 75% of my traffic stops are Black and Latinx drivers, creating a disproportionate number of stops as compared to White drivers. Based on the numbers, one may theorize that my practices are racist when it comes to pulling over Black and Latinx drivers. If I deny that theory, and give the explanation that I had probable cause for each traffic stop, and it just happened to work out that way, then how can we definitively say that I in fact am racist toward Black and Latinx drivers? A case could certainly be built to say that my practices are indeed racist, but unless it can be proven that was the intention, it is a theory until proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is an example of a critical race theory. If there was an admission of intentionality, a directive given by a superior, or policy that states to pull over more Black and Latinx drivers than White drivers, then it would switch from a theory to a truth.
“Teaching Hard History” is the teaching of things that happened, the intentions of what happened, and the after effects. For example, Jim Crow laws were created to segregate people of Color and ensure a lesser standard of life specifically for Black people. Southern states passed laws that restricted African American's access to schools, restaurants, hospitals and public places. Signs that said "Whites Only" or "Colored" were posted at entrances and exits, water fountains, waiting rooms, and restrooms. We know, for a fact, why the laws were created and the effects they had. This is what separates it from being a theory. The intentions were clear, beyond doubt.
As a Black man, my experiences with Jim Crow laws would have differed from the experience of someone White. This doesn’t change the truth of the matter, but it gives how different people grappled with the reality, or truth. Two separate perspectives, but one truth.
The question we have to ask ourselves are the following -
- Do we want our children to understand theories, and analyze them critically, in regard to race?
- Are we okay with learning “Hard History”, no matter the cause or the blame?
- Is it okay to see issues and history from a multitude of perspectives, to get a more well-rounded picture?
- If the answer to any of the above questions is “no”, then why?
These questions and debates are ones that are currently happening. If these questions are ones that you may be in limbo with, I encourage you to find the deep truths in your feelings and responses.
How am I being complicit in educational inequities? / Self-ReflectionPosted by Cameron Poole on 4/28/2021
I’ve been reading the book of an educator that I have the utmost respect for, Dr. Howard Fields. The title of his book is “How to Achieve Educational Equity.” I recommend this book to all educational institutions pursuing a culture change inspired by equity.
On page 36, he poses what seems to be a simple, but complex question, that all members of the school community - staff, teachers, administrators, parents, Board of Education - must ask themselves. How am I being complicit in educational inequities? Most educators don’t have an answer to this question right off the bat. It takes a lot of self-reflection, objectiveness, and awareness to be able to answer that question. We are asking ourselves that question before building the skills of being able to self-reflect on our practices. So how do we create avenues to self-reflect? On page 41, Dr. Fields says, “If you are benefitting from the system or have not had any major issues, you may not be able to identify inequities.”
When speaking/consulting with various stakeholders in the district, I always start by asking probing questions that scaffold them into self-reflection. Oftentimes, the answer they are usually seeking, is not the answer they receive. They will point out inequities and question the system. I usually answer with a response which questions their thought process and practices.
My response usually includes some form of our definition of equity literacy - having the knowledge and skills to disrupt and dismantle inequities within our own spheres of influence for the betterment of our students, staff and greater community. That then usually leads to asking something along the lines of what have you done to understand the inequities being created within your sphere of influence. We then begin talking about asking the children and engaging the parents on their experiences in my classroom, and in our system. This is where we learn the importance of self-reflecting on our classroom practices.
I usually end most learning sessions with strategies and questions to ask our students and parents to better understand their experience. Our district professional development on April 30th revolves around forcing us as a district to self-reflect, by engaging in the viewing and activities around filmed conversations, with various underrepresented groups within our district population. Self-reflection is key. We have to fall in love with the process of self-reflecting before we can engage in actual equity work. Otherwise, we are fighting an enemy that we can’t recognize or identify.
The work of self-reflecting is important, and serves as one of our Anti-Bias Anti-Racist Presuppositions - We recognize that eliminating inequities begins with each of us. Our goals for our April 30th professional development are the following:
- To learn from the experiences shared by our colleagues, students and parents.
- To actively participate in dialogue (to build understanding) and discussion (to make decisions).
- To learn about/from others’ experiences to change our own practices.
- To commit to change within our own sphere of influence.
In other words, the goal is for us to engage in listening and validating the stories and ideas of those experiencing said inequities, or to self-reflect through the testimonies of the given groups and through discussion. Once we are able to self-reflect, we can then fully engage in the work to achieve educational equity for all.
Ensuring All the Children Are WellPosted by Cameron Poole on 4/16/2021
Between the looming Coronavirus, political unrest, hate crimes, and death by the hands of those meant to protect, we want to acknowledge the hardship and uncertainty that has impacted every member of our Clayton Family. With all society has thrown our way, please don’t neglect your mental and emotional health. It is important that we set a good example for our children as we deal with these tough times.
There is no silver bullet that exists in having tough conversations with our children in all that society has thrown at us at this time. Prior to having these tough conversations with your child, try doing the following for your own sanity:
- Breathe: Take a deep breath and sigh it out (yes, make noise!) to release tension in your body.
- Let it out: Spend a few minutes getting your thoughts and feelings on paper to clear your mind and make space for love and positivity, so that you may educate your children.
- Set boundaries: For most, the fear, stress, and anxiety produced by the current state of affairs will be worse than any infection they get. So pay attention to how the news you consume, the people you talk to, and the thoughts and feelings you have impact your sense of well-being. Set boundaries to protect your spirit.
Once we are in a manageable mental state, I ask us to collectively embrace hope by turning our attention to our children. Now more than ever we must educate them about their shared history, no matter how ugly and difficult it may be, and also their shared humanity. In the past, we’ve sent plenty of resources and avenues for education in these areas, be it through a superintendent email or eNews. Despite our education on matters, we continue to see things getting worse. I know many of you can’t embrace the future or hope because you are overwhelmed by the current condition. This is especially true with the individual identities that have been affected and targeted as of recently. I want the Clayton community to know that I am here as a resource, thinking partner, and listener, to help navigate these troubled waters.
Finally, I am not naïve about the role systems like the School District of Clayton have historically played in the disenfranchisement of many in our community. You have my commitment that we will continue to improve our own work, and ensure that our staff, our curriculum, and our instruction are reflective of - and meet the needs of - all the children we serve.
Among the most accomplished tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. A traditional greeting passed between Masai warriors is “Kasserian Ingera,” or “And how are the children?" When the answer is “All the children are well,” it means that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young are in place. “All the children are well” means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles for existence do not preclude proper caring for their young. (And How Are the Children by Patrick O'Neill)
As specific details and events evolve in the coming weeks, we will be prepared as a District to protect the mental, emotional, and physical space for our children. As a community, it is our goal to ensure that “all the children are well” regardless of their identity.
Human Capital = Equity ValuePosted by Cameron Poole on 4/14/2021
I recently had the opportunity to lead a short session with the staff at Captain Elementary. As I was preparing, I brainstormed buzz words and terms that would be relevant to engaging in the humanizing work that is equity. A term that I came across was “human capital”. To make it plain, human capital is an employee’s estimated (or calculated) economic value based on their knowledge and skill set. Human capital can be enhanced by furthering education, certifications, knowledge, and engaging in outside opportunities.
I instantly saw an opportunity to make a correlation between human capital and equity. I found some terminology from People Managing People, and gave it an educational twist. Oftentimes we get caught up in books and academica when it comes to our students, and we forget that we are in the business of people. We are in the business of learning student’s styles of learning, their motivations, their goals, etc, and finding a way to incorporate that in their educational experience.
Rather than refer to human capital as economic value, let’s translate that to equity value. In enhancing our equity value, we must recognize that “those experiencing inequities as the experts of their own experiences and needs. We must listen to and validate the stories and ideas of those experiencing said inequities…” (taken from the School District of Clayton’s ABAR Presuppositions). Our students are our greatest asset to acquiring human capital, or equity value. With that said, let’s remix human capital to be educational.
Human capital is the “equity” value that comes from things like an educator’s experience, skills, knowledge, and abilities. It is an intangible asset, unlike tangible assets like resources and technology. However, both tangible and intangible assets, like human capital, have “equity” value. Human Capital can include qualities like -
- Student management
- Communication skills
- Understanding of student’s personal values and beliefs
- Horizontal and Vertical differentiation
- Inclusive culture building
Now that we know what human capital is, how can we gauge it? Let’s keep in mind there is no ideal value to human capital, and that we have the ability to constantly improve and evolve. To assess our equity value, the Captain staff participated in the following exercise with our very last presupposition (click the link above to access the presuppositions).
Choose an individual student in your classroom, or one that you directly educate, that falls under one of the following categories…
- Student of Color
- IEP Student
- English Language Learner
- LGBTQIA+ Student
- Free/Reduced Lunch Student
Once you have a student in mind, scroll to the very last presupposition. Turn the presupposition and its subpoints into a set of questions, as it refers to the student you chose. If your answer is “yes” to a question, how did you obtain the “human capital” to accomplish it. If your answer is “no” to a question, what “human capital” is needed to accomplish it. For example, your questions should look something like this -
Do I cultivate a classroom learning environment that is culturally responsive and reflects the perspective of “insert chosen student”?
- Do I personalize the learning experience for “insert chosen student” individual identity?
- Do I incorporate relationship building, along with restorative practices, to maintain an anti-bias environment as it pertains to “insert chosen student”?
- Do I seek historical and current knowledge of “insert chosen student” perspective to be reflected in my classroom or learning environment?
- Do I provide representation for “insert chosen student” identity through classroom and building decor and teacher chosen books and resources?
Once teachers had a moment to independently go through the exercise, we had some rich group discussion. It definitely put us in a position to be self-reflective, acknowledge an individual student’s perspective, and forced us to humanize their experience. The great thing is that teachers are attempting and seeing the value of making sure that these questions can be answered “yes” for each student. For ones that were a “no”, we talked about what had been tried and how it wasn’t to the desired success level, and it gave us an opportunity to deeply delve into what that question meant to that individual student. The response often came back to engaging the student, their family, and our team in how that “no” can be turned into a “yes.” Thank you, Captain Elementary, for an awesome experience.
In our presuppositions, we define equity literacy as having the knowledge and skills to disrupt and dismantle inequities within our own spheres of influence for the betterment of our students, staff and greater community. Equity literacy = equity value. In increasing our equity literacy, equity value, and/or human capital, our students are our greatest asset. They are the experts of their own experiences and needs. We must listen to and validate the stories and ideas of those experiencing said inequities.
Implicit Bias = Soul MurderPosted by Cameron Poole on 3/31/2021
Implicit bias is the pre-reflective attribution of particular qualities by an individual to a member of some social out group. Implicit stereotypes are thought to be shaped by experience and based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories, including race and/or gender. Individuals' perceptions and behaviors can be influenced by the implicit stereotypes they hold, even if they are sometimes unaware they hold such stereotypes.
Implicit biases, however, are thought to be the product of associations learned through past experiences. Implicit biases can be activated by the environment and operate prior to a person's intentional, conscious endorsement. For example, a person may unwittingly form a bias towards all Pitbulls as being dangerous animals. This bias may be associated with a single unpleasant experience in the past, but the source of association may be misidentified, or even unknown. In the example, this implicit bias may manifest itself as a person declining an invitation to touch someone's Pitbull (dog) on the street, without this person understanding the reason behind the response. Implicit bias can persist even when an individual rejects the bias explicitly.
When under pressure, our implicit bias shows. When Officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed a 12-year old child, Tamir Rice, it was likely due to implicit bias. I know nothing about Officer Loehmann, but I'd give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't have plans of killing an innocent 12-year old child. The adultification of young Black boys, and the stereotypes of Black people, mixed with prior experience, got into the mental psyche of Officer Loehmann, leading him to gun down an innocent child. The risk of being killed by the police (or use of force) in the United States is higher with Black and Brown Americans, as compared to white Americans. One in every 1,000 Black men can expect to be killed by police.
Another form of implicit bias that kills Black people, centers on healthcare and childbirth. Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Some have pointed to social factors contributing to this but a study found that Black middle-class women were more likely to die in childbirth than white working-class women. "Black women, like all women across races, have a very hard time being taken seriously about their own bodies," Tina Sacks, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare and the author of Invisible Visits: Black Middle-Class Women in the American Healthcare System told Fortune, "When you compound that with racism, you have a particularly toxic mixture that Black women are facing."
What does this look like in education? What effect does implicit bias have on Black students in our education system? In the above professions, implicit bias can result in death. It is easy to be critical of healthcare and law enforcement; however, the same implicit bias is harming our Black students, just in a different way i.e. sense of belonging, discipline, test scores, lack of teachers of Color, lack of relationships, student voice, etc.
To address implicit bias in education, I've pushed the use of the term "Soul Murder." The term Soul Murder was first coined by the playwright Henrik Ibsen. He defined it as, "the destruction of the love of life in another human being." Long ago, psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold wrote a book called Soul Murder wherein arbitrary edicts (in our case, classroom/school policies) or a chronic lack of empathy cause a child to lose vitality, confidence, and joy. Since their natural talents and feelings are not acknowledged or encouraged, identity becomes confused and existence feels painful. Our students aren't physically being murdered, but they are soulfully being murdered.
I had a great conversation with a teacher a while back, who thought the term was "too strong." His comment got me thinking - what do we call what happened to Tamir Rice? What do we call what happened to Sha-asia Washington when she died from an emergency C-Section? Death, killing, murder, loss of life, tragedy, racism, etc. So why wouldn’t we use a similar term when the implicit bias committed on Black students causes a "soul killing?" The severity of the term forces us to take the effects of implicit bias more seriously.
Regardless of industry, we have a lot of work to do. Don't be confused by the severity of the work to be done, due to implicit bias manifesting itself differently based on industry.