No community has been immune to conversations surrounding equity, racism, and inequalities.
As Marlena Gross-Taylor, one of the guests on this week’s podcast episode explains, these conversations have been going on for at least four hundred years. It seems this time, however, communities have reached a tipping point – with vast majorities of Americans expressing outrage, grief, and demanding change.
How should school leaders be responding? What conversations, resources, and reflections can help you navigate these important conversations in whatever kind of community you serve – whether that is urban, suburban or rural?
This week my guests, William Stubbs, Don Parker, and Marlena-Gross Taylor take time to provide powerful reflections, suggestions, and advice. Listen-in as they explain perspectives from their own personal responses as well as professional guidance.
Meet the Panelists:
Marlena Gross-Taylor is a dedicated and successful EdLeader with a proven track record of improving educational and operational performance. In addition to education consulting, she serves as the Chief Academic Officer for Douglas County School District in Denver. Originally from southern Louisiana, Marlena’s educational experience spans several states allowing her to have served K-12 students in both rural and urban districts. She has previously served as a Director of Secondary Schools, and has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She is a proud Louisiana State University alumnus and the founder of Edugladiators.com, that provides education consulting and publishing services across the U.S.
William Stubbs is the Middle School Managing Director at UpLift Education in Dallas, Texas. He is a former Instructional Leadership Director, K-12 Principal, Dean of Students and Upper School Literature Teacher. William holds an M.S.A. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a B.A. in English from Shaw University. He is also a co-moderator for the Twitter chat #BMEsTalk, each Tuesday night at 8PM Central Standard Time, where educators from across the U.S. share ideas, research, and feedback on ways to encourage positive outcomes.
Dr. Don Parker is a highly sought-after speaker and professional development provider. He is the principal of Posen Intermediate School in Posen, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Previously, he was the principal of Lincoln Avenue School, a K–8 school in Dolton, Illinois, where he improved the culture, implemented a resilience program, managed the implementation of restorative justice, and increased attendance and student achievement. He is also the author of the new book, Building Bridges: Engaging Students at Risk Through the Power of Relationships with Solution Tree Press.
Question #1: As you observe what is happening right around the world and in your own communities, what have been your thoughts and reflections both personally and professionally?
- The struggles of growing up in southern Louisiana are explored in a recent blog-post, Never Dim Your Light. Recent events have brought range of emotions, including sadness and grief. “Overwhelming” is one word to describe the personal grief as well as the gratitude of having others carrying these burdens together.
- It is important to check in on friends as each person reflects with a range of emotions. Right now there is a feeling of spiritual brokenness that this is happening again. At the same time, it is encouraging that other marginalized communities are also standing together.
- Actually watching the death of George Floyd has brought emotions like anger, sadness, and sickness. Now we are wondering if protests will be what it finally takes to force a change. While it is disturbing to also see rioting, the growing response of peaceful protests may finally cause lawmakers and the general public to really listen.
Question #2: What thoughts do you have for education leaders among various demographic groups for guiding their school communities through helpful conversations on equity and social justice?
It’s important that education leaders know how to talk to students and staff. Think about the use of “peace circles” to guide safe conversations. Consider attending an upcoming free workshop for school leaders called The Cultural Competencies Hour of Power, including how to help students feel “Accepted, Affirmed and Appreciated” in our schools. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
First, school leaders need to know what conversation they are having. Identify what you are talking about. If this is the first time you are talking about equity and racism, admit if you need help. Reach out to others who are skilled in leading these conversations or become the first learner, including looking at your school data and doing staff book studies. One resource that may be helpful in guiding your own learning is a compilation of books, documentaries and categories that can be found here.
If you haven’t engaged in this level of work or in these kinds of conversations on equity and race, you should bring in someone who has. It is important for predominately white communities to better understand black communities without judgement. If you are uncomfortable leading these conversations, bring in others who can lead these conversations with confidence and sensitivity. If you’d like to reach out to Marlena for more information on her presentations, go here.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Please listen to the entire episode for wisdom, guidance, and reflection. Also, at the end of the recording, we keep the microphone open for several more minutes as each guest shares their own personal experiences in the past few weeks.
Now It’s Your Turn
How can you take advantage of being the “first-learner” in your own school community? What book-study or blog-post can you share with others to begin discussions on equity, cultural competency and racism? What is one question where you still more guidance? Next week, we will explore more questions in Part 2 of this important conversation!