Latrese D. Younger is an instructional lead learner in Virginia.
Her passion is English language arts and she believes that she will always be a teacher at heart. Latrese has a servant mindset, spirit, and attitude that she believes helps keep her grounded. She resides with her son, husband, and English bulldog. In her spare time, she loves writing, reading, and social media curating.
WDP: What has leading through a pandemic looked like for you and your school community?
Latrese Younger: As an assistant principal, my goal has involved a lot of grace giving – focusing first on the care and safety of our students and families. It was about the 4th quarter when students were allowed to return to in-person learning. One of our goals has also been to make sure our teachers know how important they are, and that we recognize how hard they have worked this year.
WDP: How are you responding to decision-fatigue and/or teacher exhaustion this time of the school year?
Latrese Younger: First, you must acknowledge the reality. One outlet for me has been listening to podcasts so that I don’t feel isolated in the experience we have had this year. Also, as a person of faith, I believe it is so important to tap into that source of strength. Admit you will not always have all the answers during uncertain times, and be all right with that.
WDP: What prompted you to begin your outreach via Black Women Education Leaders, Inc.?
Latrese Younger: This was not meant to be an organization. In November 2019, I began a Twitter page to amplify the voices of black women education leaders. Only between 11-13% of education leadership positions are held by black educators – most of those in elementary education or in the role of assistant principal. To change that trajectory, I have joined together with other women to form an organization, Black Women Education Leaders to feature and highlight black women education leaders. (See additional research on diversity in education leadership here.)
It is important to remember that representation matters. As much as possible, school leadership needs to reflect the diversity the schools they value. Even in communities with predominantly white populations, students need to see this diversity represented in educators and education leaders.
WDP: In a politically charged climate, how are you navigating barriers to meaningful conversations on race or equality?
Latrese Younger: The goal is to educate. One of my colleagues and I taught our district leadership on the criminalization of black female students. We were able to relay our own implicit biases as educators and some class issues that we had to get over. We were successful in helping others understand this perspective. When we think of ourselves as educators, how can we not have these conversations? Our students do not understand what is happening, and it is the role of adults to model constructive conversations about important issues.
The way I manage difficult conversations is to affirm and to understand. Listen and ask parents, for instance, to explain what makes them uncomfortable or concerned. I come to the table with an understanding of our school’s curriculum and the importance of critical thinking. Even in the conversations I’ve had with parents over curriculum and race, we have walked away not frustrated. The goal is to support the students, the teachers, and the parents.
WDP: As you look at leading in post-pandemic conditions, what are some of your hopes and plans?
Latrese Younger: We would really like to host a retreat for our educators so that our team has an opportunity to relax, refocus and redirect our attention for the year ahead. It’s important for me to get out of the school building to re-group and gain a new perspective. Give yourself grace. You have lived and survived educating through a pandemic. Make sure you use this summer time to refresh.
Now It’s Your Turn
Listen to the entire episode for more valuable feedback from Latrese Younger on instructional leadership, school culture and more! What ways are you planning to rest and refocus in the months ahead? How can lead important conversations about race with others that is built around connection and relationship? You can connect with Latrese D. Younger via Twitter @LatreseYounger or the Black Women Education Leaders website: https://www.blackwomeneducationleaders.com