As I engage daily in this important #Equity work I learn so much about what it means to really be IN this work. It takes heart, it takes love, specifically an intense love of self as well as the humility to receive the gifts people offer to you through their words. Last Saturday was a day where I was able to see the fruits of my labor and witness the impact of my daily work on my regional community. In this video I share how I support my staff in my day job. It is important to me as leader to plan in advance for the opportunity for my staff to refuel and reconnect. Perhaps it comes from my first year as a teacher in Houston, Texas when I was thrust into learning to teach and learning my students all while learning who I was as an adult. I did not have the leader who took a personal interest in developing the skillset of young teachers on her staff. It was a hazing, sink or swim, I did it, you do it, no one held my hand. Or perhaps the care I take with my staff comes from experiences as a 3rd year teacher in Austin, Texas when I was named the campus Lead Mentor teacher for all teachers new to education. This time I had an interim leader who saw something in me and to this day continues to mentor me as an educator. She saw my internal commitment to children and my willingness to do what it takes to build community and a safe place for educators to learn, mess up, heal and fail forward.
Leading a campus wide focus on culturally responsive restorative practices takes heart, love, self-love and humility. We do not always receive encouraging words or affirmation. Leading an urban school district focus on Cultural Proficiency takes all things mentioned plus vision, persistence, a strong socio-historical understanding of the political nature of leading this work and a safe place to be. I am often asked, “How do you do it?” people see how diligently I work and often witness the marginalization I am faced with daily, sometimes hourly. My answer is simple, it is what I am supposed to do. In my lifetime as a black woman I have become comfortable with the discomfort of speaking up for those who need my voice. In my own way I speak truth to situations where the truth is hard to hear and never truly wanted. Recognition of the impact of my voice is humbling. It is a reminder that what you have to say does have meaning for someone and can make a difference in someone’s life.
With my staff I ask them to lean into their personal values and beliefs, but to use those values to stand in the gap for our children. At times we have to check our values to make sure they do not harm the ability of someone to grow or succeed. Educators are not taught these skills, they are taught to be the “expert”, to always have the right answer and to respond when the campus leader requests a change or improvement, but never to take time for themselves or critically reflect. In this work my staff and I engage as warriors in the battle for equity. We teach, model, restructure, inquire, coach campus leaders and combat deficit thinking that would harm the positive identity development of students in our care. When things get hard in their workspace, we come back to community to refuel and reconnect.