Racial Equity: An apology and a promise

This year our superintendent’s back to school presentation was very different from previous years for one reason. This year we are taking action on a topic that we have avoided for way too long: Racial Equity. In preparation for her presentation, our superintendent tasked our communications director with creating a video about race and how the color of our skin has impacted our lives. I was one of the individuals interviewed in this video.

Being vulnerable by sharing where I’m at with race and my white privilege, and hearing the stories of my co-workers, had a significant impact on me. I need to begin by issuing the sincerest of all apologies for the unintentional hurt I have caused my close friends and co-workers that are not white. For any and all things I have done out of ignorance, I am truly sorry, and I hope you can forgive me. I promise to actively work on this each and every day so that I am not unintentionally perpetuating racial inequities.

Last but not least, I am inviting anyone in our school district to bring any racial or systemic inequity to my attention, and I promise to do everything I can to eliminate it. I am proud to work for an amazing organization that is led by a committed superintendent and leadership team that is taking action on this important work. I am also energized by the opportunity to work with an amazing staff of educators that are dedicated to racial equity.

In addition to our internal equity work, it is also important for all 287 employees to know that Superintendent Lewandowski is working tirelessly at the legislative level to address inequities such as Intermediate ALC funding, that provides fewer resources for our ALC students as opposed to independent school districts. Through our internal and external equity work, together we will make a difference.

Do all educators need an innovator’s mindset?

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I’ll cut right to the chase. Every educator should have, or be working towards, developing an innovator’s mindset. In chapter 2 of “The Innovator’s Mindset“, George Couros is very clear about the fact that he believes every educator should have an innovator’s mindset, and I agree 100%.

If we become complacent and do what we’ve always done, not only will we be unable to meet all students’ needs, we are not modeling the mindset the world will demand of our students. As lead learners, we must be open to possibilities, taking risks, and reflecting on the work we do.

Last week I attended the MDE Back to School Workshop, and the keynote speaker shared this video of a boy that stumbled upon a fallen tree in the middle of the road. Everyone there just looked at the tree, probably believing it was immovable. Amidst all the adults that were resigned to the fact that they couldn’t do anything about this huge tree, the boy just started pushing.

The video reminded me that having a growth mindset and being open to possibilities, also requires taking the lead when nobody else is. Having an innovator’s mindset is great, but it’s more than that. Simply having an open mind is not enough to make a difference. Just like the kid (leader) in the video, we have to take action and just go for it!

Have Schools Forgotten Their Why?

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After having read chapter 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset, the big question that stood out to me was, “Have schools forgotten their why?” I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take a few steps back and pull out my educational philosophy and leadership beliefs, to see if those still align with what I truly believe school should be for students today. I would love to hear what others in our district think about my beliefs in education and leadership, as I’m sure I will be challenged to think differently and could stand to learn a great deal from them.

I feel that if we don’t go back to the basics of our beliefs, and particularly, the purpose of school, then moving beyond that towards innovative solutions could be very challenging.

 

Don’t Forget to Ask a Teacher

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Pick up any education magazine today and you’re sure to find an article or research on the declining enthusiasm for the teaching profession. I just read this article in the District Administration magazine, and the author states that the root cause for dissatisfaction among teachers is that they are not getting a voice at the table when decisions are made, or policies are created and revised.

This post is a reminder to myself, and to anyone else who reads it, to always ask a teacher for their opinion, or involve them in any process, that will ultimately have an impact on their ability to facilitate the learning process.

The Simplest Guide To Improving Your Culture

Leaders today are responsible for developing an organizational culture that fosters innovation, collaboration, risk taking and results. Of all the things that a leader could do to improve their culture, the thing I’ve seen have the biggest impact is extremely simple. You don’t have to read a bunch of books and attend leadership conferences to do it either.

Spend time with your students and staff as much as possible, and be yourself!

Ensure that time spent in classrooms is one of your top priorities, and not a luxury when you have spare time. Ask your students and staff if their needs are being met on a regular basis too. 

If you do these two things, you will see your culture transform before your very eyes. In the end, it’s all about relationships, and this applies to both students and adults.

What My Best Friend Taught Me

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Saying goodbye to a family pet is so hard. We had Buddy in our family for 13 years, and this guy was no ordinary dog; he was my best friend. It didn’t matter if I had a bad day and yelled at him, if I didn’t play with him when he wanted, if I didn’t give him that extra treat, or if I didn’t let him sleep on the bed with us; Buddy loved us all unconditionally.

Every single day when I walked through the door after work, he came to greet me as though I was royalty, which means he never held grudges and always forgave me for whatever I may have done to upset him. Buddy taught me a lot about the way I should be treating people I live with, people I work with, and people I don’t even know.

You will be missed dearly Buddy. Until we meet again…

Question Everything You Read and Share.

The media, as well as many of us on social media, so often share incomplete or biased information that can lead to misinterpretations on any given topic. I know I am guilty, even though it’s never my intent.

Recently, I saw an article on Facebook and Twitter regarding a research project that studied the effect devices in the classroom have on students’ test scores, which ultimately concluded test scores went down. It was an interesting article, but I was immediately concerned that the title of the article was misleading. The reader must have read the entire article to understand fully the research that was conducted and the context to which it was applied.

Essentially, devices were given to students, but the catch was the fact that they were not intentionally weaved into the instruction occurring with the control group, so they became nothing more than a distraction for many students (A lot like what happens when we don’t use technology with a game plan). Unfortunately,  this piece of information did not show up until the very end of the article; this was a great reminder to me because it’s too easy to click the “Share” button, and if you’re not clear about why you’re sharing something you might be sending a different message. Even worse, you share something you haven’t even fully read, so you don’t even know what you have shared.

I get that not everything needs context when we share things on social media; some things are easily re-shared, and people can take it or leave it. However, some topics deserve more careful thought, so as not to do harm to larger causes or movements.

Most articles, research and studies on the internet and elsewhere should be questioned. If I’m looking at research or a study that’s been conducted, I want to know who funded it. Research and studies are not free, and if the outcomes of the research align with the viewpoints of the funders I’m immediately skeptical.

At the end of the day, I’ve once again been reminded to think twice before sharing something via social media and my other professional networks. From now on, I’m going to work harder at questioning what I’m reading and sharing. After all, this is my digital footprint I’m leaving behind, and I want it to depict who I am and what I value and believe in.