I was honored to be a panel member last week for the Solano County Equity Alliance Network. I was joined by three other educators from Solano County, including Lisette Estrella-Henderson, Associate Superintendent of Student Programs and Educational Services. The aim of the network is to provide educators with a safe space to have discussion and learn the strategies that may assist in incorporating equitable practices focused on student learning. California has formed a statewide alliance to address equity; the California Equity Alliance (CELA) focuses on equity for all students.
To begin the discussion, all panel members explained what equity means to each of us. Interestingly, none of us had the exact same definition. However, there were common themes. Equity encapsulates fairness and provides that all individuals will be given what they need in order to be successful. It was agreed that equity is not the same thing as equality. If we overlook the needs of individuals and provide the same instruction in the same manner to everyone we will continue to see some individuals succeed while others will not.
An eye opening discussion on the origins of our school system took place. We reflected back on the focus of schools in the mid 1800's where the focus of the economy moved from agriculture to manufacturing. Schools were the source to prepare workers for manufacturing jobs. Fast forward to 2016 and the majority of our schools still resemble the schools of the 1800's. Students are seated in rows, teacher directing the learning, little to no academic discourse. The question arises, what are we preparing our students for? We need to be preparing our students for the jobs of tomorrow. The reality is many of the jobs that will exist in 5-10 years have not even been created yet. We are doing our students a disservice if we do not recognize that we need to create environments in our schools that encourage creativity, innovation, and collaboration. The video clip below is a great visual example of this, The People vs. The School System
All of us have different life experiences that make us who we are. No one path is better than the other. The reality is that we all come to the "table" with a different understanding based on our experiences. As educators we must honor each of our students' life stories/experiences by understanding them and responding accordingly. EVERY student is valuable. EVERY student CAN be successful. We must not allow our preconceived notions or misconceptions to overshadow a student's potential. Most people do have a bias and that is based on their experiences. That does not automatically equate to a bad situation. In order to move forward in a progressive manner, every educator must be able to look inward and recognize what his/her biases are. Once those are recognized, then each educator can ask himself/herself the question of why and how to respond to those biases. If we ignore the lens that we see the world through we are doing ourselves and those around us an injustice. One cannot discount his/her reality. That is what makes us unique. It is once we appreciate that our reality is NOT that same as the person standing next to us that we can then begin to be the most effective. Approaching students and everyone that we interact with from a place of understanding and inquiry allows for give and take. These are some of the equitable approaches that we need to ensure are in our classrooms and schools.
Join the conversation and come to the next Solano Equity Alliance Network meeting on January 26, 2017 at the Solano County Office of Education. Before then, check out some resources provided by ACSA http://www.acsa.org/Member-Services/Equity.
Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence!