There is always time for what matters: equity for Black children.
I believe that with boundaries and hard conversations, anything is possible.
When launching a project with school and system leaders, I always start with the vision. We suspend judgement, we suspend reality, and we dare to dream. During the Envision It phase of work, I help teams build out a vision of what it would mean to create access for Black children in their specific school system. We dig in and define what this would mean and look like for each level of the school system. And I push my clients to get as concrete as possible and go all the way in. I ask:
What are kids doing every day if they have access to grade level content?
How would teachers be planning instruction that creates access?
What would school leaders need to do in order to make sure that teachers are planning instruction that creates access?
How would system leaders protect and develop the capacity of their school leaders to support teachers in this way?
From there, we transition to the Design It phase of work, where we design the PD structures, role shifts, schedules, new expectations, anything that will help support this. And when the reality of what we design sets in, system leaders do one of two things. They get excited. Or they start to object. More often than not, I hear:
"We just don't have the time to do all of this."
"People will never get onboard. They just don't do that."
In this space, ignoring objections and dismissing them as if they are insignificant is the fastest way to undermine any change initiative. So we dig in.
We consider the pros and cons of accepting these concerns as immutable facts. We consider the cost for Black children, their teachers, and anyone supporting them, including those in the room. We consider how making decisions around these concerns as immutable facts impact the daring vision we created earlier...
...And most people, just don't like how this feels. Cognitive dissonance ramps up and it comes time to pick their discomfort. So they do. From there, all of the 'priorities' that were consuming their time and energy become distractions. From there, the discomfort of boundaries and hard conversations pales in comparison to the discomfort of not doing everything in their locus of control to protect that vision and bring it into fruition. Especially when after the Design It phase of work, their understanding of what is in their locus of control has dramatically expanded.
So when school and system leaders get here, keeping up with an overwhelming amount of emails, attending meetings that could have been emails, and the busy work of constantly putting out fires, become distractions. They collectively give themselves permission to say no to things that don't lead to access for Black children. And in the Protect It phase of the work, I teach them how to remove barriers (real and imagined) that undermine our desired outcomes. And it always involves some kind boundaries and hard conversations. But with those things, anything becomes possible, especially equity for Black children. So now I turn to you.
What does your school or school system have time for? Does that include actions that create equitable outcomes for Black children? What are you planning on doing about it? If you know your school system needs this, and you have no idea how to get there, let's talk about it! Comment and share your responses to these questions below.