Now that we are all returning to our schools, we must continue to think about how we can help move our schools forward in their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Now, let me clarify that this charge is not the sole responsibility of the educators from marginalized backgrounds. We need everyone invested in the work. The help we can offer is by sharing our truths, our experiences, and our lens. We need to be, as Marian Wright Edelman said, "strategic fleas and good pests" when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. So what can schools start (or continue doing)?
- Look in the mirror at themselves and say, how can we do better? And then start doing better.
- Dedicate institutional resources to this work (i.e. time, money, space). Priorities are shown by where we put our resources.
- Demonstrate the administration's support by moving from the opt-in DEI professional development to a mandatory model which means whole school accountability.
- Knowing that students who experience a true sense of belonging in their school communities have positive social and academic outcomes means questioning what in our schools inhibits students' sense of belonging. We need to make sure we are intentional about fostering a sense of belonging for each student. (NMH's Stephanie Harris and Thérèse Collins session gave us the definition of belonging as "a sense of community and acceptance a student feels in school". Brené Brown states "fitting in is about being accepted for being like everyone else, belonging is about being accepted for being yourself.")
- And to quote Dr. Hill in his closing keynote speech, schools need to know that "it is nothing for us to have a inclusive community aesthetically and demographically if the core of the institution still looks the same."
Me to Me
- Just breathe
- Make sure to prioritize my needs (i.e. put on my oxygen mask first)
- Please do the work to educate yourselves. There are plenty of really helpful articles, books, podcasts, videos, professional development opportunities. We use these types of resources when honing our craft in our academic disciplines so we can grow our knowledge, strengthen our practice, and address our gaps. The same approach works when it comes to DEI work.
- Go from ally to accomplice. What that means is "an ally will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. An accomplice will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group--and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group." (Colleen Clemens, "Ally or Accomplice: The Language of Activism" Teaching Tolerance, June 5, 2017, https://bit.ly/2Sqrnmm)
- See me