Racial Equity & High-Quality Professional Learning

Jalinda Soto & Lauren Myer

Our last discussion for our Learn with Teaching Lab Series, lead by Jalinda Soto and Lauren Myer, focused on the intersection of Racial Equity and High-Quality Professional Learning. At Teaching Lab we believe that if we are to support teachers in delivering equitable instruction, educators must increase their racial literacy.

For this discussion, we modeled a structure and process that we use at Teaching Lab for courageous conversations about race. Internally over the past year, our team has been building knowledge individually and collectively, including Social Learning Groups (SLGs), our affinity spaces where team members use the personal practices introduced during this discussion to examine our values, beliefs, behaviors, priorities, loyalties, and habits.

To begin our discussion, Jalinda lead the group through a mindfulness exercise. Engaging in a mindfulness exercise acknowledges that each of us enters a space, virtual or in-person, with distinct thoughts and feelings on any given day. Centering with mindfulness allows us to be aware of how we are showing up, and calls us to be present.

Our conversation was grounded in Glenn Singleton’s 4 Agreements of Courageous Conversations.

  1. Stay engaged: make a personal commitment to “remaining morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue.”
  2. Experience discomfort: discomfort is inevitable, especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to bring issues into the open. It is not talking about these issues that create divisiveness. The divisiveness already exists in society and in our schools. It is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.
  3. Speak your truth: be honest about your thoughts, feelings, and opinions - not just saying what you perceive others want to hear.
  4. Expect and accept non-closure: If we expect and accept non-closure in racial discourse, then the more we talk, the more we learn; and the more we learn, the more appropriate and promising will be our individual and collective actions and interventions.

The adoption of high-quality instructional materials is the foundation for the rest of the work we must engage in to achieve racial educational equity. However, HQIM adoption alone will not eliminate the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories. Beyond adoption, to achieve racial educational equity, we must examine and make changes to our values, beliefs, behaviors, priorities, loyalties, and habits.

This personal work of interrogation and reflection has the potential to deconstruct and redress inequitable systems, structures, and practices at the institutional level. Those doing the work and the stakeholders involved must interrogate their values, beliefs, behaviors, priorities, loyalties, and habits. We must start at home, doing the personal work within, ourselves.

Here are a few examples of why we must address adaptive challenges through engaging in courageous conversations about race as we adopt high-quality curriculums:

  • Values: a teacher values creative expression and increases the time spent on engaging in theatrical texts at the expense of other genres within a unit.
  • Beliefs: students are not capable of engaging in rigorous work required by grade-level standards.
  • Behaviors: an instructional coach omits units that address challenging issues such as racism in the scope and sequence.
  • Priorities: a school focuses on productive struggle, so a teacher does not provide students with appropriate scaffolds to be successful.
  • Loyalties: a district omits a unit that centers the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • Habits: schools and districts are not accustomed to participating in conversations about race and the role it plays in educational equity.

Having a high-quality curriculum is the foundation for ensuring educational equity, but, it is just a starting point! To adopt and effectively use high-quality instructional materials, teachers must create classroom environments that are “courageous communities.”

We do not advocate that teachers supplement or make modifications to the components of a unit or curriculum; we encourage teachers to interrogate the belief systems or the value systems that perpetuate dominant cultural norms, ideas, beliefs, etc. and to challenge students to do so as well.

Did you miss the discussion? Watch the recording here.

July 2, 2020

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