Monday is here, my own presentation is done, so I can really enjoy and learn now!
Cheyenne Batista is the founder of Firefly Worldwide, a global consulting firm focused on helping schools and organizations with improving equity within their organization.
She opened the session by specifying that schools perpetuate inequity unintentionally. This is not the session to say that anyone is evil or doing things with bad intentions. She also pointed out that we will not “save the world from all inequities.”
She said, “This is a conversation that will end with no closure, and that is the work.” That is a fascinating idea and definitely makes me think back to my talk with Jennifer Binnis. We had hard conversations, and it felt like work for sure, I left tired. But I also think that I learned a lot and while we did not solve anything, it felt like I at least made personal improvements.
Another interesting discussion was the question “Why start with racism?” According to Cheyenne, racism is certainly not the only form of inequity, but unlike sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, and others, a student cannot walk into a classroom and hide their race. “A girl cannot walk into a classroom and decide ‘I’m not going to be black today'”. This seems obvious, but I had never considered it that way. When I think of inequity, I know the racial issues, but they seem so much larger than I can tackle, and so I will often go to other issues as examples and goals. But now, that seems inadequate of me, and I should be continuing the conversation about race instead of shying away from it.
She left us with 5 Strategies for Running Equitable Schools
- Build the Right Mindset
- Hiring & Onboarding Practices
- Building & Supporting Infrastructure
- Center Student Achievement
- Reflection & Adaptation
It must start with the mindset of yourself, your peers, your school. There must be an ongoing conversation, and people must be willing to accept that they are not “color-blind”, are not lacking in biases. Then, we must be asking questions in our interview process about equity, about beliefs about students and parents. You also must include your school beliefs on equity in ongoing professional development (infrastructure). It can, and sometimes should, be a training specifically on equity topics. In other cases it should be embedded in other traingings as well.
She also pushed back directly against those that would say “This is all great, but we need to work on test scores and learning.” This work, according to Cheyenne, is student achievement. When students are not recognized in a school, are kept with lower expectations than their peers, are limited in their potential learning, the students are not achieving, are not capable of achieving. We often look at our data and celebrate high test scores or school grades, because in aggregate, things are good. But when we do not worry about the sub-groups that are well below the goals and grades of the school because they are not the majority.
Overall, a truly thought-provoking presentation. I am really glad that I was able to make it to this one and get some ideas to sit with as I head off to lunch. As she said, with this work, we will not solve the problems. We need to work through them, think about them.