When you look at the values we hold dear as an organization, first on the list is Equity. “We challenge historical inequity with a persistent focus on dismantling systemic racism. We work towards a more just society.”
This is not a typo. We don’t mean “equality”. As this article so eloquently explains, “Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.” At Leading Educators, we believe that we cannot possibly espouse any sort of equality initiatives without first addressing the historic inequity this nation was founded on, and that continues to exist in our classrooms.
Believing that old adage to never trust a chef who doesn’t eat his own cooking, we have embarked upon an ambitious commitment to equity across all operations. What does that challenge look like?
By the beginning of September, nearly all Leading Educators staff members completed a multiple-day intensive training with Michelle Molitor of Fellowship for Race and Equity in Education (FREE). Objectives of that training were:
● To begin the process of developing a deeper personal awareness about how “who you are” impacts how you show up in educational equity work.
● Deepen our understanding of local and national histories; develop a shared vocabulary to better talk about and understand systemic oppression.
● Engage in discourse about the impact of racism on the educational experience of historically underserved students of color.
● Develop and use a set of tools as a leader of equity in education.
Equity, however, is more than a one-time training or significant investment of time and resources. FREE training was just a warm-up for greater work, beginning with a series of discussions and evaluations at our annual staff retreat. Over four days, all Leading Educators employees put their day-to-day work on hold (more accurately, postponed what could be dealt with during breaks / in the evening / the weekend after they returned) to examine every aspect of operations, exploring where we could better improve equity and the policies and procedures that would make equity a job-embedded proposition instead of an optional afterthought. We are taking a close look at how we recruit and hire for our work, how we discuss our work, and how and with whom the work gets done. Because ultimately, the work of undoing centuries of inequity must be intersectional, evolutionary, and ongoing.
And it must begin with us.