17. Equity & Equality pt. 4 - Secret Style Bias
Hey everyone, today is Monday January 25th 2021 and it is now time for Social Emotional Learning. We are going to wrap-up our lessons on Equity and Equality with a very smooth transition into our topic of next month, which is all about understanding resources. Please know that we have not covered everything there is to know about equity and equality. Many people spend large amounts of time and energy thinking and working about equity and equality.
Our topic today is a really strong one to help us make the transition to understanding resources. In fact, big secret, having some knowledge of equity and equality is necessary for understanding how resources and access to resources shape our own personal lives and our social lives. But, we’re not fully there yet. The one thing we haven’t talked about yet is unequal to be fair and unfair to be equal. This is a tough concept and we will do our best. And guess what, it’s one that Mr. Manzo couldn’t figure out for this week so we’re not doing it. What we are talking about is using self-awareness to recognize how deep issues of equity and equality may actually run. Hopefully this will make sense, if it doesn’t you can blame Mr. Manzo, either way here we go.
We're going to do a guided visualization. Close your eyes. Imagine you are in a public school not a private one. Think about being in a classroom. See all the students sitting around you. Your classmates come from very different places than you. There are kids with different colored skin. There are kids with different gender presentation. There are kids with different gender ideation. There are kids with different clothing. There are kids with different amounts of money. There are kids with neural diversity. (That means some have brains that process things differently.) There are kids with different life experiences and kids with different talents and interests. There are kids with different life goals. There are kids with different learning styles. Now imagine that all these different things are of equal value. That is, as you are seeing this, just see it as it is with as little judgement as possible. Right now, it is only a world of diversity and it’s exciting. All things being of equal value. It's just kids being who and what they are. Kids.
But something dark is lurking in the corner. Now it’s moving to the front of the room. It’s raising its hand, it is starting to speak, it’s asking for silence, it is turning to write on the board...it’s THE TEACHER and now our world of all things equal is suddenly ripped to shreds. Now suddenly all things are not equal. Now suddenly we have a clearly identified, yet rarely clearly communicated hierarchy of value and it is the teacher who is the conduit for that culture.
Okay, stop for a second. This is not a bash on teachers at all. This is only a call to awakening, in case teachers are not fully aware, they are, implicit and explicit representatives of the institutions and values contained within. They can be agents of change or enforcers of the status quo, they can be transformative or transactional, but you don’t get to decide that, they have to. So, teachers, please know, self-awareness and social awareness matter a great deal for you too. Maybe, even more then you recognize.
So here is where our peaceful co-existence of diversity and equity, is changed and those students you visualized before are suddenly stratified in by their resting proximity in relation to the values the teacher chooses to filter through the social management devices they use for classroom management and the methods by which they deliver instruction and the content within. And if you're wondering what I just said, as I am also, it’s basically this. The kids whose learning styles, goals, behaviors, brains, values, and academic strengths are most like the teachers teaching style, goals, behaviors, brains, values and academic strengths will, when unchecked by the teachers, will have an advantage over those who are not as closely aligned. And again, if unrecognized and unchecked by the teacher this advantage is most assuredly, unfair.
Our education system has a mission. If you go to the United States Dept. Of Education website, and you click on the “About Us” tab you will see this Mission Statement.
“Education Department's mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”
That’s a pretty clear statement that pretty much says nothing for a teacher to know what to do. You can take out of that a variety of values but because you have to take those out yourself, your culture and your own values will impact what you discover and how you discover it.
You also have to dig deeper to find policies that further give clues to values and directions and expectations. They are there but you need to put in energy to find them and to understand them. Let’s go closer to home. Washington state has a mission for education also contained in the Washington State Constitution. In Article 9 of that document, it says this:
"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex."
According to the Washington State Supreme Court, Washington state was failing to do this for many years. Now apparently, they are but...
Emmett: The Washington State Board of Education has a mission and a vision statement also. It’s this:
The Washington State Board of Education envisions an education system where students are engaged in personalized education pathways that prepare them for civic engagement, careers, postsecondary education, and lifelong learning.
The mission of the State Board of Education is to provide transparent leadership in K-12 education policy-making; effective oversight of schools serving Washington K-12 students; and, assertive advocacy for student personal growth and success. These three areas of responsibility will support a system that personalizes learning for each student and values diverse cultures, abilities, and learning styles.
They also have an Equity Statement. It’s this:
The Washington State Board of Education uses equity as a guiding principle in carrying out its statutory charges, strategic planning, and policymaking. The Board believes that the state’s school system exists to empower all students and assure they are ready to become productive, caring, and civically engaged community members.
But we can’t stop there. Seattle Schools has a mission statement also. It says this:
“Seattle Public Schools is committed to ensuring equitable access, closing the opportunity gaps and excellence in education for every student.”
Now we need to say this because we certainly aren’t afraid to criticize Seattle Schools when criticism is warranted. We also need to give praise when praise is warranted. Seattle Schools goes on to say this.
In Seattle Public Schools, we understand that a shared vision of practice is essential to fostering the learning communities that each of our students and adults need to thrive. This shared vision enables educators to work in concert to build their practice with a focus on student learning.
They go on to outline steps to help this happen. More than we can read here. They also have this very important document from the School Board which is called Policy 0030. I do encourage all people to read it. Here now is a chance for you to come back and use empathy for that very teacher we talked about early on.
What’s a teacher to do? By and large, teachers are caring people who want to help younger people to grow and develop in healthy ways. They want kids to gain skills that will help them help themselves to become the adults they would like to be and help them live the life styles they would like to live. But if you look at all the mission statements and goals from all the folks from the school board up, you could see how there could be confusion about the goal's schools have.
Right. These long-term life goals for kids are great, and I’m glad they are there. I’m a kid and I want all that stuff for me and I hope people help me get there. But in terms of the day-to-day grind and the small daily steps of how helping me become the best me, there’s a lot left up to those few and brave folks who choose to be teachers. It is our official opinion that they, the teachers, are far more important and relevant to this than any of the people behind the scenes. That includes the school board, district executives, the superintendent of public instruction, and the secretary of education. And if you don’t believe me just consider this. The teachers are the only people who actually talk and listen to the people whose lives are the product of all these missions and visions.
And this comes back to our guided visualization of the classroom. The darkness we joked about emanating from the teachers as they took control of the class, we should frame that more as something they either hold back or filter out. That darkness is coming from the institution and the many, many competing goals and needs that are created for and placed upon those teachers. And this is where we are getting to equity and equality. This is why it is easier for kids whose goals and behaviors and values align to that of the teacher and the institution, because it requires less energy from teachers to interact with and for these students. And energy is a resource we will talk about next week. Sometimes spending energy is a benefit and sometimes conserving it is a benefit. And here’s the thing, if the teacher doesn’t have the resources to determine if it is better to spend or conserve energy from moment to moment, then the kids might not either. And again, if you happen to align to what the needs are, then you have an unearned benefit. And, in terms of your place in the class hierarchy, that might not be fair or equal.
So this runs very deep. A caring teacher is holding many goals for many people all at the same time. There is a goal for each kid that the teacher holds, whether the kid holds that goal or not. Maybe something like, “By the end of this year Bryan Manzo will be able to understand fractions. On top of that, the teacher is holding a goal for herself or himself or themselves. Maybe something like, “I will see x amount of my students meeting standard in fractions. Including Bryan Manzo.” Those two goals are relatively similar. However, on top of that, the teacher, by accepting the position of teacher has many goals placed upon them by the institution. Those can be found in relation to the mission and vision.
They include: promoting student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access engaging students in personalized education pathways that prepare them for civic engagement, careers, postsecondary education, and lifelong learning ensuring equitable access, closing the opportunity gaps and excellence in education for every student fostering the learning communities that each of our students and adults need to thrive.
Those are big time goals. Those are important goals. Those are heavy duty society altering goals. To meet those goals teachers, need a lot of skills and a lot of resources. Which is why we are talking about resources next month. But here’s maybe the best thing to think about. You, and your teachers, probably have more in common than you realize. Here’s how. You both have your own goals, and you both have goals that others have made for you. You share that. You both know what that feels like. Here’s another thing, you may share similar emotion information about how you feel about this situation.
So, as students, here is something we can do for ourselves and for our teachers. We can use our self-awareness to learn about the things we are feeling when we are working towards our goals. Not just the ones we have for ourselves, but also the ones that are put on us, by our friends, by our families, and yes, by our teachers. We can also ask our teachers to share with us what their goals are for us. This can help connect us to see them as the caring people they are. We might not like their goals and we might not want to work toward their goals, but we can also see that those goals, as much as they may cause us stress, are set for us because they care. And honestly, it’s not bad to have people care for you, even if it sometimes means you have to work.
Teachers are holding all these goals. It can take a lot of energy and it can make things seem like they need to move very fast particularly if you think that time, which is a resource we will talk about, is limited. When there is resource scarcity, such as time, teachers may not have the time to stop and check-in with their teaching styles, students learning styles, their own values, the values of their students and families, or their long-term goals, or the goals that the students are holding. That’s not because they are bad, it’s because, as you’ll see, there is resource scarcity. And when that happens, things, in effort to move forward, may start to become unfair.
So here’s something you can do. Go to them. Ask them to check-in with you. Ask them about their goals for you. Ask them about their goals for themselves. Share the goals you have for yourself. Share the goals your family has for you. This can help people come together. This can create unity around shared goals and it can create awareness when there are goals that may not be aligned. It also starts the conversation about different views on how to achieve similar goals. This is a very important part of social learning. And you can do it! Until next week, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.