In my last post, I explored the positive effects an equitable curriculum can have on all students, regardless of their race, socioeconomic background, gender, and other factors. Designing a curriculum with equity in mind is a big task, and it can feel overwhelming. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Begin with professional development
Ensure all educators in your school or district have the tools to provide an emotionally, mentally, and physically safe space for all learners. Professional development on recognizing bias and diversity, equity, and inclusion (also known as DEI) can equip educators with the proper tools to confidently engage with children of all backgrounds in a positive, productive way.
Among these tools is the ability to recognize—and respond to—historical traumas that can manifest for students. The story of the flesh colored pencil that I mentioned in my previous post is a perfect example of this. That Black child believed her skin was inferior and unable to be represented in a drawing. To support her, the teacher quickly and astutely realized this paradigm, affirmed who the student was, and gave her the chance to see herself in her work by creating a new drawing.
Work this training into existing professional learning communities. Consider making it a year-long effort so topics can be explored in depth, there’s time for self-reflection, and interruptions to teaching are less obtrusive.
Professional development on recognizing bias and diversity, equity, and inclusion (also known as DEI) can equip educators with the proper tools to confidently engage with children of all backgrounds in a positive, productive way.”
Continue with self-reflection
It can be helpful to explore your own ideas and potential biases, as well as your goals for your school or district, when working toward an equitable curriculum. Here are some things to try:
- Ask yourself these important questions: What kind of school environment do you want to promote? How will you include teachers, parents, staff, and community members in making your vision a reality? What types of culture shifts need to occur at the administrative, teacher, and student level?
- Explore your ideas about your student population and their families. When you think about them and their needs, do you begin with a strengths-based approach? You can learn more about taking a strengths-based approach—and about effective classroom management in general—in “5 principles of outstanding classroom management”
- Think about how you can support teachers in sharing and executing innovative ideas around curriculum
Address hiring practices and board membership
Discussions about equity at the district and school level can be more fruitful when there are many voices in the room. Take a look around at your next meeting. Do the leaders around you reflect your student body accurately?
It can be helpful to explore your own ideas and potential biases.”
If your students can’t see themselves in their teachers and school leaders, make conscious efforts to diversify your team through hiring practices. EdSurge offers useful tips in their 2018 article “Diversity in hiring doesn’t start with hiring.” And in “Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color,” the Learning Policy Institute shares additional tips, including the following:
- Start a student loan forgiveness program
- Hire earlier in the year—and ensure hiring committees are diverse
- Partner with local universities to recruit student teachers and recent graduates
- Establish a mentorship program
To support people who may be interested in running for your board, reach out to your community, including the parents and guardians of your students. Remind them of important dates in your local election cycle and that most anyone interested in running is likely eligible.
Challenging work is rarely done quickly. But if you make equity a priority and work toward it consistently, you’ll make great strides. Stay tuned for a follow-up post that will offer teachers some suggestions about what they can do to build a more equitable curriculum.