Equity in education as a topic is not new, but the issue is finally getting the spotlight it deserves. More and more teachers are becoming aware of important equity issues, such as systemic racism, bias, the opportunity gap, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Educators are seeking out information and committing to change—for their students, but also for themselves.
Teachers have lived a different experience from their students, just as students have lived a different experience than their teachers and classmates. Teachers often come from different backgrounds than their students and may live in a neighborhood outside of where they teach. So, how might teachers authentically connect with their students, support their students, and make learning in their classroom culturally relevant for their students? Teachers need to leverage their students’ backgrounds and experiences to master content in a more personal way.
When pursuing change, you should always start with your own awareness. You need to inventory your own understanding of equity, evaluate your knowledge, and then work to increase your understanding. Here are three steps you can take to increase your awareness and knowledge about equity:
- Get to know yourself and your biases, especially your implicit bias. In Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond (2014) identified implicit bias as “the unconscious attitudes and stereotypes that shape our responses to certain groups especially around race, class, and language. Implicit bias operates involuntarily, often without one’s awareness or intentional control. Implicit bias is not implicit racism.” We all have implicit bias; get to know yours first so that you can work at creating a different narrative for yourself and your students.
- Use one or several of the tests listed on the Project Implicit site to increase and develop an understanding of your own biases.
- When you are struggling or experiencing conflict in the classroom, try using The Mindful Reflection Protocol: A Process for Checking Unconscious Bias.
- Complete this Personal and Social Identity Wheel activity and use the questions to reflect on and expand your awareness.
- Broaden your own understanding of equity.
- Explore AVID’s curated resources around a commitment to an anti-racist education.
- Watch and discuss one or all of these 10 TED Talks about race in America. You might think of using these with students, as well.
- Build up your knowledge of other cultures and identities, especially those of your students. You can do this through books, podcasts, social media, and documentaries or other videos.
- Consider reading one of the following books or articles:
- Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond
- We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor
- Beyond Celebrating Diversity: 20 Things I Will Do to Be an Equitable Educator by Paul Gorski for EdChange and the Equity Literacy Institute
- Expectations, Equity, and Excellence
- Continue to have a growth mindset and be willing to learn and grow.
Commit to Change
As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” As you become aware, learn, and develop your understanding of equity, you will know better. Once you know better, you need to commit to change and do better. Make a commitment to act for equity. Commit to one thing that you will do better in a day, a week, a month, three months, and a year. Check those commitments regularly and think about creating commitments with an accountability partner and scheduling regular check-ins to see how things are going. Be flexible in your thinking and know that it will probably change. Be open to tough conversations and the change itself.
As you are developing your equity lens, transforming yourself, asking tough questions, rethinking possibly everything you know, challenging yourself, and calling out inequity to others, you need to take care of yourself. If you don’t take time to take care of yourself, you could burn out or get overwhelmed. You don’t want your cognitive load to be so heavy that it sinks you. Try some of the strategies from our Recover, Recharge, and Regroup for Fall resource.
There are many different aspects and components of equity, but becoming aware, making a commitment to change, and remembering to take care of yourself are great places to start. Over the next several weeks, you can continue to learn more about equity as we take a closer look at embracing differences in your classroom and culturally relevant classroom practices and instruction. Remember, we can’t make a difference if we don’t try, and small changes add up to big change. Be a part of the change!
Extend Your Learning
- A Guide to Equity and Antiracism for Educators (Edutopia)
- Equity in Education: Where to Begin? (Edutopia)
- Committed to an Anti-Racist Education? Start here. (Resources Recommended by AVID)