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From Our Senior Partner – Aug 2021 Edition

September is here and that means the 2021-22 school year is underway.  Below are three education priorities you should be aware of and supporting strategic approaches 

Education Priority #1: The wellbeing of Black Educators

Dr. Andrew Lovett, a Principal based in Atlanta, GA, summed up the Black educator experience in a recent post on Facebook. With some educators returning to school to lead face-to-face instruction for the first time over 18-months, Black educators around the country are stressed and feeling exhausted already.  

Adding insult to injury, public school educators have been left to themselves to slow the spread of COVID-19 (and the Delta Variant) without the support of many state governments.  Evidence of this came on Aug. 18, 2021, when President Biden issued a memorandum to US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. 

While President Biben stated, “Our priority must be the safety of students, families, educators, and staff in our school communities.  Nothing should interfere with this goal”, he also noted that  “…, some State governments have adopted policies and laws that interfere with the ability of schools and districts to keep our children safe during in-person learning. 

Some of these policies and laws have gone so far as to try to block school officials from adopting safety protocols aligned with recommendations from the CDC to protect students, educators, and staff.” 

As a resident of Georgia and the parent of a 2nd grader, I am scared and nervous for my child, her teachers, and the entire school community.  

Needless to say, many Black educators find themselves stuck between a ‘rock and hard place’ working tirelessly to safely re-open schools to in-person learning, and being left unprotected with the raging Delta variant that is killing more people every day. 

What can we do? 

Strategic Approach #1 – Invest in Racial Affinity Groups for Black Educators

I am building professional learning spaces for Black male educators, like Dr. Lovett, to be heard, feel energized, and inspire others. I’m hosting weekly Twitter chats and monthly happy hours. Additionally, starting September 22nd, I will be facilitating the BMEsTalk Leadership Lab. 

This is a 3-month learning and community-building experience, where Black men in education from across the globe will engage in self-care practices and share professional resources to support one another in navigating this school year. Learn more and register here. Registration closes on September 15, 2021.  

Education Priority #2: Dismantling “White Supremacist Culture” in our schools 

What does “white supremacist culture” look like in our schools? 

  • A teacher decides to cancel recess for 30 students because a small group of students was exhibiting “unacceptable behavior”. (Either/or thinking) 
  • A Black Male teacher is positioned only as a behavioral manager in their school (White mediocrity)
  • School leaders release a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or Diversity Equity and Inclusion, but very few members of the school community were given the chance to contribute their input or give feedback before its release. (Power hoarding)  

Learn more about the definition of “white supremacist culture” and the aspects of it, in this short worksheet explaining Tema Okun’s work as a racial equity trainer. 

What can we do? 

Strategic Approach #2 – “Reconcile, then do”

To dismantle white supremacist culture, we must counter the narrative that a sense of urgency to deliver, trumps community building, capacity building, or equity work implementation. 

This approach often furthers the tenants of white supremacy because it does not reckon with the reality of inequity to create a process to reconcile. In a recent podcast episode entitled Something Different – white supremacy isn’t working, I share some updated thinking about a framework and process for a reconciliation process using Tema Okun’s work.  

Education Priority #3: Putting the “development” back in Workforce Development 

We need a new approach to developing and supporting Black educators because they are entering into or currently working in schools that weren’t designed with their well-being and success in mind. 

  • In public schools…
    • Many Black teachers are concentrated in “hard-to-staff” schools located in historically under-resourced communities. As a result, a recent article published by Education Weekly shared that these schools lack the resources to offer Black male teachers the necessary support.  
  • In private schools…
    • Many Black teachers are experiencing “Black Fatigue.” In a piece published by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) entitled Black Fatigue: When Black Teachers Leave Independent Schools, the author, Ralinda Watts, defined Black Fatigue as “the exhaustion that comes from the tension between showing up authentically and adjusting to make white people feel more comfortable.” 

Our schools have a lot more work to do in becoming, sustaining, and thriving as inclusive and equitable places to work. Knowing and accepting this, we also have a responsibility to prepare Black educators to enter these “works-in-progress.”  Now, this part takes experts. 

What can we do? 

Strategic Approach #3 – Design Professional Development Targeted for Black Pre-Service and In-Service Educators 

Focus on supporting and guiding the WHOLE Black educator (intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically), that enhances their ability to show up authentically, consistently exercise self-care and healing, and practice equity-centered conflict mitigation & resolution. At CommunityBuild Ventures, we are designing these professional development experiences and training facilitators to lead them.  

We have our work cut out for us, and CBV is here to help. Let’s connect for a 30-min call to discuss how I can help your organization address any or all of these education priorities.  Click here to find a time that works best for your schedule. 

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