Elephant in the Room: Talking Race in ANY Space

Elephant in the Room: Talking Race in ANY Space


[Music] Good afternoon. Thank you for coming to
the Elephant in the Room – Talking Race in Any Space. This is a tricky conversation
for us in Wisconsin as well as in the United States.
So first, my colleagues and I that are here presenting with you want to
thank you for coming to this session and leaning into this conversation.
We understand that it can be a little – not such a good-feeling conversation,
but we want to encourage you to hold space for the ideas that
we are presenting today. And that it is equally as challenging
on both sides of the aisle. So please stay with us,
and let’s learn together on behalf of the children
that we serve in this state. We owe them our ability to get
better and better at this conversation. So my name is Kathy Myles.
I’m the coaching coordinator for the state of Wisconsin.
I work with my colleague, Heidi Laabs. We travel the state doing leadership
and coaching sessions. And I am here with …
– My name is Andreal Davis. I’m the culturally responsive practices
coordinator for the state of Wisconsin with the Wisconsin RtI Center.
– And I’m Shavana Talbert. I serve as district equity coach
for Fond du Lac School District. – Thank you. So this needs to be on. So here is our
agenda for today. We have – this is an
assessment-driven session, so we are using the TFI as our base.
And we’re going to talk about the areas that that aligns with, as well as
we want to talk with you about some indicators that we need to
be aware of when we’re thinking about talking race in our schools
and in our districts. So we’re going to use the Model to
Inform, and we’re going to use some work by a gentleman named Derald
Wing Sue – Dr. Sue and his research. And then we’re going to share some
protocols with you, and we’ll explain to you why we came to this
conversation with the idea of protocols. So our assessment connections that go
with the TFI are in Tiers 1 and Tier 2. And it’s around our team operating
procedures, around how we involve faculty, and actually access that
students have to Tier 1 supports. The more honest that we can be in our
conversations, the more productive we can be, the more collaborative we can
be, the better we can serve our students. So now Andreal is going to speak
with you about the Model to Inform. – This morning, we heard our
state superintendent speak with us, and she talked about how we’re
very unique in many ways. We also heard from Heather George,
and she also reiterated some of those same messages. And one of the things
that makes us special in our work is that, as a state, we have a Culturally
Responsive Practices model that we can follow and that
can help us on our journey. With the Culturally Responsive Practices
model, as you’ll see on the screen, it has three arrows around
the outer circle of the model. The first arrow is yellow,
and it describes our desire to lead this work and even
be involved in this work. And so, when we look at that piece,
we talk about the will of the work. When we move into the blue arrow of
the work, we talk about gaining cultural knowledge or fill-building work so that
we can get to know our students and families on a deeper level.
And then the skill-building work is where most people would like to
go immediately, applying practice, applying the knowledge
that they’ve learned. And you can see that
the arrows are fluid. So we say that this is a journey,
not a destination. We begin with
becoming self-aware. And when we talk about becoming
self-aware, we know that we have to start with ourselves and think about
our own culture, about our values, about our belief systems,
and about what we bring to the learning environment
that impacts outcomes. We then move into examining
the system’s impact on students and families. This where we delve
into our data, and we really begin to look at some of those populations that
were talked about earlier today, again, by our state superintendent –
EL students, students with disabilities, students who are experiencing
poverty, students of color. And then we move into believing
all students will learn. What does that look like?
How do we help students and families know that we believe
they can learn, that we are validating and affirming what they
bring to the learning environment? When we move into the fill-building
work, more deeply, we are really talking about, how do we demonstrate
that we understand all students and families have unique identities
and worldviews, just as we do? And how do we bridge what might be
some of those gaps so that we can come together and ultimately achieve the goal
that we want to eliminate those gaps? We also look at knowing the
community in the fill-building area. In our training, we talk about
mapping – community mapping. What’s available in the community?
What’s not available in the community? Who are role models in the community?
What are organizations that we can partner with and take information
from so that we can achieve our goal? Sort of a village approach.
And then we also move into the green area again – the skill-building.
And we’re talking about leading, modeling, and advocating.
And that’s what many of you are here today doing.
You’re taking steps – some of you are a little further on your journey.
Some of you are taking the first step in learning, what does it mean
to lead, model, and advocate for equity practices?
And what are some tools and resources that we can share with you
as you move along your journey? Accepting institutional responsibility.
We talk about moving from knowing to doing. So we’ve
gathered all of this information. We’ve learned about
these different tools. What are we going to do
with that information, and how are we going to use it?
And then, again, ultimately, looking at using curriculum
and practices that honor the students and families that we serve.
So I want you all to repeat after me. Say, will, fill, skill.
– [audience] Will, fill, skill. – Will, fill, skill.
– [audience] Will, fill, skill. – Be proud that you have
a model that we can, again, help guide us on
our collective journey. So what does the
Model to Inform do for us? The Model to Inform helps us with
our beliefs, with our knowledge, with our practices, so that we can
reach and teach diverse learners. – So this is – this is our second opportunity
to present this information. We had the opportunity to
do it at the – at a session last year. We got a lot of good feedback from it,
which was encouraging to us. But, as I think back to how we came to
this space, we decided to try the work of protocols when we’re having
a difficult conversation like race. So why protocols? If you will, imagine with me a highway,
and we have guardrails on that highway. The guardrails are
what the protocols allow. But also, when you think about
a highway, they go on and on. So we continue to have the opportunity
to build our skills around the use of protocols, around the use of
talking race, but it gives us the opportunity to
not go off the road. Right? That’s what protocols do for us.
They keep us contained by giving us a structure process and some
guidelines to promote meaningful, efficient communication,
problem-solving, and learning. It also allows time for active listening
and reflection so that we can hear – so that you can hear what I have to say,
and I can hear what you have to say. But then we can also take a step back
and become more objective and reflect on the conversations that we’ve had.
And so that we can ensure that all voices in the group are heard and honored.
That allows for equity of voice, and it helps us to develop an
understanding of different perspectives. And then finally, it helps us to build
the skills and the culture necessary for productive and collaborative work.
So when you think about the multi-level system of support, the big part of it,
it has high-quality instruction, balanced assessment, and collaboration.
Our ability to collaborate as adults around a topic as heavy and
emotion-laden, sometimes, as race can be, will allow us to be
more collaborative around high-quality instruction, around
balanced assessment, et cetera, which is why equity is
at the center of that model. This is from the National
School Reform Faculty. This is their definition that
we have shared with you. And so, when you think about
trying to take this work back into your school or district, this is
a great resource for you to use. As well as, we gave you a handout
from the National School Reform Faculty around comparing
productivity and collaboration. And it really talks about the difference
between meetings with protocols and meetings without protocols.
And we want to be clear that we are talking about using protocols to
talk about race, and I’m going to – my next slide will explain that,
but certainly, if you want to increase productivity and collaboration
within your organization, protocols help with that. To become
skilled at using them can help facilitate your movement as you – your
movement as a district or a school. So our objectives for using protocols
when we are talking about conflict are simply because, one, we want to
make sure the environment is safe. This stuff is already
hard enough. As I said before, it has emotion tied to it.
So we say to people, we’re going to talk about this, but we’re going to
do it in a structured process. We’re going to make sure that
people have a safe space to speak and also to be heard, which is important.
So it talks about building capacity to respond productively to
conflict and discomfort. And we’re going to share some
protocols with you, and you will hear – especially, like, Shavana’s going to
give you a real-life example. And you’ll hear her talking about
how she moved through the protocol as she’s sharing that with you.
And then also we use a protocol to mine the conflict.
A lot of times, when we have a topic like race that comes up, our
tendency is to step back and disengage. And really, what we want to learn to do
on behalf of our students is how to work through that conflict, to mine through it.
And protocols will help you do that. As well as the debrief
or process afterward. And this – I can’t stress enough,
in our schools and our districts, we say we run out of time.
And a lot of times, when we’re using protocols, this is a
step that is often overlooked. But you really want to take time to
do some metacognition work to talk as a group to decide what you want
to continue to do, what worked, what didn’t work. So debriefing is
a key, key part of using protocols. So I’d like you, right now, to take
a moment, turn to an elbow partner, and share what you know about
using protocols. Just talk about the successes you have experienced
with them and the challenges. Try to go with pairs because we’re only
going to give you a couple minutes. If you have a threesome,
that’s fine, but just know that you have to talk
a little bit less, okay? So I’ll give you 30 seconds of
think time before you start talking. I’ll give you 30 seconds. [Silence] You can kind of plan out
what you want to say. And then you can have your discussion.
What successes and challenges have you experienced?
And we’ll be back in two minutes. [inaudible background conversations] Please wrap up
your conversation. Thank you very much.
Our ability to engage in protocols is a decision that we make as educators,
whether we opt in or opt out. So just, as we set a little background
for you on this, please know, for this to be successful,
you have to determine to lean in. Just like you showed up today.
So now we’re going to look at a little bit of research.
And remember, I said this gets a little sticky, so just roll with me.
Give me some space. I’m happy to talk with
you afterwards if we need to. We are looking at the work from a
gentleman named Dr. Derald Wing Sue, who wrote this book a couple of years
ago called Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence – Understanding and
Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race. This is certainly just one resource,
and this is just one conference session, so there’s plenty more
resources out there. But he has two big ideas
I want to share with you today. The first one that he says is around three
reasons it’s hard to talk about race. He talks about these three protocols,
which are just really – he calls them protocols,
and we’re using – we’re over-protocoling the word
“protocol” these days, but … [laughter] He is really saying that it’s the
way that we show up, okay? So the very first one
is the politeness protocol. It’s just rude to be in common
conversation, like at a cocktail party or, you know, sitting around
with friends and start talking about something like race.
It’s just not polite conversation. It’s not what you do.
So we try to be polite. It’s not how we are in our society.
So that’s one barrier. A second one is academic protocol.
And he talks about the fact that many conversations around race,
one, are laden with emotions. And when we think about academia,
when we think about our college classrooms, there’s no place for
emotion in there. And then secondly, he also says that we tend to be
more quantitative in our approach. So because we’re more quantitative,
and me, being a person of color, sharing my experiences with you is going
to come across as more qualitative. So it can be viewed as more
subjective, so it’s not counted as true research or experience.
Does that makes sense? So it doesn’t have a place in academia.
So that’s a second barrier. And a third barrier that he talks about is
this colorblind protocol, and I certainly remember a time in my career where
we just said, everybody’s the same. We don’t need to make
any differentiations. Everybody’s the same.
We’re all good. We’re just people. That is the colorblindness piece.
And actually, he talks about in his book and in articles that he has around
that is that organizations that have a colorblind philosophy tend to
have more discrimination actually within their workplace than ones that
acknowledge that people are different. So that’s a thought.
Now, these aren’t either/or’s. They can be and’s. They can be or’s.
But these are three of the bigger barriers. This next one he talks about, then,
are four internal barriers that make it hard for us to talk about this.
And, in his research analysis, he’s talking about you all –
my colleagues – the majority of you in here, I mean – my white colleagues
in education and why it is difficult to have these conversations.
The first one is that, if you start having this conversation,
you might be misunderstood, and then you’re worried that
you might actually appear racist. It’s not what I meant.
It’s not how I said it. So it’s just easier for
me not to go there. If you think about an iceberg,
this is really the top of the iceberg. So the next bullet is
really under that iceberg. Even though it’s an internal barrier,
it’s under that iceberg. And that’s the possibility that
you maybe do harbor biases. That you have done things that have
been oppressive to other people, that you might actually think to
yourself, oh, maybe I really am racist. And everybody gets up in the morning
trying to do the best that they can, have moral obligations,
want to help other people. So people aren’t walking around
wanting that particular label. So that’s a fear. And then the third bullet here
really gets at the fear of privilege. So if I’m acknowledging this,
and I’m having this conversation, then white privilege
maybe really is a thing. And then therefore, I have to
acknowledge that and my role in it. And I have to tell you, this is interesting
for me because I live in southeastern Wisconsin, and there is actually
a school district in my beloved state of Wisconsin where you cannot
say “privilege” or “white privilege” within that school district.
And I find that very interesting in this day and age.
And people actually have been told in that district, we can
say things like “social justice,” or we can use that language,
but we can’t use this language. So we do have a lot of work to do,
but I’m happy that you’re here because then we can at least start
that or continue that conversation. And then the fourth internal barrier
that Dr. Sue talks about is, if we do have these conversations, and we
acknowledge our own biases or things that we have may have done,
intentionally or not, and we own the fact that white privilege is a thing, then
we have to own up to our own biases, and then that becomes a moral question.
If I know better, my mother taught me to do better. So if I know that what
I’m doing is causing other people – other, you know, outcomes, then I have
an obligation to try to work to stop it. So those are four barriers that he
speaks to in his book around this conversation and why it can be
so difficult for us to have. So now, what we want to do is talk
to you around the use of protocols. So that was just information for you
to garner, to reflect on, to think about. And we are going to – we have
a little bit of fun with numbers here. So we’re going to share
some protocols with you. There are five of them. And we’re going to share the Four
Agreements by Glenn Singleton. We’re going to share the
Five Guidelines for Resolving Cultural Conflicts
by Sonya Whitaker. We are going to share Six Strategies
for Managing Unhealthy Conflict. We couldn’t come up with a seven or an
eight, so there’s another six. [laughter] We’re going to share the Six Conditions
by Glenn Singleton that actually goes with the Four Agreements.
And then we’re going to end with some work by Lee Mun Wah,
who is out of California, around the Nine Healthy
Ways to Communicate. So Andreal is going to come on up and
get us started with the Four Agreements. – While I was practicing, I did find the
eight. And if you go back to the Model to Inform, there are eight
sections on the Model to Inform. So we have to add that the next time.
We do have a number eight, Kathy. [laughter] So I am going to share with you
our number-four protocol, or tool. And the Four Agreements from
the Pacific Education Group are what we chose
to share with you today. Those are also – have been
introduced to us, and we’ve done a lot of work with Glenn Singleton.
Those Four Agreements mimic what I consider for myself anchors.
So Kathy talked about guardrails, and these Four Agreements
have been anchors. So early in my career here at the
Wisconsin RtI Center, because of my cultural communication styles
and patterns, I really was not well bought-into using the Four Agreements.
But as I began to do my work as – training with the building culturally
responsive systems training, and we began to use the agreements, one day
in our training, someone came up to me, and they were very disgruntled about
us not being able to complete the activity that we were working on.
And just, right off the top of my head, like, I was kind of playing
the Dozens or something. I just said, remember,
expect and accept non-closure. And it was a life-saver.
It was a life-changer. It was a aha moment for me that, when
you’re doing this very difficult work, and when you’re having these
courageous conversations, oftentimes, you can’t just walk into the
situation without having protocols or without having tools, without
having resources, to help you be able to move through, again,
what’s going to be very difficult. And so we’re going to introduce to you
the Four Agreements, and then we’re going to have you get up – because we
know you’ve been a lot of sit-and-get. So the first agreement
is stay engaged. The second agreement
is speak your truth. The third agreement
is experience discomfort. And the fourth agreement
is expect and accept non-closure. Now, I’ve chosen people in the
audience to help me go more deeply with what these actually mean.
And so I’m going to ask the person who was chosen to speak more
deeply on, what does it mean to stay engaged,
if you could please stand. And I’m going to give her the
microphone so that everyone can hear. – Stay engaged. Participants in
courageous conversation must stay engaged.
This is a personal commitment each person makes regardless
of the engagement of others. staying engaged means remaining
morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue.
To stay engaged is to not let your heart and mind check out of the conversation
while leaving your body in place. – Thank you, [inaudible].
Let’s give her a round of applause. [Applause] The second agreement
is speak your truth. If you have speak your truth,
please stand. – Speaking your truth in courageous
conversations about race requires a willingness to take risk.
Speaking your truth means being absolutely honest about your thoughts,
feelings, and opinions, and not just saying what you perceive
others want to hear. Too often, we don’t speak our truth
out of the fear of offending, appearing angry, or sounding ignorant.
But, until we can become completely honest, the dialogue will remain
limited and ultimately ineffective. – Let’s give [Sharmay]
a round of applause. [Applause] And when we talk about speaking
your truth, we actually have more in-depth conversation about, how do
you do that respectfully as well. How are you
speaking your truth? But how are you doing
that in a respectful way? Whoever has experience
discomfort, please stand. – Thank you. Experience discomfort.
Because of the problematic state of racial conditions in our society,
courageous conversations necessarily create discomfort for participants.
Rather than experience the discomfort in interracial dialogue, people often
put a emphasis on how we are all alike instead of addressing
our obvious differences. Typical diversity trainings are focused
around not getting participants upset or too uncomfortable.
Traditional diversity training, however, has been unsuccessful in
helping schools close the racial achievement gap.
The courageous conversation strategy, on the other hand, asks participants
to agree to experience discomfort so they can deal with the reality of
race in an honest and forthright way. – Thank you.
Give her a round of applause. [Applause] And the last one –
expect and accept non-closure. – Simply put, we cannot discover
a solution to a challenge if we have not been able to talk about it.
Furthermore, the magnitude, complexity, and longevity of our
racial struggle and strife in the United States rule out any
possibility of discovering a quick fix. In this conversation,
the solutions discovered are ever-forming and ever-changing.
Therefore, participants must commit to an ongoing dialogue as an
essential component of their action. This is how to manifest the agreement
to expect and accept non-closure. – And round of applause.
[Applause] Thank you so much to our readers.
I really appreciate that. So we are – the other thing
I wanted to say to you is that we have to think about the context in
which we’re using these agreements. And so, if we’re having a staff meeting,
we might have a different feeling about a specific agreement than if
we’re having a deep conversation with race at the center of it.
And so we have to think about our context for when we’re –
how we’re using the agreements and what our reactions
are to each of these four agreements as we think about
that context. So we’re going to give you
some time to – like I promised, to move around, to kind of think
about these four agreements, and to go to that piece of the model
that’s around self-awareness. So we’re going to be doing some
self-awareness work with this activity that’s coming up.
And what we’re going to ask you to do, you have seen there are four – the
Four Agreements are around our room. We have speak your truth in the –
if I’m facing the front of the room, it’s on the front left-hand side.
And so people who are out there in our livestream world, we’re going to
ask you to also think about having your speak your truth in the
front left-hand side of the room. We also are going to be looking at
staying engaged or listening fully with your ears and hearts and your eyes.
And we’re – so staying engaged will be at the front right of our room.
And we’re going to ask our livestream friends to also place their
staying engaged at the front right. And then, at the back of our room,
we have – if I’m facing the back of the room, we have experience discomfort,
or notice moments of discomfort – if I’m facing the back of the room, is it
at the back left-hand side of the room. And, if I’m facing the back of the room,
our being open to the experience and expecting and accepting
non-closure is to the right-hand side of our room in the back.
So we want you all in the livestream world to place your Four Agreements
in the same areas. So everyone will be –
will know where they need to go. And what we’re going to ask you
to do is, we’re going to ask everyone in the room, physically
and livestream room, which is the least challenging
agreement for you? Think of a scenario
or context or situation. Which would be the least
challenging for you? I’m going to give you a couple
of seconds to think about that. [Silence] And then I’m going to ask you to
stand up, move to the agreement that is the least challenging for you, both in the
physical space and in livestream world, move to the agreement corner
that is the least challenging for you. [Silence] If you end up with a large group –
super large group, break into two smaller groups
in that corner. And we want you to have
a conversation with your neighbors about why that particular agreement
is least challenging for you. And we’re going to give you
three minutes for that. Go. [inaudible background conversations] When I say “bring it,”
you say “back.” Bring it.
– [audience] Back. – Bring it.
– [audience] Back. – Bring it.
– [audience] Back. – Waaaay back. Thank your neighbors.
[laughs] And I’m going to ask you to
listen to the next set of directions. Now we’re going to have you
move to the section of the room that is most challenging for you. Both in the physical space
and in the livestream room, please move to the corner of the
room that has the agreement that you feel the
most challenging. Go. [inaudible background conversations] When you arrive at that corner
of the room, please begin to have a conversation with your
neighbors about why you find that agreement
most challenging. If you have a very large group, please
break up into two smaller groups. [inaudible background conversations] When I say “hold up,”
you say “wait a minute.” Hold up.
– [audience] Wait a minute. – Hold up.
– [audience] Wait a minute. – Let us put some courage in it.
[laughter] Thank your partners. And you may
return to your seats. [inaudible background conversations] As you make your way back to your
seats, think about what you learned about yourself as you went through
utilizing the Four Agreements. What type of self-awareness
work were you able to do? And what did you learn that you can
bring to this very important work? So we talked about
the Four Agreements. And Shavana is going to lead us into
talking about another piece of this protocol, another piece that goes
along with the Four Agreements. She’s going to be telling us and talking
with us about the Six Conditions and also telling us and teaching us
about how to use the compass. – Awesome. Hi, everybody.
– [audience responses] – I am so excited to be here.
These are two of my favorite people. Honestly. So thank you
so much for being here today. In the work that I do at Fond du Lac
School District, we use a protocol by Glenn Singleton –
Courage Conversation protocol. And you heard what Andreal
described as the anchors for her – those Four Agreements.
And if you haven’t seen those before, or even if you have, and you don’t
necessarily do – that’s not what you do and what you live by, I would
challenge you today to think about, how can you infuse those
Four Agreements into the work that you do every single day?
And something that we do in Fond du Lac in many of the PLCs that
we have is, those are part of our norms, or our community agreements, or
whatever it is that you call them in the spaces that you come together as staff.
Think about how you can work those four anchors into what you do
in your building, in your district, because those are really, really
important to framing how we talk about difference in general,
whether it’s race or otherwise. And so, Courageous Conversation
protocol has three different parts. One part is the Four Agreements.
And that’s really how we talk about race.
You know, we want to be making sure that people feel – stay engaged and
experience discomfort and speak their truth and understand
that this is not a checklist. It’s not going to be something
like, hey, we talked about that last semester. Now it’s over.
We’re going to do something new. This is work that is ongoing and should
be part of what you do every single day. And the Six Conditions
is what we talk about. And I think that’s
really, really important. Are we talking – what we talk about
is the work that we’re doing. So all of those Six Conditions –
and this is in a handout. You can also follow along on
your PowerPoint on your phones or your laptops if you have them.
But the Six Conditions is what we talk about.
Each of these Six Conditions can be formed into questions that are really
important when you’re doing the work. So are we isolating race?
We can talk about poverty. We can talk about other intersects of
identity, which are very, very important. And we need to centralize
this work around race. Am I staying personal, local, and
immediate in talking about myself? Using I-statements and
not collective we-statements? Because when you say “we,”
a lot of the times, that doesn’t include me as a black woman
and how I enter the space. So thinking about,
who am I talking about? And if you’re going to use that
collective language, be specific so people know, who are the
“they” that you’re talking about? Who is the “we”
that we’re talking about? That’s really important in
framing the conversation. Making sure that we are normalizing
multiple perspectives and thinking about social constructs.
Race is a social construct. And it has real-life consequences
for people of color in our society, historically and modern-day.
So we need to make sure that, yes, race is simultaneously fake
and very real at the same time. And how are we seeing
whiteness at work? Who are the people that
make up our school districts? And who are the students?
And where might those cultural understandings come into play
in thinking about how we envision what is unacceptable behavior
or any of those things that we talk about in our
PLC meetings? And lastly, thinking about using
a working definition of race. When I say “race,”
what am I talking about? When you say “race,”
what are you talking about? And making sure we’re coming
together and normalizing those multiple perspectives
that come into play. So that’s the Six Conditions.
What we’re talking about when we talk about race. Lastly,
the third part of the protocol is this compass.
And it is my favorite part. Because it kind of makes me become
more self-aware about where I am and where I’m entering a conversation,
and all of this protocol can be used with anyone who doesn’t know the
protocol, which is really, really great. I know some of us aren’t able to
go to PEG’s Beyond Diversity 1 or Beyond Diversity 2, and a lot
of people in the classroom can’t make that happen.
Yet, for those of us who are familiar with this protocol, we can
use it and operate in it every single day even with folks who have
not yet heard about the protocol. And so what this compass is
trying to do is that, we have kind of four quadrants that we
enter this conversation in. And the goal is to make sure we
come together in the middle with courageous conversation – a productive
conversation about race. So what do I believe, what do I feel,
what am I thinking, that then allows me to act? And we have to make sure that
we understand who we are as people – you know, that first slice of the pie
that Andreal talked about in the Model to Inform Culturally
Responsive Practices. I need to be aware of who I am and
my educator identity of my own personal beliefs, my own perspectives,
about race, the implicit bias that I might hold, and how that really
colors how I interact with other people. And so that’s kind of the
three parts of Glenn Singleton’s Courageous Conversation protocol. So what does that actually
look like when you’re doing it? As district equity coach,
I really talk about race and culture and how that influences the classroom.
And what that means for teachers and staff and students alike in our
organizations and our institutions. And so, when I was thinking about
all of – I come across so many different scenarios, and I wanted to
give life to two specific instances, both with black girls – one in
first grade and one in 12th grade. And I think that really kind of accentuates
that this doesn’t just live in high school, where we think kids, you know,
have the ability to talk about some of these harder conversations.
It can – it can extend to 4K, all the way up until we’re living our adult lives.
It really is important that we have space and hold space for these conversations.
And so the first example – I was in a first-grade classroom, and the teacher,
she had called me in. It was kind of before people really knew my position.
And so I got the call of, you know, these black girls in my classroom
could really use a positive role model. And I was, like … okay, all right.
All right. We’re going to talk about this. We’re going to talk about my position.
And I’m going to make sure that I nurture this relationship with
this teacher. And so I came in. I did a little bit of observation.
And she thanked me, and she brought one little black girl in particular –
and remember, this is first grade. She brought her
outside of the classroom. I was standing outside of the classroom.
She pats her on the shoulder. And she goes, thank you so much
for being here for my friend today. You know, she’s been having
a lot of trouble making friends. She’s pretty aggressive
and has trouble being nice. And so I stood there, and I’m, like, okay.
There’s so much to unpack in that statement in understanding that
this was – you know, she was standing right there – a little baby being told that
she is – she’s mean. She’s aggressive, and she’s not nice, and that’s why
she doesn’t have friends, right? And so I thought, and I said, you know,
I really had a good time with you today. Thank you for showing me your
classroom. And I thanked the teacher. And at that moment, I didn’t talk
about it. I created space later. I sent her a little email, and I said, hey,
I would love to talk more about some of the language that was
used today, specifically the word “aggressive.” I’m wondering if we
could take some time to talk about this. And sometimes I don’t get a reply
to those emails, and so I have to keep trying. She replied to me,
and she was pretty escalated. You know, it turned into, how dare you
insinuate that I am treating my black students differently in my classroom.
I didn’t know that “aggressive” was used as a – as a blanket term,
and all of these different things. And so I said, okay.
So we’re meeting two days later. And I was, like – I was hopeful.
I was going to go into the room and, you know, she would be de-escalated.
In fact, she was here. And so, when I thought about the
compass, I knew she was coming in from that emotional quadrant.
And I had some time to cool off. Because when she said “aggressive”
to this little first-grade girl, I was in the emotional quadrant.
And so I had two days to think about, how do I built my capacity in all
of these other areas to then act and lead a conversation – a courageous
conversation with this educator? And so we came together,
and we talked about the importance of language and what that means.
And had we not talked about that, it wouldn’t have led to a conversation
about some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings she had about
the apartment right next to the school that the little girl lived in, and the
misconceptions about her family not caring about education,
and the rant that she went on about police brutality and how perhaps,
you know, she thinks that, right away, if you comply, then nothing is going
to happen. Nothing is going to happen. And so it led to some deeper
conversations that I never would have uncovered had I not just asked
a question and stayed curious and moved out of that emotional
quadrant that I was in. [chuckles] I was kind of fuming.
Because that was me. That’s me. I went through the school
district that I’m coaching in right now. And it just brought me back.
So I had to really, really work to get out of that space solely –
I could be emotional. I could think about my emotions
and how that informed what I believed and what I thought and
how I was going to act. But I knew I needed to move
from that quadrant solely into the other ones to have
a productive conversation. And so that’s not a conversation
that ended that day. I’m still building a relationship with
this educator, and I’m still working on building her capacity to create
change and to really deconstruct some of the implicit bias that she
has when it comes to seeing black kids fighting at her elementary school and
the thoughts that she came up with. And it’s hard.
It’s hard work. My other example is a
12th-grade girl that I love dearly. She is such a leader. And this was a
project that she was so passionate about. She’s, like, you know
what, Ms. Talbert? I think that we need to have
a black history project, and the whole school
is going to see this. [laughs] The whole school needs to see it.
And we made it happen. Not without some hurdles.
You know, so she sent out this optional survey to all of the student body.
And she got almost 700 responses. Some of them, we had to throw out.
[chuckles] Because, you know, when you send out a survey,
there are those people who can be goofballs and whatever.
So we had to throw out a couple, but she had 12 questions –
12 mandatory questions on that survey. Do you believe racism exists
at Fond du Lac High School? Do you believe racism
exists in the community? Where have you seen racist acts
being performed at our school? How have you responded?
All of these different questions, where she got some
beautiful, beautiful data. And we put that together
in a presentation. And so she took four days presenting
ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, 12th grade, at separate times in our
big auditorium, and it was amazing. Just the way that she decided that this is
something that everyone needs to hear. This is the first time
this was done too. And think about that too.
That’s kind of sad. You know, that’s the first time that
we’re having a black history project at our high school that’s for everybody.
Everybody is going to learn about this. And there were some really
positive views about that. She had kids and adults alike
coming up after the presentation saying, thank you so much. And there was
one in particular that made her cry. It was a white boy at school.
I don’t remember what grade level he was in, but he came up and said,
I used racial slurs, and now I understand why that is wrong and why
it’s so painful and why it’s so hurtful. And she started crying. And yet, I understand that that was
not everybody’s experience, right? So we had some adults and kids alike
who came and were, like, that’s racist. Uh-uh. That’s not okay. The things
that she was saying – not okay. And I had one educator in particular
who reached out to me about that. And this was actually – he heard
word-of-mouth, like, so I’m hearing teachers and students talk
about this racist presentation. I wasn’t able to come.
Can you send it to me? And I was, like, woo.
Okay. That’s a big assumption to make when you didn’t even
see the presentation yourself. So I sent him the link. And we got
a chance to sit and talk about it. And, of course, you know, me,
being a black woman in a primarily white school [laughs] and district
and city, I was – again, found myself in that emotional quadrant of, what?
What? Okay. And so this is really personal work. And I encourage
you all to keep doing it and think about how this protocol can
be useful for you. So we talked about, what is racist?
What does that mean? Why did people – why did
you view this as being racist? And it was a hard conversation. And there was a lot to unpack.
And I just really encourage everyone to stay curious and ask questions,
even when it’s hard. And I think the most important thing
from these stories is understanding that, when we talk about safe spaces,
safe spaces does not mean that we are comfortable.
Safe, for me, looks different than safe for everybody
else in this room. Yet, I want to encourage
everyone to think about what a brave space looks like.
Being brave, being courageous, and talking about all of these things that
might bring about some really emotional things in our past – things that
we’ve learned, things that we’ve had to unlearn. And I really want you
all to just move forward and think about, if I don’t ask these questions,
if I don’t stay curious, if I stay silent, what are the repercussions
for everybody else in this larger system?
So thank you. [Applause] [Silence] So we have heard some
real-life stories around what it means to use
some of these protocols. And where we want to take you next is,
I want to first talk about how what – the story that she told, how it
aligns to the Model to Inform. So there were some times in her stories
where self-awareness was evident, where examining the system’s impact
on students and families, where how do you demonstrate that you
believe all students will learn. Understanding unique
identities and worldviews. Accepting institutional responsibility. Utilizing practices and curriculum
to honor students’ cultures. So I wanted to bring that back to
the Model to Inform and have you just really on your own
think about the alignment. What does it mean to
be culturally competent? It means engaging in
these deep conversations. Shavana just told us, don’t stop. Or begin. Have the conversations
that help us fully understand our culture as well as the cultures of the
students and families that we serve. And then also taking us a little bit
deeper into the race conversations. Also, what does it mean
to be culturally competent? We’re going to move into our protocol
that has five aspects to it, and those five aspects are stopping and thinking
about if the problem that you are having is really built around race and culture.
Reflecting – again, with the same question.
Respecting when you do find those differences, but also respecting
how you might go about bridging to some of the students and families
that we serve that might be a little bit farther away from who we are.
Responding to the problem, and then also considering all the
information that’s been given around the problem-solving process.
And so, in order for us to be more explicit about what this
looks and sounds and feels like, we’re going to show you a video of a
team that is actually going to be using these five steps – stopping, reflecting,
respecting, responding, and considering. And we’re going to ask you,
when the video is over, to think about where you
saw some of those five steps. So be watching the
video with that in mind.
– To preface what the conflict was that we’ve been discussing in here is, I just,
with positive intent, came to my peers and said that sometimes I don’t
quite know how to resolve or even initiate resolving a discipline
issue or a conflict with a student of color, particularly a
black student, in my class. I [inaudible] – we started talking
kind of about, does it have to do with the low-income, poverty thread,
and it might very well, but when it all boils down, as Howard had said,
sometimes I may stray away from a conflict with a student of color –
with a black student because I’m not quite sure how they’re going to react.
Are they going to pull the race card? Are they going to get defensive?
Why are you coming down on me? Why aren’t you talking
to somebody else? And sometimes I’m scared or unsure
of how to handle that type of a confrontation, and so I might tend to
avoid that and just maybe let it go or not push the issue as much as I should.
So that’s kind of the conflict that we’ve been talking about here.
– And as we consider the solutions, we definitely don’t – we know we
think of – could we be passive and just allow that behavior to continue?
If we don’t curtail the behavior, then we’re almost kind of giving
life to it and allowing it to thrive and then to continue to go on.
And when we began to delve deeper to ask, is it a question of poverty,
or is it, you know, the race or ethnicity, and I could only bring in a point
of reference from, you know, children that – you know, based on
our experience and what we’ve discussed here and just gauging our
interactions, I could not see one of our children responding to you that way.
So it began to be more of, is it a question of how these children
are socialized and not necessarily so much as connected to their race?
So just wondering, you know, considering the possible solutions,
we have to really look at what the root of the problem is.
And not to soften it. To say … – No. Yeah. Right.
– … you know, if it is, you know … – Right. Absolutely.
– … that it’s [inaudible] it is that. If there’s something else that we need
to look into, then there are other factors that are going to layer it differently.
– Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. – Right. But I think the – basically,
the issue that she’s having is not so much the student, but it’s what she’s …
– That’s the problem. – My trepidation …
[crosstalk] – Her culture. What she’s bringing.
– … in initiating the conflict in the first place.
– What she’s bringing to the table and not even taking into consideration
the student’s life – okay, you know, her – I guess her view of – I guess
black kids that are going to act crazy. Okay. I don’t want to get in a situation
where I got – say, maybe this thing blows out of hand or some parents
come in, and they’re going off on me. – Right.
– And they’re saying, oh, you’re being racist and all that.
She’s trying to avoid that. It’s avoidance.
– Yes. – Yes.
– Mm-hmm. And, Howard, if you think about it,
and you think about our district, which is one of the most
culturally diverse districts in Michigan, yet, if you look at our staff, it is white,
and it is middle-class. Okay? And so, if we’re both voicing that
we have had these thoughts and we’ve had these anxieties – first time
that we’ve voiced this, you know, you’re not going to voice
that at a staff meeting. Because you just don’t say that.
– No. You never say that at a staff meeting.
– But chances are … – Because the record would go, rrrrrr.
– Yeah. [laughs] – You know?
And everybody would, like … – Yes. Chances are, though, we are all …
– Right. – … feeling that way.
And we were talking earlier about that idea of –
and I’ve been guilty of it myself. Well, I’m not comfortable with this,
and so I’m going to avoid it. – Right.
– Right. – But, in avoiding the situation,
you’re really avoiding the student. – Yes.
– Yeah. – And you’re losing that connection.
And once that connection is lost, the teaching is lost.
– And the student will likely lose respect for you.
– Yes. – Oh, definitely.
– Because – and your other students who aren’t giving you problems will lose respect for you too.
– Right. – Because, if they see how you deal
with the situation, and you’re avoiding, and you’re, you know, kind of, like,
I’m just not going to touch that … – Yeah.
– … then they’re looking at you, like, well, what’s up with that?
– Don’t you care about that person? – Right.
– Right. – You know, right, don’t you care?
– Right. – Right.
– You know, and the main thing we talked about what being firm
and being consistent with every student, regardless of race,
SES, sex – everything. – Yes.
– Being firm and being consistent. – That’s why conversations like this
are so important, though. And that’s the big aha moment from
this is that it is okay to talk about it, and it is okay to be honest about it.
And once that step is taken, then it’s a feeling, like, you know, this is …
– I feel better even just admitting my anxiety in the first place.
– Right. – Yes.
– And moving, like, upwards from that point.
– Right. – Yeah.
– Just that opportunity to be transparent. To say, this is it. Put it on the table.
– Right. – And to move on from there.
– Right. – To allow that experience to really
shape what your next interaction with those students will be.
– That’s why I felt it was so important to not say low-SES, but just say,
hey, you know, a black kid. – Mm-hmm.
– Yeah. – And just – I mean – because, I mean,
it is what it is, you know? We’re supposed to be truthful
and honest, you know. And make sure nobody’s being
offended or anything like that. – Right, right.
– But definitely, you know, moving forward, obviously.
Like Stephanie said, as long as you’re – as long as you’re being fair.
– Mm-hmm. – You know, because it’s unfair to say
somebody that’s not of color – like, say, a white kid, if they say, oh, she’s been
harder on me than she is on this kid, because of your fears.
So that’s not fair to them. – Mm-hmm.
– So firm but fair. – I think, in considering the multiple
perspectives of everyone involved, it really takes us back to,
as, you know, Sonya says, perhaps I am, you know, part of this.
And so by you addressing the fact that, you know what, the opportunity for
me to actually change this and be an agent of change, to say that this is not
acceptable, to – you know, in essence, kind of confront your own fear,
then you’re no longer being a part of that problem.
You’re actually working to resolve whatever that conflict is.
– Mm-hmm. Right. – And when I think about it from the
perspective of a black student who wasn’t giving you problems, you know,
there’s that respect again. – Yes.
– Right. – Because I’ll look at you, like, well,
you know, are you afraid of them? – Yep.
– Is it a black thing? – Mm-hmm.
– You know, is it a black/white thing? – Right.
– Is it that you’re going to treat all black kids like this?
Or, you know, something like that. And then, from the perspective of a
white student, or a white parent, like Howard said earlier, you know,
they might say, well, hey, wait a minute. Why is this kid getting away
with something, and my child did it, and they got five days out of school?
– Right. – So …
– I think it’s – like you say, it doesn’t matter the race, the same – or the age.
In my classroom – my kindergarten classroom, I have kids that
do something, and if I don’t respond quickly and in the same manner,
they start saying, and why he did it? And why she did it?
– Yeah. – And why – I didn’t do –
responded in the same way. – Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
– So you’re going to [inaudible] right away if you
don’t respond. I think, in that part of the classroom,
you have to be the teacher. You have to be the boss.
– Right. Yeah. [inaudible] – That goes back to that firmness
and that consistency. – Yeah.
– Yes. – Across the board. – Kathy is going to take us
through our number six. – This is our second number six.
[laughter] This is from the work of Elena Aguilar.
And, as you know, I’m one – like I said before, I’m one of the leadership
and coaching trainers for the Wisconsin RtI Center.
And we use Elana’s other book. But this one – her The Art
of Coaching Teams – she has a protocol in here
with these six steps. And, again, when we’re thinking
about protocol work, especially as adults, we are doing some
self-management work. And that’s what she’s really
referring to here – ground yourself. Know where you sit.
And Andreal just talked about – and Shavana –
about the quadrants. So you could certainly ground
yourself using those. Return to your team norms.
Identify the conflict or the impasse. What is it?
Like, call it. Name it. Decide when to address it.
Now might not be the time. You heard Shavana’s second story
where she – no, first story where she came back a couple days later.
Timing is important. And, if necessary, if it’s that
egregious, address it in the moment. But then, once you’re
done addressing it, let it go. I’d also like to say to you all,
we’re talking about protocols within courageous conversations, but start
with the low-hanging fruit. [laughs] Don’t start with this.
This is pretty high-stakes, right? So first, get people
used to using protocols. That’s a skill in and of itself. And then start with some
easier or lower-stress pieces. Like, we’re going to use a protocol
to determine our norms for our team. Okay? And then, once you start
moving towards that, then you can get into things that are
a little higher stakes like race. But the point is, is to don’t let it go.
Move toward that within your processing. And now Shavana is
going to share and wrap us up. [Silence] – So I really love –
can you hear me? I really love this 9 Healthy Ways
to Communicate by Lee Mun Wah. And I’m not going to go
through all of these. This is a handout for you. But I wanted to take you through
just a couple that, through those two stories that I shared, you might
hear them overlap with some of the Courageous Conversation protocol
work that I had talked about. But the first one is reflect on what’s
being said, and use their words and not yours. A lot of times, we put
words in other people’s mouths. And that’s not what they said.
So making sure – that’s just one simple thing that we can do is
use their words and not ours and stay curious with that too.
So I heard you say this. Is that what you meant?
And that gives them a chance to think about, yes, that’s what I meant, or no,
and then give them a chance to clarify. And that’s just one really
simple thing that really helps. Another one – well, I said be
curious and being open. But number 4 – notice what they’re
saying and what they’re not saying. And I think that’s huge in some of the
conversations that we have in education. We say a lot, and we also don’t say a lot.
We use coded language for things. And so just being curious about,
what are people saying? What might be some unintended
consequences of that – of what they’re saying?
What are some mental mindsets that might be holding us back from really
seeing the change that we want to see? Another one that I think is
really important to highlight is, notice how you’re feeling.
And be honest and authentic about it. Speak your truth – your own truth,
and encourage those around you to speak their truth. And you’ll
get such a long way with that. And lastly, focus on the relationship.
I know a lot of times, in education, we’re, like, we need a solution.
We need a solution. And sometimes we lose
that relational part of things. Especially when we’re talking
about hard subjects like race or culture or any identity that we have.
We have to make sure that we focus on the relationship.
Because we’re going to have to see each other the next hour or the next day.
And if we lose that trust, it’s going to be really hard for us to do
the work that is necessary to move all of our
kids forward. So these are just nine ways,
from Lee Mun Wah, but they’re really, really great ways –
simple ways to better engage with our colleagues and better
engage with our students too. So we threw a lot at you today.
As Kathy said, this race talk is high-stakes. And there’s a lot to unpack,
and there’s a lot to think about when we are engaging in difficult
courageous conversations. So I just want you to take this away.
You don’t have to turn and talk, but think about, as you leave here today,
and as you go on to do whatever it is that you’re going to do for the rest
of the night – go to the waterpark. Sorry for those of you who are
viewing virtually. [laughter] What squares with your thinking?
What is something that you’re, like, I absolutely resonate with that,
and that is awesome. Thank you so much for bringing
that to the forefront again. But also, what is something that might
be circling around in your head? Something maybe that we said that
gives you pause, and that’s okay. Recognize it and lean into that
discomfort that it might have given you, and push through it and do
some thinking about why it is that you’re feeling that way.
And lastly, we gave you lots of protocols, lots of research.
What’s one that you absolutely want to remember and take with you
and back to your teams when you get back to your buildings in your district?
What is one thing that you’re going to be, like, yeah, this is going to be in
my repertoire when I get back, and I’m going to show these folks.
Like, yeah, we’re going to do this work. So, thank you so much for being
here with us this afternoon. I know it’s a little – it’s late.
People are ready to go. But if you could please,
please, please fill out this survey. Tell us what you thought.
Because we really value your feedback and want to find ways to make
this better. Thank you again. Oh, and there
are paper copies. [Applause] [Silence]

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