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Dr. Chris Jones is the Principal of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in Massachusetts. He is the author of SEEingtoLead and host of the podcast SEEingtoLead. His overarching goal is to positively model continuous improvement in all facets of life by being purposeful, acting with integrity, and building character. In this episode, we go totally off-script to dig into what it looks like to talk about and take action towards a racial justice.
The Big Dream
We are taking action on a daily basis born from a broader, greater, deeper understanding of everybody’s journey and how they got to where they are now. We need to act in a way that honors the history each individual has gone through including intergenerational trauma.
Alignment to the 4 Stages: Mindset, Pedagogy, Assessment, and Content
Following building closures for COVID, the district has become more racially and linguistically diverse. This prompted a realization that change is needed. Most students were in homogeneous communities in their homes during lockdown. Coming back to school and being in a racially diverse school has caused discomfort.
Mindset Shifts Required
As leaders, we have to stop being defensive.
Leaders need to help students and caretakers be in an emotional state where they feel safe and be part of a community.
From Dr. Ibram Kendi: Racism is a continuum and action-based.
Several things Dr. Jones has tried include:
Support Teachers and Students to Create Belonging for All Students
This involves curriculum and practice being culturally responsive and sustaining.
Create a Parent Advisory Group to the Principal
BIPOC parents and caretakers were invited to be in this group.
Ensure Opportunities for Students to Join Clubs and Affinity Groups
No Place for Hate. Get training on how to start affinity groups.
Invite Black, Brown, Indigenous, Arab and Asian Students into Conversations about Policies
Ask “Why is this important to you?” Leaders, do your own research. Don’t be afraid to change the policy next week.
Thank Students Who Share Critical Feedback
It’s as simple as, “Thank you for bringing this up to me.”
Talk to White Students Who are Engaging in Cultural Appropriation
After doing this, Dr. Jones saw white students stop wearing durags. Sometimes, students will just not do something around you because they know you’ll do something about it, but other times, they will reflect, engage in conversation, and stop doing it.
One Step to Get Started
Think about others’ experiences as a set of transparencies. Start with the first layer of what you believe in (your values) and the fact that we’re all human beings. Then, consider others’ experiences are not the same as yours and recognize you don’t understand their lived experiences. Seek to learn. Then, look at institutions and policies you can impact and recognize the effects of those policies on others.
You can find Dr. Jones on @DrCSJones on almost all social media sites and on his website. You can email him at email@example.com.
To help you in your leadership journey, Dr. Jones is sharing resources each week in his newsletter. You can sign up to get it here for free. And, if you’re looking for more details on the ideas in this blog post, listen to episode 126 of the Time for Teachership podcast. If you’re unable to listen or you prefer to read the full episode, you can find the transcript here.
Resource: In this episode, Lindsay mentioned the book, On Apology by Aaron Lazare, M.D.
If you enjoyed this episode, check out my YouTube channel where I create a unit plan using cooking and justice:
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.