I related to the part in Heifetz’s quote that states, “they may learn vital information that would ordinarily be lost to view without engaging the perspectives of those who challenge them.” I like to think that is how I would respond to issues arising from cultural differences. I always encourage my students to learn about other cultures in order to understand others.
Going Deeper with Cultural Proficiency
At my school an ongoing conversation topic is the transparency of the decision making process. The top down style of decision making has left groups feeling alienated. I like the inclusion of the question about assessment data. I wonder if they mean for it to be broken down by demographics for closer study, or as a more general view of the student population as a whole.
Why do team members disengage?
Because they take offense, and see it as if they are benefiting then they are racists. They are not seeing the whole picture as just recognizing the differences and inequalities that exist around us. I would warn everyone ahead of time that we were about to engage in a sensitive conversation topic, and ask everyone to have an open mind and not take offense. Having a specific protocol is often helpful, such as a specific method for responses or providing some frameworks for responses, to help keep people professional. In my experience, people find it kind of cheesy and awkward at first but as it continues, people do see the value as it drives the conversation.
These are a lot of assumptions with little evidence. I would chart these concerns and really take the time (perhaps in follow up meetings) to look into why they believe these are barriers and if there are any easy workarounds. Digging deeper on these assumptions might reveal long held beliefs that aren’t necessarily helpful at today’s school, and that can be addressed in a safe, structured way.
1. We can hold strong beliefs about things like sports or career, but can accept other’s views, while culturally based disagreements can be near impossible to turn the other way.
This really stood out to me because it was a very true statement. It is interesting how we can set some things aside and others can actually be a barrier to understanding others.
2. “In what ways are our decision-making processes transparent and subject to change based on community needs?”
This stood out to me because it is something that my district is dealing with currently. When decisions are collective and transparent, even the people who don't get their way can respect the process. When leadership issues mandates with little to no input, or selected input, then many people feel alienated. Teachers and coworkers form friendships though, and discuss things, and rumors start to fly rather than dealing with tough truths.
3. “The change process benefits from having a facilitator who can identify sources of resistance and collaboration and uses the resulting dissonance to spark learning and group development."
Having a facilitator is key to these kinds of conversations. Emotions will tend to rise, and it's important to have a protocol to follow with a facilitator to guide the discussion.C
Getting Centered Reflection
The nature of my school and it’s partner agency is to force the students to adapt to it. In theory, it’s supposed to be a place of rehabilitation, but the emphasis is more on keeping order and security by using strict schedules and protocols. The recent laws in California have started to keep non-violent, minor offenders out, which is great because they are getting the help they need while keeping them at home, however this has led to a skyrocketing percentage of special needs and emotionally unstable students. There has not been a correlating increase in support services, because it was rather fast and unexpected. To move to this new philosophy in education, we need much more support for students as well as teachers and staff, which our district has recognized by creating new positions for coaches and other support staff.
Going Deeper Reflection
One question that currently guides my district is “In what ways do I keep apprised of the changing demographics of our school…?” We have this conversation often, but it needs to happen in a structured setting with leaders that can actually put our suggestions into action, or facilitate a brainstorming session and come up with directives. Without the action, these PLCs just turn into a forum to complain and leave people feeling more helpless.
PBL is all about trust. The old way isn’t working, and hasn’t for some time. This new way may even become outdated as our schools evolve to fit new situations. PBL provides a way to continually assess and manage changing schools.
- “ in our profession, we have yet to acknowledge that not all demographics groups of students are new.” I think this was a no-brainer for me but I can see how some teachers that have been doing the same things forever might not see a need to change if the students are more or less the same, in their eyes. Cultures change and shift and schools need to assess their work and work to evolve just the same.
- The question from page 102 that caught my eye as something that posed an opportunity for further learning for my school was the very last one, “In what ways does our learning community advocate for equity when resources are limited?” While we are experiencing a shortage of support, this is an important question to ask as a school and a a district, to try and rally the resources we do have.
- I can relate to Owolbe because I recently had a teacher ask me to go to a conference in her place, because her students needed her there. In some ways, in our case, I can see why she might want to provide that consistency. However the conference was really valuable and I think her students might have benefitted more from her attending it and learning new skills. I did try to pass on as much as I could, but she would have been able to attend the sessions that best fit her and her classroom’s needs.