Tools for Calling In to Conversations About Race

A colleague recently said to me, “We know we are doing important equity work if people are asking lots of questions, when people are getting uncomfortable.” Like many, I like to refer to the conversations we have as Healing or Courageous Conversations rather than Hard Conversations. In a recent email, Elena Aguilar called these simply “Conversations About Race.” Aguilar writes, “Even if they’re uncomfortable or complicated, these conversations can bring relief, closure, and closeness.” I think that Hard Conversations are about me, while Healing and Courageous focus on the purpose which is to address racist actions, biases, and microaggressions. The purpose is to be an advocate for marginalized groups and to plant seeds of awareness, reflection, and potentially transformation for those who intentionally or unintentionally cause harm. The purpose, in education, is to continually ask “How Are the Children?” In this post, I want to share two tools to help engage in Conversations About Race.

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Student Agency, Feedback, and Voice

Last year, I wrote about Pedagogy of Voice, as described in Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation. This weekend I am rereading the Pedagogy of Voice chapter: Redefine “Success” and striving to go deeper into the content. In this post, I want to share some of the passages that are standing out the most, and why.

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Speak Up to Call In

One of my school’s goals this year is to engage in Strategic Listening and to lean into Courageous Conversations. We know that the language we use has an impact on students, colleagues, and families. The language we use also reflects our beliefs, and by being intentional on our language choices, we can increase our own self-awareness and shift beliefs. As educators, we must strive to examine our language and beliefs. We must also support each other in this work to help us see our blind spots and to grow as social justice educators; and that happens through conversation. In this post, I want to highlight some ideas from Teaching Tolerance’s Speak Up Guide, in order to synthesize the guide and to share this important resource with others.

“Every moment that bias goes unanswered
is a moment that allows its roots to grow deeper and stronger.
Bias left unanswered is bias tacitly approved.
If you don’t speak up, you are saying, in your silence,
that you condone it.”    – Speak Up Guide

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The Four Pivots, Part Three

This post is the third of four based on Shawn Ginwright PhD’s The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves. The Four Pivots include:

  1. From Lens to Mirror (see The Four Pivots, Part One)
  2. From Transactional to Transformative (see The Four Pivots, Part Two)
  3. From Problem to Possibility
  4. From Hustle to Flow

The themes of From Problem to Possibility include: Perspective, Possibility, and Outlook. They are the focus in today’s post.

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Embracing Change

At the beginning of the summer, one of my meditations described two kids making a sand castle on a beach. They were in the moment and joyful as they built their castle, only to have it washed away by a wave. One of the kids picked up a shovel and started rebuilding while the other broke into tears, devastated by the erasure of the sand castle. This has been a beautiful metaphor for me with an end of the school year filled with many changes. It has helped me remember the importance of showing up with my full self, being in the moment, and relationship building.

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Focus Students and Process Observers

In previous posts I have written about the importance of having Process Observers to provide feedback on meeting processes. In addition, I have written about improving one’s practice by observing and listening to ideas from a Focus Student. In this post, I want to consider how using the Process Observer ideas around language, tone-of-voice, and body language can support deeper learning from  (and in service to) Focus Students.

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My Why

It’s interesting to me that this, my 50th post, brings me back to my “why.” I’ve written in previous posts about the importance of knowing one’s why, and acting within one’s why.

“We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.”
– Simon Sinek


Today I want to delve deeply into my why and the reasons behind my why.

My Why:
“Be a mirror to reflect back to our students their beauty and brilliance
so they feel: belonging, safe, heard, seen, valued, joy, and LOVED.”


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Constructive Feedback

In my last post, I began a summary of Tell Me So I Can Hear You, by Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano. In this post, I want to continue the summary by focusing on constructive feedback and bridging feedback into action. Action is where the impact of change is felt, and where we can develop more equitable schools and teaching practices.

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Michele McDonald introduced the R.A.I.N. technique more than twenty years ago and I’ve read about it in coaching books, mindfulness resources, and most recently in The Inner Work of Racial Justice, by Rhonda Magee. R.A.I.N. (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Non-Identify) can help one develop insight by pausing and noticing thoughts more deeply in order to see more clearly. This is particularly useful when feeling stress, strong emotions, or confusion. In this blog, I will summarize how Magee, Elena Aguilar, and Janet Baird present the technique. I find Magee’s focus on using R.A.I.N. to increase self-awareness around racism and biases to be powerful.

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