Mindful Musings

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  • Real Talk About Education- Distance/eLearning (first in an on-going series)




    Image obtained from here

    Distance Learning, Remote Learning, eLearning, no matter what you call it or how you package it, is not working. Here's the thing, it never had a chance in the first place. When the decision to shut down in-person schooling swept the Country, even the World, educators, and support staff across the Educational spectrum had to make significant adjustments. In far too many of these cases, the changes had to be implemented within just a few days. Who would have planned for a pandemic of this magnitude, let alone included something this catastrophic in their strategic plan? The problem is, no amount of planning or preparation would have shielded a significant percentage of students in schools without looking at the systemic structures in the first place. It has been seen, written, and experienced that this entire situation we are managing has revealed the deep enduring wound covered by the comfort of complacency, platitudes, and diversionary rhetoric so often prevalent in education.

    “Be aware of when privilege tries to speak everyone’s stories. It’s not true.” 

     

    Image source unknown

    This entire situation is affecting so many people in so many different ways. Yes, we get the stories of how some kids are thriving during remote learning or how some educators have managed to remain closely connected with their students. There are many lessons to be learned through these examples, but they do not account for the majority. In fact, in education, we tend to highlight and celebrate the outliers while conveniently ignoring the most vulnerable, the marginalized.

    As recently as 2018, a research study showed that nearly 1 in 5 students could not complete their homework due to the digital divide (Another post coming soon on homework). While I am not a fan of big data, primarily in how it's used, the numbers show an even bleaker picture. The figures show how inequitable access is when fewer than half the students in some schools are participating online or just as bad when 55,000 students have little to no contact with their teachers. How many of these students are actually "essential workers" and are forced to choose between working to support their homes or go online and do school work, if they have access? How many of those with access must share devices, connectivity, a "quiet" space, or a hotspot with siblings that also are attempting to connect with their teachers? How many students, in general, need additional supports and resources via their 504 plan or IEP? How are those needs met? How will 3.7 million socioeconomically disadvantaged students, 721,000 students with disabilities, 195,000 homeless students, and other subgroups be appropriately and responsively serviced during this time? Note: if all of this is alarming to you, okay, it should be. Reminder, this is not new data, but this is my attempt to humanize big data.

     

    Another one of my many concerns about this entire situation is the lack of perspective on the experiences of those that have been othered (If you don't understand it, then you probably have not experienced it). Let's say connectivity is not a barrier, and your students do have access. Then there is this brilliantly written piece by Dr. Taharee Jackson around video classism and bias that is a worthwhile read. Another area to consider is how cultural identity plays a significant role in the ways students who do have access connect? I also am seeing more and more posts in which students, parents, and educators are expressing their frustrations with what they are tasked with managing. While this video here went viral, it certainly does encapsulate the feelings of quite a few parents. 

    This post by Christina Torres What a Global Pandemic Reveals About Inequity In Education and this one by Thomas Rademacher Distance Learning, and also I Hope We Don’t All Die From This both provide perspectives on what actual classroom teachers are navigating right now.

     

    It was never realistic to expect teachers and students to navigate this shift without obstacles and glitches, if at all. Part of my Masters Degree is in Instructional Design and I had to take a full year of classes around different methodologies for instruction this graph briefly outlines the differences

     

    Learning Type

    Synchronous/Asynchronous

    Technology

    Remote Learning

    Both

    Does not require

    Distance Learning

    Both

    Does not require

    eLearning

    Both

    Required



    Instead of trying to move classes online, schools should support parents in educating their children

    Until we genuinely address the digital divide, which means, among many things, designating the internet as a utility, these disparities will endure for another generation. Please consider signing this petition here regarding internet access. Without access, there is no opportunity. Without opportunity, all existing "gaps" will persist or, even worse, become permanent. This is a time where I hope all educators will default to support the base human needs of their students and themselves. The likelihood of any meaningful learning taking place right now varies depending on the access and environment a student is in. I know many are concerned about grades, they don't matter and shouldn't anyway (more on this later). Going forward, we must collectively reject the false narratives around equity being a buzzword or treated as an afterthought. We must support each other in demanding a new, more equitable structure to replace the current one because as it crumbles, it is far too easy to identify who will likely be buried under the rubble.

     

  • Why Your DEI Plans May Be DOA


    I have noticed both an encouraging and a discouraging pattern when it comes to schools, school districts, and organizations looking at professional learning in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). On one hand, you have the ever-increasing awareness around the importance and critical need for learning growth in this area. On the other hand, this increase has led to the inevitable “mistakes,” box-checking, and flat out educational malpractice when it comes to this work. While I am one of many voices on this topic (I hope you are learning from more than one), I felt compelled to share some strategies around developing meaningful DEI plans so the many common and consistent mistakes I see made are likely to be avoided.

    In doing this work it is critical to have the support, which is key, and the active participation from those in leadership positions. Merely mandating or treating equity work as “just another PD” will not only diminish the value, it will also lead to a mindset that it is of very low value. This also continues to shift the focus from the true locus of change, educators working with the students. Not sure what I mean, do an anonymous survey of teachers, employees, etc. and ask how valuable most find all of those professional development workshops in which a leader is not present and actively participating. I also recommend follow-up reflections and assessments to see how truly effective that “one day workshop” on this topic really was.

    One area I find lacking is in a full understanding of each of those “terms.” I use the word terms in quotes because I sincerely hope that many of them are not treated as mere terms but rather mindsets that are directly correlated to action and thought. I will share more on each of them at the end of this post. Your staff should be able to explain each one and apply it to your specific setting or scenario. A good start to learning this and doing the work would be to review this site page here.

     

    Do identifiers matter?

    While I am on the topic of identifiers it is also critical to use specific identifiers. This keeps conversations and interaction on a human level rather than the identifiers being abstract thematic descriptors. By using specifics such as Black, People of Color, Indigenous, etc. conversations take on a specificity necessary for understanding. This also leads to another point, being purposeful and intentional in whom you select to do this work is critical. I have seen far too many instances where both the optics and outcome tell a story of an individual or group leading this work and they are not only ill-equipped but also doing more harm than good. As I generally share, good intentions are not good enough if they don’t yield good results. Here are some questions to consider:

    Are you organizing a workshop or “training?” who is the facilitator? Simply choosing a person of color because they “fit the profile” can actually cause more harm than choosing an equally non-qualified person who is not a person of color. What is their background? What is their body of work? How does their life experience support the need for the work in the first place?

    As you build and refine your plan it should include specifics for inclusion. A focus on diversity without inclusion is highly likely to be a catalyst for trauma and unsafe conditions for a person of color. This also provides a situation of tokenism and more box-checking. A truly inclusive plan ensures that everyone has a voice and that every voice is heard. Heard meaning: welcomed, listened to, responded to, and valued. This will also ensure your plan is purposeful, intentional, and genuine. If your plan does not meet all three criteria it is highly likely nothing more than optics for acceptance rather than action for change. It is important that I also mentioned the cliched use of the term “safe space.” One simple question to ask: Safe for whom? As my good friend Dee Lanier has said, “the worst form of hypocrisy is pretending you care.”

    As you continue developing your plan what is the time frame?

    This is not work you can microwave and do it in one day, or worse a few hours. We don’t go to therapy on one visit and walk out healed. This is not work that should be looked at as a “one day workshop.” There are so many layers to not only doing this work but having it be sustainable. A one day workshop is no better than not doing it at all. In fact, this is another good way to create false expectations and an incorrect sense of accomplishment. Also does your plan look at your organization/school district as a whole (institution) and then address the parts (individuals) or does it simply treat DEI as an existential idea? Far too often it is the latter and not the former. Additional areas to look at in any plan include: Is the plan dynamic and malleable to adjust for changes in individual ideas, attitudes, and/or behaviors? Or is the plan static and the equivalent of a series of checkboxes? Does it look at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as individual components or does it identify each as essential threads in a quilt of organizational change (I will publish another posting on this topic)?

    Does DEI really need the D?

    As I conclude, I want to emphasize as well DEI should not need the D for Diversity. If your plan of action is truly inclusive then both equity and diversity will be natural by-products. Inclusion is about ensuring access, involvement, and opportunity. Opportunities to be seen, heard, and valued, where the ideas and perspectives increase the value of the whole rather than the sum of the parts. My primary purpose here is to simply provide added perspective based upon my extensive experiences as well as observations in this area. Remember, it is easy to change policies and procedures, it is much harder to change hearts and minds. For educators, this type of shift is often deeply personal and requires a large amount of introspection. Without this type of process, we will never be able to disrupt an inequitable, hegemonic, and broken system. Hopefully, this will serve as a thought-provoking conversation starter for you, your department, and your organization.

     

  • A Pathway To Being Better, Doing Better (Part 4 of 4)

    We have reached the final installment of this series on the pathway to Being Better, Doing Better. The previous 3 postings covered the thematic areas of telescopes, microscopes, and mirrors. In our final installment we take a look at resources that are intended to be "brief", and ideally serve as a springboard into one of our other thematic areas. This is why the final thematic area is called Binoculars and Magnifying Glasses. 

    As you work your way through the resources below they are certain to provide you with many moments of deeper thinking, questioning many things you have been led to believe, and providing broader perspectives on their subject matter. I actually found it quite useful to listen to the podcasts more than once since there was so much content I wanted to delve into deeper, hence me sharing many of the book titles I have listed in the previous posts. While the list below has been carefully curated, there is lots more to access beyond it. In fact, I would highly recommend subscribing to several of them since the episodic content is so well done and is literally food for thought.

    We Talk Different:
    Episode 35- "What Does It Mean To Be White" Edition Part 1

    Episode 37- "What Does It Mean To Be White" Edition Part 2

    Episode 27- The "White Fragility" Episode Part 1

    Episode 29- The "White Fragility" Edition Part 2

    Episode 99- The White Fragility with Dr. Robin DiAngelo Edition

    Code Switch:
    Code Switch Goes To College

    Ask Code Switch: School Daze

    Behind The Lies My Teacher Told Me

    Respect Yourself

    On Strike!! Blow It Up!!

    Love and Walkouts

    Revisionist History:
    Miss Buchanan's Period of Adjustment

    The Hug Heard Round The World

    General Chapman's Last Stand

    My Little Hundred Million

    WBUR:
    Michael Eric Dyson’s ‘Sermon To White America’

    How Charter Schools Are Prolonging Segregation

    The Breakdown Episode 29

    The Good Ancestor Episode 1 and Episode 9

    The Atlantic: Myth of Meritocracy

    The Atlantic: Myth of Learning Styles

    While there are lots more resources I could share here this should provide a very solid understanding of how this thematic area works and hopefully be a catalyst for you to further explore your own learning in these areas. I hope to cross paths at some point soon with as many of you as possible to share thoughts around the content in this series and hopefully share ideas on how we can work together going forward. Thanks for taking the time to read and  listen.