Mindful Musings


Currently showing posts tagged Diversity

  • 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 a 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 assessment 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 merely 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 to 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 1 of 4)

    Lately I have noticed a bit of a trend that I sincerely hope becomes more of a norm in education than the many learning fads I constantly see come and go. More and more educators are looking at reading books that serve a number of professional learning interests, but these books are also more for their own personal growth beyond being an educator. In many of the workshops and lectures I give regarding race, equity, culture, and diversity I often share one of my personal goals, that I have done a decent job sticking to, is to read a book a week. It may seem like a lot but it really isn't if you look for books that are going to serve a professional growth or personal interest purpose. 

    Recently I've had a number of Educators ask me for book recommendations based upon conversations I have had with them in person or via social media. The cool thing is many have finished one recommendation only to ask for another. So I thought it would be helpful if I were able to collect a series of recommendations into one convenient place and give some contextual analysis around the books themselves and what thematic purpose they may serve. In one of the many, but not enough, conversations I had with my close friend Dee Lanier we looked at creating a thematic focus for series of books so educators would understand the underlying meaning of them together. Dee is also working on an expansion pack for his Smashboard Edu card decks that will provide educators with a framework on how to engage in more meaningful and deeper conversations on the topics of race, culture, and equity. I will share a link in a future post once the project is ready for launch. Until then, the overarching themes are as follows:

    In this post we will take a closer (no pun intended) look at the theme of the telescopes. These are books that bring a closer more condensed perspective on history and the life experience. In some cases they also provide a better "view" on things in the past that we have either not seen, were hidden from us, or have been purposely overlooked. Among the many books in this thematic category the listing Dee and I have found personally beneficial and have suggested to read are:

    White Rage, by Carol Anderson

    Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The Color of Water, by James McBride

    Stamped from the Beginning, by  Ibram X. Kendi

    The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

    A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History by Jeanne Theoharis

    Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen

    Drink Cultura: Chicanismo by José Antonio Burciaga

    Burro Genius: A Memoir by Victor Villaseñor