How Builders Handle Equity


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 75. 

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you faith. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have.

Let's get started. 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And today we are going to talk about equity. Now, equity is an issue, a lot of people have a lot of feelings about it. And so we're going to dive into this concept today about how builders deal with equity. And I think it's going to give a lot of people a lot of relief, because I know that there are a lot of people right now who want to do the right thing, but they are nervous about wading into this equity conversation. They don't want to get it wrong, and they're not quite sure how to do it. And I'll be honest with you, a lot of what we've been taught about equity work, I believe, has been done in the wrong way. I believe that it's set us up to make a lot of mistakes. And in many ways, it's set us up to make things worse instead of better. So we're gonna have a conversation today about how builders handle equity. But before we dive into that, I have a couple of reminders.

Now the first reminder is that our next builders lab is coming up January 25 through 27 2021. And we're going to do another virtual builders lab 360 degree experience. I, we did one this summer and it was our first one and a lot of people in our organization who have done you know, four or five builders labs with us now, they all say that this was one of the best builders labs we've ever had. We have created an entirely immersive 360 degree experience. And so it's a way for you to participate in builders lab from the comfort of your own home. So if you wanted to come to builders lab in the past and you haven't been able to travel now is your chance, you will still have to take off work. So this is not something that you can play in the background.

This is a live experience. 

It's not a three day zoom meeting where you can turn your camera off even. This is something that is so interactive that every single day we look up and we're like, whoa, wait a minute, the time's up already. And we do have a full day we go every day from 10 o'clock to six o'clock eastern standard time. So those of you on the west coast, that would be seven o'clock to what's at three o'clock. So we do a full day. But when I tell you that this is an interactive and immersive experience, that's exactly what I mean. So we use we have a whole studio built for builders lab 360. And in that studio, I am when you're watching, I'm actually on stage I am drawing things on on the screen. I'm you know, so it's not just you looking at PowerPoint slides and listening to my voice we are interacting, plus I have an entire Bank of monitors set up in front of me so that I can see each and every one of you so the moment you have a question or The moment you're like, what, how does that work? You can stop me and I can answer your question. So this is not this whole kind of, you know, the sit and get model. This is very interactive, because that's one of the things that has made builders lab work live for so long. Not only that, but we are in breakout rooms doing work. So you learn something, you immediately go and you work on it. In fact, a lot of people are starting to bring their teams to builders lab, because they get so much work done during those three days. Because if you come as a team, we put you in your own breakout room so that as you're learning, you can immediately apply it. It's just it's marvelous. Plus there is the builders box.

This is a 360 degree experience. We don't just kind of do everything virtually, we send you a physical box, and there's so much stuff in that box. I mean, it's probably my favorite part of builders lab and every day you're opening up something else and you know, it's just it's awesome. So if you want to attend the Next one is happening January 25 through 27 2021. And you can go to mind step slash builders dash lab. That's mindsets, slash builders dash lab and get your ticket. Okay, second announcement is that builder ship University is up and running. We are now only opening opening it up for founders founding members and founding members can come in at a founders price. So when we open up build a ship University later on this year, looks like we're going to be opening up somewhere around December or the first part of January, you will be able to have access to all of our online training courses. You'll be you'll be getting access to exemplars and templates and quick wins and master classes and just the a treasure trove of builder ship training and resources and support plus, you'll be able to participate in Monthly office hours with me where you can get your questions answered. And we can kind of help you troubleshoot through some of the things that you're working on or give you feedback on some of the things that you're working on. And you have access to an entire community of builders.

Right now, we are only letting a small group of people in who are going to be founding members of Buildership University. 

So if you want to be a founding member of builder, ship University, just go to our website, mindset and then click on the link, you can fill out an application to apply to be a founding member. And then when we open it up in December, you can become an actual member of builders. Should I say actual I probably shouldn't say actual because founding members are actual members, they just get in in front of everybody else. And they are a part of helping us develop what content and giving us feedback on content. And they get a couple of extra perks because they are founding members. But if you'd like to be a part of that, go to mindset That's our website, and then just click on build a ship University. And you can apply to be a founding member. And when we open up in December, we'll be opening it up to everybody so that everybody can join builder ship University.

Okay, it's the last thing. One of the frustrations that I've had with the podcast is that every week I talked to you, and then there's no way for you to talk back to me. And especially because we're going to be tackling some big issues this season. We were looking for a way to kind of make the podcast a little bit more interactive, and I think we found it. So what we've done is we've started a Facebook group, and it's just for school leadership reimagined podcast listeners, and every single week inside the Facebook group, we will be sharing additional resources and tools based on that week's episode, plus, every week I'll be getting on and we're going to have kind of an after the show conversation. So that's a great place for you to jump on to to share your opinion about the topics that we're sharing on the show to ask question. questions, if you're not sure about something to get, you know, to give me some feedback to to raise those yes buts about some of the topics we're going to be talking about on the show. So we have just started this group. And I would love for you to be a member of this group, because every single week, we can continue the conversation Plus, there's an additional resource that I want to share about the show. Or if I want to ask you questions about upcoming shows, as I'm preparing for it.

It's a place for us to interact.

I will be inside of that group every single week, interacting with you talking to you, but more importantly listening to you, as we develop content for the show, or as you give me feedback on on some of the things that I'm sharing here in the show. So I would love for you to be a part of that. Won't you join me and I know a lot of people saying, Well, I'm not on Facebook because I don't want my kids to find me Well, you can make a profile that is not fundable, and then come in and join us in this private group. So we set up the group so that you can find the group but people can't see who's in groups. So if you have an online stalker, they're not going to find you inside of this group. But I would love for you to join me in this group because I feel like, especially now we need to be having these rich conversations. One of the things that I was really frustrated about, especially at the beginning of the quarantine back in the spring, and I even posted on a couple of social media platforms, where are people having conversations about transformation? I know a lot of people are having conversations about let's maintain, how do we maintain our school, but this is school leadership reimagined. So where people have in conversations, where we're reimagining what school looks like, and I don't know that I ever found it. So I decided to create that place. But it only works. If you join me. I don't want to be in there talking to my cell phone. So please, go to Facebook, look for the school leadership, reimagined Facebook group.

Join me Let's have conversations especially because today we're going to be talking about equity and I know that When we talk about equity, you know, everybody has a lot of baggage around equity. I don't know about you, but I remember being in trainings as a teacher and then even as an administrator, these equity trainings, and they always used to bug me. They bugged me for a couple of reasons. One is because a lot of times they were very confrontational. It seemed like the trainer was trying to make every white person in the room at MIT that they had experienced and benefited from white privilege that they were a part of systemic racism. And they were forcing people to kind of confronting people with this. And it felt very uncomfortable for me as a person of color to watch. It did doesn't mean that I disagree with the idea of privilege or the idea of systemic racism. But I disagreed with the way that people were confronted with it and I disagreed with it for a very specific reason. When you confront people when you back them into a corner, and for them to admit something like that. They may do that in the moment. But when they go home and they think about that, they start thinking about Wait a minute. I mean, I'm a good person, I and then they start kind of going on about what in because you've just made them feel awful. And then they go back and they start repairing that. And they start saying, Well, I'm a good person I do this. I'm not that. So no, I don't have it and you actually make people worse off you actually make people more cemented in their denial of privilege because you force them to admit it so that your workshop could feel revolutionary your workshop could feel cathartic to people.

I didn't like the training because of that. 

The The second reason I didn't like the trainings is because I found that as a woman of color. A lot of times the trainers were relying on me to share my experience and often my pain and they wanted me to sit and and publicly confess my opening pain for somebody else's catharsis. And there's something that just doesn't feel right about that. So, I'm going to go out in the limb and say that one workshop is not going to solve racism. I'm also going to go out on an on a limb and say that just making people feel uncomfortable, isn't going to solve racism or create instantaneous equity. There's more work that needs to be done. And I do know that there are people out there who are doing that work. But I do want to interrogate the methodology that is often being used to do that work, because it feels very confrontational. It feels like the that the point is to have that that cathartic moment inside the workshop without having the follow up work that really makes the difference. And so and then third reason is that I feel like a lot of those works. shops depend upon changing people's hearts and minds before they change behavior. And I'll be honest with you, I am so impatient to make sure that our schools are serving all of our students. I don't have time to wait for somebody to have an epiphany before that happens. Maybe I'm wrong. And if I'm wrong, you can tell me it's not the Facebook group. I'm happy for somebody to school me on this. But I've been thinking about this for a while. And from what I've seen, and let's just be real. My experience with this is based on my experience, I'm going to start with there. I know that there are people out there who are doing good equity work, but the majority of the equity work that I've experienced, feels like somebody comes into a room. Let's set off a grenade. Everything blows up in the room and then they walk out and they leave the district to clean up that mess.

I'm here today to say that model doesn't work. And builders don't waste their time with that model builders are not about blowing people up and confronting people and backing people into corners and, and they're not about that. builders are about building and building something better. They're not about trying to go in and change the old institution, they're about building a better institution and I think that is probably the fatal flaw in a lot of equity work. A lot of equity work is designed to fix a broken system. And I would argue that it is wasting time fixing a broken system when it could be spending that time building a better system and let me tell you why. I mean, wait, why say wasting time if the system is broken and you are trying to fix it, you are automatically constrained by the existing system. So I remember years ago, I was doing a lot of work around addressing inequity and honors and AP courses. But I was working within a system that already created honors and AP courses. And I was trying to dismantle some of the gates that were keeping students out of those honors and AP courses. But I was limited by an existing honors and AP course ecosystem, I had to figure out how to work within an existing system. But if I were thinking about it differently, if I was thinking about it as a builder, I would interrogate the whole system. I wouldn't just look for the parts that are inequitable, I will be looking at asking whether this system is serving all kids. And if it's not, let's build a better system. And I think that's the fundamental difference between the way that leaders look at equity work and builders look at equity work.

Leaders are trying to fix broken systems. Builders are interrogating those systems and building better systems. 

So what a builder does is they don't have an equity goal. And I don't know if I'm ready yet to go on record and saying you shouldn't have equity goals that are different from your school goals. But I'm almost there. Because if you have a separate equity goal, it separates equity work from the work that we are doing as a school. It says this is for this period of time, we're going to spend our time and energy focusing on black and brown kids or looking at gender issues or looking at at other equity issues, the poverty issues, and then this part of the time we're going to spend serving the rest of students, they're not separate. They're all students. What builders do is they say, we are going to develop a 100% vision, we're going to figure out and we're going to commit to serving 100% of our students and when they commit to doing that equity is not separate from the work equity Is the work. And it's not about black and brown children or children in poverty. It's not about girls versus boys. It's about all kids. And notice the difference there. If you make equity work about a population, then you have to do a lot of work dismantling issues that people have about that particular population. You have to wait for people's attitudes to change about that population before the work it started. But when you get everybody committed to 100% of your students, the work starts right then. And as you are doing the work, if attitudes about a particular population emerge, you have a safe place to interrogate those attitudes, because it's not about who's a racist and who's not a racist. It's about is that attitude serving the vision we all committed to is that attitude serving the mission that we're all committed to.

It's less about me and my racist attitude. And it's more about the vision, mission and core values that I've already committed to as part of that process. It's less about confronting people. And it's more about renewing the commitment we have to that bigger vision. I don't want to wait until someone who would have had years and years and years of entrenched racism, to suddenly confront that racism and dismantle that racism that they have in their hearts before they get started working. But if we're talking about 100% of our students, we take race out of it in a way. It's not about race. It's about 100% of our students. So I don't have to wait for you to dismantle your race. It's I want you to, but the work doesn't get slowed down. Because we're waiting for that to happen. The work continues, and that dismantling becomes a part of the work rather than separate work because once a year in February, we have an equity workshop. I'm sick Equity being something separate? Like, like, that's not the work we should be doing.

Isn't the reason we are educators because we want to serve all students. Isn't that the point of education? 

So why is equity separate? Why is equity out in an equity ghetto? Rather than being fundamental to the work? Why do I have to infuse it into the work? Why isn't the work built so that equity becomes a natural part of it. So that's my kind of first rant. But here's the second thing that builders do remember, when you are a leader, and you see an inequitable system, and you try to fix the system, you are constrained by the system. But when you are a builder, and you are committed to 100% of your students, that's your commitment, not the system. You see, and a lot of times in equity work, the commitment is more to a better, more equitable system. Whereas when you're a builder The commitment not to the system, it's to the kids. Your vision is about 100% of your students. And so if the system is not serving the students, you build another system. If the system isn't serving your students, you don't try to fix it. You say, That's not going to work. What do we need to build? That's what I love about that 100% vision, because when you create it, it's not real yet because you are envisioning this for your students. But the next question that that 100% vision begs is this. Right now, the system we have is not serving 100% of our students. So the question is, why isn't it? And then what would our school have to look like, in order for 100% of our students to thrive in the way that we're talking about thriving? And that's when it gets fun? Because rather than trying to look at the system and look at the broken parts and trying to fix the broken parts, you are off envisioning a brand new system, what would our school have to look like?

For 100% of our students to thrive, think about that. That's when your imagination gets unleashed. And I have to tell you, we've been doing this builders of work long enough now that we've had so many success stories where people are achieving their vision there, they've been in the work long enough now that it's been a year or two or three, and they're getting to 100%. And that's ultimately true equity. To equity is not that you have a program for African American boys or you have a STEM program for girls or you take down the gendered bathrooms, that's that those are those are things those are tools to equity is when every student no matter who they are and where they come from. They come into your school, and they thrive. Now I'm going to say something controversial. You can beat me up in the Facebook group about later do not care.

If you love all kids, I do not care. I do care that you make sure all kids thrive while they're with you. 

Now, some people say you can't have a distinction because you really can't make all kids thrive unless you love all kids. I don't know that that's true. I have seen teachers who have had years of very entrenched racist attitudes, who have managed to help all students thrive in their classroom, because instead of dealing and trying to dismantle the racist attitudes, we get them focused on the vision. They commit to the vision and as a result of committing to the vision, the as we're making progress to their vision, they start to realize that their racist attitudes are not serving that vision. And they dismantle themselves. I don't have to go in and And you know, put them in a room and shine a light in their eyes until they cry and say yes, yes, yes, I am privileged, you've got me. I don't have to do that. They recognize their privilege, because their privilege is getting in the way of the vision. And then they dismantle it, because it No, they're more committed to the vision than they are to their privilege. You see, we want to go back and kind of, you know, do heart transplants for people before we can get started. We're we're spending a lot of time trying to make everybody love every kid, when instead we should be spending time making that vision so compelling that I am willing to dismantle my racist attitude because I believe in the vision more than I believe in holding on to that racist attitude.

I believe we will get farther if we focus on that than we do on this other stuff. Because from what I've seen, the more you try to use that confrontational, you know, we got to do this equity thing because you're a racist, the more we spend time doing that The more we are making people more and more entrenched, the more we are, we are pushing people to the point where they begin to push back. And then all of us have lost sight in the vision because we're too busy pushing. You've got to commit to that 100% vision. First, you've got to give people a vision that is so compelling. And you've got to get them so committed to that vision that they're willing to do the work it takes to achieve that vision. And if it means dismantling my racist attitudes, then I'll do it. If it means dismantling racist systems, I'll do it. If it means overcoming sexism, I will do it if it means overcoming transphobia or homophobia or any other phobia or ism, I will do it because I am committed to the vision. I think that's the only way it certainly is the builders way. And so I want to challenge you to really take a look equity in a different light. It's going to mean unlearning what we've been told for so long about equity and how it works.

That's a leadership model. 

And listen, I'm not putting down anybody who's doing equity work because I believe that people who are doing equity work are sincerely trying to make a difference. I'm just arguing that builders look at equity work differently. It's not separate from the work it is the work. A 100% vision automatically presumes equity, and I can get to equity without having to weave through everybody's baggage first because the 100% vision is driving it, not my equity agenda. You can't have 100% vision without equity. But you can have equity without 100% of your students achieving the way that a lot of people define success. Woody these days. Now I know that's controversial. So you all go ahead and beat me up in the Facebook group about that. But builders look at equity differently. They're not focused on equity. They're focused on 100%. Because in that, and baked in that, in that 100% is equity. And they don't try to fix a broken system. They look at what systems they need to make sure that every child thrives, and they go out and build those systems. That's how you do equity. Like a builder.

All right, that's it for this week. Please join me in the Facebook group, I'm actually going to jump in, in the next day or two. And, you know, have an after the show conversation where we can, you know, talk a little bit more about this idea of equity, and what it looks like and how builders approach equity and you all can, you know, take me to task on things that I may have said during this episode that you know, rubs you the wrong way or bring forth all of your Yes, buts. I'm happy to To be schooled, this is just where my thinking is right now, this is what I'm seeing work. So this is what I'm sharing with you. But, you know, let's continue to talk about it in the Facebook group over the next over the course of this week, as we, you know, continue to have that conversation after the show.

So that's it for now. 

Join me next week where we're going to talk about another provocative, exciting topic and until then, make sure that you go out and get started building.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live offers. office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to builder ship and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll see you then!

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