Starting an Equity Team at My School
February 16, 2019
A few years ago, I never thought I would have done this. It has been one amazing learning experience so far, and I can’t wait to share it with you. In addition to my own equity journey, I think I’ve grown through the perspective lens of a future administrator as well. Starting an Equity Team and facilitating its meetings were crucial parts of a much larger whole.
At each meeting–and all along the way–educators assembled to have conversations about students in need, including potential causes, circumstances, and future goals.
These are exactly the kinds of conversations to have in schools and communities today.
Yet before springing into action to try to save the world, it’s important to have an appropriate context, being aware of the big picture.
I’m definitely not an expert in equity or in implementing major initiatives, but, at this time, I feel that my journey is worth sharing with anyone who may be where I was, where I am right now, or where I want to be.
Doing the Research
In addition to having friends well-versed in equity, I’ve been fortunate to continue my research in several professional learning experiences. I attended many of them mostly because I was surrounded by friends who encouraged me to have a conversation together. That’s especially true in #WCPSSTeachUsAll film and discussions here and here, podcasts I’ve started following, Raleigh’s Rolling Readers Events, Resilience Documentary viewing, the two-day Racial Equity Institute, and the four-day ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership: Champions for Equity. Most recently, I was fortunate to have conversations about starting an equity team at Edcamp Equity. My professional book collection is changing, and I’m eager to gain perspective and continue my studies.
It’s in this awareness and research stage where I currently find myself. That’s why starting an Equity Team at my school was considered a huge risk for me–at one time.
While people are our most precious resource, we also can’t make a science out of an art. One thing I learned very early in my research was that equity is both a professional and a personal learning journey. That guarantees that each unique individual is at a different place along the journey. Therefore, sensitivity, growth mindset, and establishing norms and protocols in a shared vision together are Equity Team imperatives.
When embracing people in conversations about equity, two huge things I learned were:
- You can be a good person, while still having challenges in understanding topics like racism and equity. In fact, learning to see the work of undoing racism as ongoing and not as a fixed destination is life-changing. It’s helped me break away from some of my own binary thinking. Mentally, that sets me free–free to engage new starting lines.
- This journey is personal to the individual. It’s not about comparing one’s self to others. It’s about soul-searching and seeking inward growth. Ongoing, the journey can vary greatly in different people, organizations, schools, and communities.
From the very beginning, my administration was very supportive of my wanting to start an Equity Team at my school. From day one, I also worked directly with my district’s Office of Equity Affairs, who has an internal website with many resources, including a flowchart entitled: 5 Steps to Starting an Equity Team. Guidance from my school’s administration and my district’s Equity Director was crucial throughout the process, and I’m extremely grateful for their help.
When implementing something new, the rollout is everything. It must be effective. Perhaps, these are among the most important things I learned while starting an Equity Team at my school:
- Collaborate with superiors throughout the process.
- Start simple. Too much too soon will lose the crowd.
- Make it voluntary. If an Equity Team is mandated, it may do more damage than good, appearing top-down, inorganic. Be invitational.
- Communication is everything. Over-communicate on many channels.
- Transparency matters. Be clear with intentions, plans, and goals.
- Change is hard. Always. Have patience.
- Leadership is not about you. Don’t make it about you.
- Expect opposition. After communicating all intentions, move forward.
- When creating a shared vision, get the right people on the bus and include them in every step along the way.
- Empower others through listening, decision-making, and delegating.
- Move swiftly-slowly, like a steam engine train. Momentum moves in unison.
Moving Forward–For Me
I still don’t have all the answers, but I learned so much about culture, people, administration, and myself, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. If I’m lucky, it will be full of continued researching, more professional learning experiences, and connecting on a deeper level with my friends and those who are farther along in the journey. I’m so grateful to learn from my professional learning network, and for the opportunity to start an Equity Team at my school.
This is not a victory lap–mostly because it’s not a race. This is a very brief pit stop… and another new starting line!
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) October 3, 2018
Honored to co-facilitate @DDEDolphins' first Equity Team meeting today. Special thanks to @WCPSSEquity's @laurynmaria for your leadership, coordination, and help along our journey so far. Thank you! The learning and growing continues… #SwimFwd #equityined #equity4wake #ecumsa pic.twitter.com/vzRQyte9Cu
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) November 7, 2018
Honored to facilitate @DDEDolphins' Equity Team meeting today. Special TY to @WCPSSEquity's @laurynmaria & @CSpearsEDU for your leadership, coordination, and help along our journey so far. The learning and growing continue… #SwimFwd #equityined #equity4wake #edequity #wcpsschat pic.twitter.com/uKKQjYthfs
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) December 13, 2018
— Wanda Hanley (@twhanley) January 14, 2019
Honored to co-facilitate another @DDEDolphins Equity Team meeting today. Special thanks to @nolbertz for sharing her #MorningMeeting experience to kick off our conversations. #SwimFwd #Equity4Wake pic.twitter.com/Aubn1xAVnT
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) February 12, 2019
I'm learning about @ELeducation through the equity lens. Special thanks to @mrslintontweets for referencing this powerful @TEDTalks video, as recommended by @WCPSSEquity on their [internal] @WCPSS Learning Central course. #equity4wake #SwimFwd https://t.co/MrjpUjhqJN
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) February 15, 2019
With all that's happened in recent history, I find myself here–in a quiet, personal, moment, reflecting: What if all conversations started out like this? Will you join me in the ball pit? Take a Seat, Make a Friend | SoulPancake Street Team https://t.co/8QBycISFPr via @YouTube
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) January 21, 2019