As this new semester begins, a new presidential administration is embarking on its all-important “first 100 days.” This public goal-setting got us thinking: What are some things educators can do in 100 days to improve equity in their schools? We reached out to members of our Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board for answers. Here is their response.
The beginning of the school year can feel like a whirlwind, sweeping educators and administrators into a frenzy of excitement, anxiety and anticipation. It’s always easy to get lost in the “busy-ness,” this year more than most. But as anti-bias, anti-racist educators, it’s important we periodically take a moment to refocus, recognize the accomplishments of our commitment and look to the work that lies ahead. The new term gives us an opportunity to do that.
In 100 days, I can reflect on my learning. I can remember courageous conversations I’ve shared with students, colleagues and supervisors. I can consider the ways I’ve adjusted in response to what I’ve learned— and the things I still need to examine or interrogate.
In 100 days, I can practice getting used to discomfort. I can push myself to answer hard questions. I can hold myself accountable for moving myself forward, always. I can promise to speak up against unjust or biased speech or policies whenever I can.
In 100 days, I can return to the question, “What role does my identity play in my work with youth?” I can lay out an answer.
In 100 days, I can speak up for my students. I can share my ideas at a staff meeting, a school board meeting, on social media or in an opinion piece in the newspaper. I can share my expertise, my experience and wisdom.
In 100 days, I can share my values across my life. If I’m having critical conversations in my classroom, I can make sure I’m having critical discussions at home with my friends and my family, too.
In 100 days, I can set the habit of reflecting every day. I can ask myself, “What went well?” “What didn’t?” “How can I challenge myself?”
In 100 days, I can recenter my work around equity. When looking at grading or programs or school data, I can ask, “What is the equity issue here?” I can insist on an answer, regardless of pushback.
In 100 days, I can audit my curriculum, assignments and assessments. I can ask, “Who isn’t included?” “Does this assignment measure learning—or compliance?” “Why this text?” “Why this assignment?” “Why this assessment?”
In 100 days, I can take time to focus on the physical and mental health of my students, colleagues, and parents and guardians during the pandemic. I can ask what they need in this moment to be better moving forward.
In 100 days, I can help connect families with local agencies to meet basic needs like food, housing and medical care. I can set up a video call with experts to visit with families and students in breakout rooms to answer questions and assist them.
In 100 days, I can ask others for feedback. I can practice accepting critiques with an open mind and heart, no matter how they come. I can adapt where I need to.
In 100 days, I can ensure I am speaking only for myself, not for others, unless they give me permission. I can speak from my experiences, not others’.
In 100 days, I can get cozy with humility.
In 100 days, I can practice offering grace. To myself, my colleagues, my students and my community. I can make mistakes and learn something from those mistakes. I can remind myself that with practice, patience and determination, we grow.
In 100 days, I can find my people, my thought partners, my challengers. I can reach out to those in my school, my network, on Twitter or elsewhere. I can find the educators who get me, support me and teach me—and I can be that person for someone else. No one should do this work alone.
In 100 days, I can work toward recognizing the funds of knowledge my students’ families bring. I can build community, co-creating and holding affinity spaces with families in their home languages. I can invite families to be part of the curriculum.
In 100 days, I can practice self-care. I can recognize that it is necessary to build and sustain my capacity to be effective in this work. Whether it’s a warm bath, a morning walk, a great TV show, a dance class, a nap, a delicious meal, time with friends and family or time alone, I can do the things that feed my soul and spirit.
In 100 days, I can remember my ancestors. I can remember the lessons from those who came before me. I can read the words of Frederick Douglass, listen to Nina Simone and look for inspiration in how our people have thrived in trying times.
In 100 days, I can find ways to remind myself I’m not alone. I can go back to the work of Gholdy Muhammad, Bettina L. Love, Gloria Ladson-Billings and others to remember that I do this work in community, to remember what is possible.
In 100 days, I can support students as they lead. I can identify opportunities within and outside of school for students to organize, inspire, teach and learn with their peers, families and communities. If we want this work to continue, young folks will need to be leading it.
In 100 days, I can meet individually with students, in person or over video calls. Just for 10 minutes, just to talk. I can check in not about grades or school but about their lives. I can share some of who I am with them.
In 100 days, I can build strong connections with each of my students. I can remember that I don’t need to control everything they are doing. I can laugh with them. I can get to know them as full human beings—their interests, their passions, their goals, their dreams. I can remember that none of this work is possible without strong relationships.
In 100 days, instead of feeling like I am hammering my head against a stone wall of opposition, instead of getting discouraged, I can think of myself as a beacon. Those who need light will find me. And I will pull in close those who are reaching for me.
This collaborative piece was written by Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board members Lhisa Almashy, Geneviève DeBose, Toni Rose Deanon, Angela Hartman, Danna Lomax, Amy Melik, Veronica Menefee and Alicia Oglesby. TT Senior Editor Julia Delacroix provided editorial support.