Sharla Stevens transform schools into anti-racist, thriving institutions for academic excellence and social justice! She develops school leaders to bring out the best in students of color and help deter white students from sustaining or embracing white supremacy. Your school will be transformed for the better as a result of her coaching. Schedule a call and  explore possibilities. 

Daniel (00:02): When was the last time you felt the nervous energy? The tingle in your skin, where your hair stands up on your arms and you're like, "Ooh, should I, should I do this or not?" Because when you're there it's really the same coin. On one side is fear and discouragement and who knows what negative consequences may be out there. But really the other side of the coin is positivity and optimism and potential. What if I speak up courageously right now, it leads to some great positive impact in the future. When was the last time you felt that? Today we're going to start with a story. My guest is Sharla Stevens and she felt that nervous energy. The hair was standing up on her skin, on her arms, and she crafted an email calling out the racism in her school and she hit send. The next day she was terrified, terrified to walk into school. We'll talk about that up first on this show. Hey, it's Daniel and welcome to the better leaders, better schools podcast, a show for Ruckus Makers, those out of the box leaders making change happen in education.Your legacy with Harvard certificate in school management and leadership learn from Harvard business and education school faculty. As you develop the framework skills and knowledge, you need to drive change improvement in your learning community. Get started at hgse.Me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader.

Daniel (01:54): Hey, Ruckus Maker. My friends over at SMART have developed a research backed tool that will show you not only your strengths and weaknesses, but where you should strategically focus your energy in order to drive better results for your students. This tool is called the ed tech assessment tool, and you can take it at smarttech.com/profile. Take the ed tech assessment tool at smarttech.com/profile.

Daniel (02:22): All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning. Whether that's in a distance hybrid or traditional educational setting, learn more@organizedbinder.com

Daniel (02:40): Sharla Stevens and The Ancestors is the owner of healing racism in schools and facilitates anti-racist leadership development for school leaders. She's currently working with an elementary school in SFUSD and she has over 20 years experience in education and a master's in education from Howard University. You can contact her at healingracisminschoolsatgmail.com for more information. Welcome to the show.

Sharla (03:09): Thank you. It's great to be here.

Daniel (03:11): Start with an email you sent out. You're a Ruckus Maker for sure. You send an all staff email that challenged the racism you saw in the school. Can you tell us that story?

Sharla (03:24): Yes. I can tell you that story. I was going through a lot of things in my personal life at the time, and I wasn't necessarily seeking to create ruckus, ruckus found me. I was working at one of the largest high schools in San Jose, and I was teaching AP gov and US history and I had 11th graders and 12th graders. We're moving through the curriculum. I always teach from a multicultural perspective because that to me is just to American history. I know that we, that my ancestors built the economy and built the infrastructure. I know that we built this on stolen land from the indigenous. So, I tell these stories in all of my classes. As I'm sharing these stories with my students, I'm seeing how much of this information is new to them as 11th graders as 12th graders.

Sharla (04:16): I started to inquire, what do you know about your history? This was primarily a Latino, Latin X population. They knew very little about their history. I was the sponsor for the BSU. I'm hearing from a lot of my black students, their experiences in their classrooms, I'm seeing how the BSU is being treated as far as the invitations that we're not receiving or the opportunities that we're not being made aware of within the school. Where other clubs may have been notified about opportunities, our club was not. Seeing a pattern behavior of negligence, of blind spots that are racist within the school. So then graduation, we had 10 valedictorians and nine of them were white and one of them was of the Latin X community at a school that is 80% Latin X, and 10% white and there were no questions asked and that was concerning for me. Like why aren't we asking questions about why we have 10 valedictorians, 90% of them are white at a school that is 10% white and one of them is from a Latin X community where our population is 80% Latin X. There were just so many glaring examples. This was a time when the political rhetoric coming out was that Mexicans were rapists and criminals and our school population is predominantly Mexican. I was like, what are we doing to counter these messages? What are we doing to empower our students? It was a pattern of negligence, a pattern of systematic racism, a pattern of blind spots that I had seen that I could not continue to watch. I brought it up several times in meetings.

Sharla (05:56): I was very bold. I brought it up to the superintendent. There was a new or a first year teacher training or whatever. There's some type of if you're new to the district training, I brought it up there. I brought it up in our all staff meetings but the response that I felt I got was we're just going to wait for her to stop talking and there was no real commitment to actually addressing any of these issues. I think part of the problem, Daniel, what I see is that there is an expectation of black and brown failure in our schools. We just expect it and we don't question it and we almost fight. We fight. I feel like there's a resistance when we do see black and brown excellence and that's when we question it. Where we're thinking, "Oh, you must've cheated."

Sharla (06:36): You must have done something. I saw a pattern of behaviors that I could no longer ignore. I talked to my students all the time about that. You need to find your voice. We need to stand up for what you believe, and you need to speak up for your ancestors and your community. I couldn't preach that to my students and then not take a stand myself when I realized that the school had a problem like that. How blind they were to the racism that was embedded in the culture of the school. I was emotional because I knew that I was going to have to put myself out there in a way that was scary for me because I'm new to this district. I knew that I'm putting my neck on the line, but also I knew that I had to walk the walk.

Sharla (07:18): I'm only here because other people put their neck on the line. That's the only reason why I'm able to be in the position that I am as a black woman in education. I sent an email out. I sent an all staff email out and I want to say it was about 200 people. It was a Thursday night and I drafted the things students had told me. I talked about the valedictorian situation. I talked about how we promote sports, but we don't talk about Latin X history month. We're not countering these messages that are coming out that are really detrimental to the wellbeing of our students. We don't question things. Students are saying that they feel devalued and their history is not being told in our classrooms.

Sharla (07:59): I reported all of this and held us accountable. I attached an article that was like, American teachers don't believe in black and brown students and I was like, "Oh, but that's not us. Right?" Like, it's all the other teachers, but it's not us. We need to look at what's going on. The subject line was, "who's ready to talk about this. Who's ready to have a conversation because we keep throwing up what we call the opportunity gap, which I'm sorry, the achievement gap, which I call the opportunity gap. A lot of other people call it an opportunity gap, but we throw up these charts and we see the reading levels of our black students and our Brown students but we never put that into historical context and it just looks like they are deficient. We just can't do it. These kids just can't do it or fill in the blank. The thing is that we need to fill in those blanks with historical context. There's been a history of our communities being disenfranchised. There's been a history of our communities not having the same opportunities and that is right up to present day. Into historical context. It’S not like Brown vs Board, it solves all our problems. It was very scary. It was a Thursday night. I did not want to come in on Friday morning. I had first period prep so the buzz had already been happening. I'm walking into it. I'm walking into an hour where people had already had an opportunity to kind of talk about me before I'd even shown up. It was terrifying, but also it was invigorating. It was really exciting to be using my position to really challenge systems and not just put my head down and do my job because I feel like my job, as a professional, is to call out systems of injustice. I want education to be the great equalizer, but it's not, I want it to be, but we're not there. Do you wanna hear about the consequences or the results

Daniel (09:42): I was going to ask about that next, for sure. Definitely want to know about the results, if you'd do it again. Something I heard you say when you basically drafted that email out, you're curious this article you shared, "Hey, these are other schools, not us, right?" Are we ready to have the conversation? So my mind goes to did that conversation happen? What changes did you see?

Sharla (10:08): There was so much resistance. I mean, what I saw was, there's a reason why these conversations aren't happening. I saw the level of resistance and it first came from, I think it was strategic. I think that they came from people of color who bought into the system initially and that was really disappointing, but that also makes sense. I feel like in order for you to work at that school, you have to be a certain type of person because that school is one that is going to be challenged by people like me who are going to call out these systems. So that was really hard to deal with. I had a lot of teachers who responded directly to me, eventually the principal was like let's have a meeting. It was a really like a last minute meeting. It was during lunch but I got to clarify that I know y'all want to kill the messenger, but I'm telling you, this is what the students are telling me.

Sharla (10:56): I clarified some points and then they, I'm getting emotional Daniel, because it was stressful. It was very stressful and personal but then they had a meeting with the students. They called a meeting with the students. It was last minute and I only thought they would have about 15 students would show up because I didn't even have time to really talk to these different communities but there were so many students that they had to turn students away. The room was overflowing with students who are like, I want to address these issues. I want to address issues of inequality. I want to address issues of racism or are feeling psychologically unsafe, et cetera. Native American students said, why can't we wear our headdresses during graduation, non binary students said we would like bathrooms where we can feel safe to go to use the bathroom at school.

Sharla (11:47): We had Middle Eastern students saying that we never learned anything about our history outside of the context of terrorism or other stereotypes. We had black students saying that we feel discriminated against and we never saw ourselves in the curriculum. Women were speaking out. It was just so beautiful to see students take agency and advocate on their own behalf and to speak on their own behalf. So that was great. What wasn't great was the way administration used, especially staff of color to dominate the conversation and to shut students down. One staff member of color in particular said, yes, as black and Brown students, you have to work harder, but never explained again why. And that's my thing. We have to put these things in context. The reason why is because there's a system of white supremacy working against you.

Sharla (12:35): If we don't speak to that, it just feels like I'm just deficient. There's something wrong with me. I can't do it. I have to work harder because there's something wrong with me and that's the disconnect for me. That's where I feel like we don't tell the whole story. So they tried to shut the students down, but the students ended up organizing. I connected them with some organizers from my former college, Levy Danza and they empowered them. They gave them the skills because my thing is, I'm not trying to be the great black hope for the school. I'm not trying, I don't want you to follow me. I want you to learn how to advocate and be a leader for yourself. I want you to learn as a student, how to be empowered yourself and learn how to take care of this.

Sharla (13:16): They learn the skills and they learn how to navigate the system. Two Latina, they went onto the board and they were able to get $24,000 in funding to create a new class. They created a Mexican American or Mexican history class taught by a Mexican American person. The only other class they had was an ethics studies class with Latin X or a literature class that was taught by a white guy who was great. He's woke and all of that and that's great, but it's not the same as seeing your own people. So they got to get a history class taught by a Mexican American professor and that was awesome. They secured funding for anti-racist training for the staff. As far as I know, the staff, the administration never followed up on that, but that's amazing.

Sharla (14:04): That's amazing that they were able to do that and for them to see the full process of you speaking out together. It's all of you together speaking about your different issues. You follow through, you go to the board, you figure out what the steps are. What that shows me too, is that if students can do that, then certainly leaders can do that. Certainly school leaders can do that same type of research and just follow through. So that was amazing. I didn't even know the students followed through with it. I just kinda let it go because I had to take care of my own psychological wellbeing and that was, it was a lot of ruckus and it was definitely not easy, but it was also when you do something like that, you witnessed your own power and you see what's possible, what you can do and that is incredible. It's worth it.

Daniel (14:58): Well, I appreciate you being vulnerable and authentic and sharing your story on the show. I know it can be tough sometimes in what you're talking about that feeling, that nervous energy, that tingling almost. One or two things can happen. It's either gonna be this terrible experience that we've told ourselves in our mind. Right. I've found that whatever the results of some action I think is going to happen is the negative side of it is normally much worse in my mind than in reality it really is. But that fear, that fear holds us back. I'm glad that you left and that you found the courage to speak up because it's the same coin, right? So there's the fear and the disappointment and all the repercussions on one side, or what happens if you do take the action, the courageous action and the positive results happen in the excitement, like you said, in the fulfillment and satisfaction or the self knowledge of seeing how much power you did have with your voice.

Daniel (16:02): In your actions, like what a gift. So that's pretty cool that you're able to push through that. You sort of highlighted adults being able to do the research and that kind of thing. It's definitely a question I'd love to ask you is, what would you say because the Ruckus Maker listing right now, she's a leader of a school. If this leader is ready to talk and take on racism. The elephant in the room what are some steps that they might take to be successful?

Sharla (16:35): It's a complicated question. One hand you want to hire a professional. You want to hire a professional because I mean, to be quite honest this is not always popular work. These are not always conversations that people want to have, but they need to happen. When you are part of the system, a lot of times you'll feel muzzled or limited as to what you can say or what you can do. When you hire a professional, they're able to say the things that you may not feel comfortable saying, or may not even have the knowledge, right. You can't even point out what's happening and I think for a lot of our school leaders, especially if they're white, especially the white male, they're just not used. You can't see it.

Sharla (17:17): You just can't. You can't see how much of the school norms are based in white middle-class culture. You can't see the expectations for example, just telling our kids to sit down and be quiet and listen to us. That's not black culture and it's not African culture. It's not who we are and so when you ask us to show up fully expressed that's in direct contradiction to school culture and school norms. A lot of times you can't see that without a professional pointing that out and I would also point out a black professional, somebody indigenous, somebody from the bottom of our socioeconomic status. The reason why I say that is because when you're at the bottom, when you look and you're looking up, you can see everybody's dirty draws.

Sharla (18:07): Like you can see everything. It's not, it's not filtered, it's not polished and you can see all of it. I was a little black girl, the brilliant little black girl in the classroom who was ignored. I was the brilliant little black girl in the classroom who didn't want to come to your class because your classroom was a hostile environment for me. We talked about this off the podcast, but traditions, traditionally things are racist. Traditionally things are sexist. Traditionally things are binary. Traditionally things are homophobic, they're transphobic. We cannot continue to do things traditionally and so that's why we need to hear from a lot of these voices that we don't normally hear from. I would say hire a professional. The other part is you need to have a budget.

Sharla (18:49): You can't just expect people to create significant systematic change within your school if you're not willing to commit to it financially. Schools will invest in all kinds of programs, Achieve 3000 and all kinds of programs that we'll put money into that. We're supposed to promise all kinds of results but a lot of times we don't want to put a budget when it comes to doing real work with anti-racist training. That's the other part. You have to commit, this is not a one-time you hit it one time and you're done. We know that white supremacy is systematic. It's baked in. It is constantly at work so we must be constantly at work and lives are at risk so we can't just think that because we read one book or went to one training or we voted for Biden or because we're liberals or whatever it is that we're done. I don't care how many black friends you have. I don't care how many black kids you have. The work continues. I'm black and the work continues for me so we have to commit. The last thing I'll say is that when you're truly committed to this work, you will find ways to do it regardless of the resistance because doing this work, there will be a ton of resistance. I mean, had Trump won, he would have kept the executive order in place that was saying if you want to do anti-racism work in schools, we're going to limit your federal funding.

Sharla (20:11): That's resistance, right. Schools are broke. They want their money and that's why I say hire some of these people from these voices that you don't normally talk to when it comes to being black and indigenous and other marginalized communities, we've always had to exist in resistance. I've always had to thrive in resistance. We know how to do the work. Anyway, I've done a lot of work as a guest teacher, I've done a lot of work as a guest teacher to explore and research other schools and to put my skills to practice because to do this work where you have relationships, where you have a classroom that you already have relationships with to do it, where you have relationships with the teachers and the staff, that's one thing. But to just walk into an environment where you don't have those relationships, you don't know the school culture, you don't know the students, but you're able to connect with them anyway and still infuse a multicultural curriculum, no matter what the discipline is,maybe you just weren't with your teaching moments before, but still being able to implement that.

Sharla (21:08): I wanted to be able to show teachers that it can be that easy. It doesn't have to be like reinventing the wheel. I definitely want them to commit to a deeper level, but also if you're serious about the work, there's so much information out there. Quick example, guest teaching, I might be finding out in the morning if I'm going to be in a math class. Maybe it's a high school level, middle school level math class. A lot of times for STEM, within math and science and engineering and technology they want to step back from this conversation. We want to, when it comes to anti-racism and of curriculum, we want to just make it about literacy and history. I teach math, this doesn't affect me.

Sharla (21:47): What we don't realize. I mean, our math classes are hostile environments for a lot of our students where it doesn't feel collaborative. It doesn't feel safe. It feels very male dominated. The studies show that the males get called on more. We could see within the technology fields, the way that it's still male dominated. It's still mostly white men and Asian men. The message is still there even while we're not speaking to it. The insidiousness about white supremacy. I joke about the first rule white supremacy is you don't talk about white supremacy. Even as you don't speak about it, it's still working in the background. As a black woman and a black girl at the time in a math class, I know that people don't expect me to be good at math.

Sharla (22:29): I know that by the very few examples I've seen of people saying, "Oh, look at this black woman. Who's great at math, a great technology. Great at science." I know that I don't see a lot of women in math so this is already playing on me. All the subtle things that are going on in the classroom, et cetera. What I did is before this math class I found a quick video on YouTube. I looked up like multicultural perspectives of math or something like that. It was a video that showed how math has come from all these different ethnic groups. We got fractions from the Egyptians and then the advocates from the Chinese and the calendar from the Aztecs. I showed this video to the students, so they could see that this is you, this isn't just some random white guy that invented all of these things. This is you, you can do this. This is a part of you. Another assignment I came up with on the fly was because everybody has their cell phones. Again, this was a high school class, but it was, I want you to find somebody in STEM who invented, who's created some invention that you think is interesting, who looks like you from your ethnic group and then report on that. They're researching and you could hear the excitement, the curiosity, and the, "Oh my God, we made this." And somebody would be like a wheelchair you can power with. I think like your minds that will move for you. We know that there was this Mexican man who created the accelerator.

Sharla (23:51): The accelerator loves where you can, when you're doing sign language. If I was signing right now and you didn't understand what I was saying, I could put on this glove as I'm signing, it will tell you what I'm saying. That's dope. People don't know these things. It's so empowering when they're excited about what they're learning. They're curious about what they're learning. They're seeing themselves. They're like, I could do this. This could be me. When we go into the lesson, they're coming from a place of I'm empowered, rather than I have a deficit. There's something wrong with me. I can't do this. We know that when students are learning from a place of joy, we know that that all the areas of learning your brain light up, we know that things are retained. It's that more learning happens when you're coming from a place of joy than a place of neutrality or a place with a lot of kids where they thought this is a hostile environment.

Daniel (24:45): You're talking about safety and belonging and connection. These are all important components to building powerful classrooms. Sharla, I'm really enjoying our conversation. We're going to pause here just for a second, for a message from our sponsors. When we get back I'd like to ask you a little bit more about seeing our students.

Daniel (25:07): Learn the frameworks skills and knowledge, you need to drive change improvement in your learning community. With Harvard's online certificate in school management and leadership, a joint collaboration between the Harvard graduate school of education and Harvard business school connect and collaborate with fellow school leaders. As you address your problems of practice in our online professional development program apply today at hgse.me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader. SMART has an incredible research tool that allows you as a leader to self-assess your capabilities at the school level or broader to help you with planning and prioritizing, discover your strengths and best area of focus across five different modules, including leadership and remote learning.

Daniel (26:03): The tool inspires collaboration with your colleagues and provides massive value. Whether you complete one or all five of the modules, you'll get a personalized report that shows where you stack up against other Ruckus Makers and map some areas of focus that will have the greatest impact for you. Take 10 minutes and get started with this ed tech assessment tool. Today, I suggest beginning with the strategic leadership module, check it out@smarttech.com / profile. That's smart tech.com / profile today's show is brought to you by Organized Binder. Organized Binder develops the skills and all students need for success. During these uncertain times of distance learning and hybrid education settings, organized binder, equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning routines so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, whether at home or in the classroom, learn more@organizedbinder.com. We're back with Sharla Stevens. I mentioned how I'd love to hear some more about seeing our students. You talked about how you were that little black girl who felt invisible in math class, but you were brilliant. You were great at math and technology and science. Anything else you'd like to add about seeing students from a school systemic sort of level before we conclude our conversation?

Sharla (27:33): I think when it comes to seeing our students, we need to see their pain and their experience. I know for a lot of our students of color, a lot of our black students, a lot of our indigenous students, a lot of our Brown students, like the racial, the racism, the rise of white supremacy in our society is really scary. When we don't speak about it as educators, when we ignore that as though it's not happening, or it doesn't have an impact on our students, we're not seeing them. We have to understand that our students are operating under trauma and that we may not be affected. We know that most of our teaching force is white middle-class and there's things that they were not impacted by that our students are impacted by. Part of seeing them is understanding that we can't normalize white middle classness. We have to understand that our students are our clients.

Sharla (28:25): I feel there's a certain arrogance to education that doesn't exist in other service oriented fields. In other service oriented fields, we really value our customers and we get into the heads of our customers and we meet them where they are instead of expecting our customers to meet us where we are. As educators, we often don't do the same for our students. A lot of times that kid acts out, especially that black kid acting out is traumatized or depressed. We need to recognize that. I have an eight year old son who just recently turned nine. He feels the gravity of knowing that he's getting older and taller and how society is going to view him. So, that weighs on him that affects his ability to do well in the classroom.

Sharla (29:09): I think it's important for us to understand what our kids are trying to navigate and make sense of. For us to do our best, to speak to it, regardless of how uncomfortable we are, because the only wrong way to do this work is not to do it. We need to understand that mistakes will be made. It's good for us to be humble about that because people like humility. We don't want perfection. We don't want you to be perfect. We can't see ourselves in perfection, but when people make mistakes and are able to take ownership of that mistake and then just learn from it, that's how we learn and grow. Yes, mistakes will be made, but we need to see the pain of our students, the trauma of our students, and then also do our best to facilitate opportunities for joy. I believe that if we have more black joy, we'd have more black excellence, but too often, we don't create opportunities for our students to feel empowered and to feel joy. So that's what I would say.

Daniel (30:02): Thank you. If I remember correctly for the Ruckus Maker, you've created some sort of resource, a playbook of sorts. Can you tell us about what you've made?

Sharla (30:12): I have madethe anti-racist educator playbook and that is available for people who are looking for ways. I want to say, I don't want to say easy, but they're easy to understand. They're easy to implement but ways to create change within your school regardless of whether or not you have support, it's always better if you have support, but there's always things that you can do whether you have support or not to create changes in your school. Also I have the anti-racist educator fighting white supremacy in schools, Facebook group that I invite educators and parents alike to join. If you're interested in hearing more and learning more. I share about how leaders can work with me.

Daniel (30:54): Yeah, of course you can tell us where to get the playbook, the Facebook group and all of this will be linked up in the show notes. People who want to join the Facebook group, they can click the link there, but where can people find the playbook and how can they get in touch with you?

Sharla (31:11): The playbook will be available to people who are able to email me at healingracisminschoolsatgmail.com. And that was also the same email that school leaders are going to want to use in order for us to collaborate and create a plan for your school. What I do is I work with schools and school districts, and we create a year long plan. I have a three part training series for the anti-racist educator. The first part is called check yourself. That's about identity, about who you are and what you bring into the classroom. The second part is checking your curriculum. Decolonizing the curriculum. The third part is check your staff and your students. So really thinking about the psychological safety and belonging for staff and students, and then from there, we customize the plan. So for some schools, they want more involvement with parents or for some school leaders. Maybe they want more hours as far as hours on retainer. It all depends on the needs of the school, but for schools who are interested and serious about doing this work you'd want to contact me at healingracisminschools@gmail.com so that we can see what possibilities we can create for your school.

Daniel (32:14): Beautiful. Thank you, Sharla. If you could put a message on all school marquees around the globe, just for a day, what would you put on that marquee

Sharla (32:25): Black joy leads to black excellence. So, black joy leads to black excellence on all the school marquees.

Daniel (32:32): You're building a school from the ground up Sharla. You're not limited by any resources, your only limitation is your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top three priorities?

Sharla (32:44): My dream school, Oh my God. It would be a very empowering environment for black kids. We would start with the black national Anthem. There would be no pledge of allegiance. There would be examples of people who black leaders who have resisted and fought against white supremacy and triumph, and also black leaders who have invented things and just been successful. I would just walk excellence everywhere. My priorities would be black joy and that's an indirect opposition to the trauma that our kids are experiencing, but it be black joy. We would be focused on healing the trauma within the community and acknowledging that there is trauma and that there needs to be healing. So that would be a priority. Decolonizing the curriculum, making sure we are reinventing the curriculum from a perspective that really highlights the contributions of black and indigenous people that highlights the culture and the people that were here before.

Sharla (33:42): Often we talk about history and we don't even acknowledge the indigenous people that highlights how the triumphs of the black community and other communities of color have created more democracy have created the America that we pretend that we are in this place where there's inclusion for everybody and opportunity for everybody, but really, really paying homage to the ancestors that made that possible. It would center student voices, because I've truly believed that when students are curious and are intrinsically motivated and see themselves in the curriculum they will drive their own learning. We don't have to do as many punitive and disciplinary measures because there's that excitement about learning that we know that is intrinsic within our students. The last thing I'll say is that when we don't see black excellence and black joy in our schools, we need to ask why. We need to ask why because that's not normal. So there you go. That was my dream school.

Daniel (34:40): Brilliant. Well, Charlotte, thank you so much for being a part of the better leaders, better schools podcast. Of all the things we talked about today, what's the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?

Sharla (34:50): There's always a way to create ruckus. I just think that you just have to be creative about it. There's always an opportunity to create change regardless of what policies are in place, regardless of who's in office, regardless of the administration or the principals. Regardless of all of it, it can be done. Historically it always has been done. It's so much fun. It's so much fun. Isn't it fun, Daniel?

Daniel (35:17): Absolutely. Thanks for listening to the better leaders, better schools podcast,Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel@betterleadersbetterschools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @alienearbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at @alienearbud and using the hashtag #BLBS level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then class dismissed.

Show Highlights

  • Historical context of the opportunity gap vs the achievement gap
  • Blind spots of racism embedded in the culture of your school
  • Address the racist elephant in the room with Sharla’s 5 step playbook
  • Create spaces that “see”  black and brown students experience and pain
  • Promote students to take agency and advocate on their behalf is essential education 
  • Create a ruckus and break ALL traditions
  • Put your budget where your commitment is
  • Hire those who know how to clean the dirty draws
Sharla Stevens: Addressing racism in schools

“It’s important for us to understand what our kids are trying to navigate and make sense of. For us to do our best, to speak to it, regardless of how uncomfortable we are. The only wrong way to do this work is not to do it. We need to understand that mistakes will be made. It’s good for us to be humble about that because people like humility. We don’t want perfection. We don’t want you to be perfect. We can’t see ourselves in perfection, but when people make mistakes and are able to take ownership of that mistake and then just learn from it, that’s how we learn and grow. Yes, mistakes will be made, but we need to see the pain of our students, the trauma of our students, and then also do our best to facilitate opportunities for joy.”

Sharla Stevens



Transform how you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard’s online Certificate in School Management and Leadership. Grow your professional network with a global cohort of fellow school leaders as you collaborate in case studies bridging the fields of education and business. Apply today at http://hgse.me/leader.



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