Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D. is the Founder of the Leading Equity Center and host of the Leading Equity Podcast. He is also the author of Leading Equity: Becoming an Advocate for All Students. With over 11 years in education, he has served as a teacher, principal, and Director of Special Education.
Dr. Eakins has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools. He has earned a B.S. degree in Social Science Education, an M.S. degree in Educational Leadership, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Education.
The downfall of having an equity checklist.
The book that takes you on a resourceful journey for learning to make changes at your school and systems.
Finding your voice comes through understanding your identity in challenging situations.
Avoid doing harm with strategies and approaches for having conversations that are difficult for you.
Practical, empathic, and very doable relationship building strategies and advice.
All schools have room for growth in understanding the reality and not the idea of equity.
Recognize the process, exclusions, and tradition necessary for generating buy-in from your staff.
Embrace unique opposition to create authentic experiences for your stakeholders.
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Read the Transcript here.
Title: Leading Equity In Your Schools
Daniel: I can’t imagine a more important topic facing school leaders than the idea of the concept of equity. When I think about starting the podcast years ago back in 2015, and part of my story is that in the leadership development programs that were occurring within the district they only talked about what I call the three pillars of education. Raising student achievement in that matters, Increasing attendance, Of course, we want kids at school in decreasing discipline. We want safe environments for our kids to learn. The problem with that is we only focus on those three things and ignore everything else that was impacting those three pillars. So I started this podcast, Talk to people much smarter than me. Learn from their stories of success and failure. Most importantly, I took action on one idea that I was taught. I was interested in “How do you craft a meaningful school vision that actually lives and guides the work of the school?” I hate hard conversations, they’re terrible for me, so I wanted to learn how to have those effectively. Finally I wanted to figure out how do we address the inequities that are so clearly present in the system of school? It is my honor and privilege to host my friend Dr. Sheldon Atkins, from the Leading Equity Center, who wrote a new book that is available for pre-order right now called Leading Equity Becoming an Advocate for All Students. So thankful that I have this platform where I could have discussions like today’s on topics that matter and resonate with my heart and spread it out to cause a ripple effect within Ruckus Maker Nation, because that’s what this show is built for. It’s built for you. That out of the box leader is making real positive change happen in education. Hey, it’s Danny and welcome to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast. We’ll be right back after some messages from our show sponsors. Establish your legacy with Harvard’s Certificate in School Management and Leadership. Learn from Harvard Business and Education School Faculty as you develop the frameworks, skills and knowledge you need to drive change improvement in your learning community programs run October 12th to November 9th, 2020 to apply by Friday, September 30th for our upcoming cohort at BetterLeadersBetterSchools.com/Harvard. Better Leaders Better Schools is brought to you by school leaders like Principal Gutierrez using Teach FX. Special populations benefit the most from verbally engaging in class, but get far fewer opportunities to do so than their peers, especially in virtual classes. Teach FX measures, verbal engagement automatically in virtual or in-person classes to help schools and teachers address these issues of equity during COVID. Learn more and get a special offer for better leaders, better schools listeners at teachfx.com/BLBS. All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder, which equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning, whether that’s in a distance, hybrid or traditional educational setting. Learn more at OrganizeBinder.COM. All right, we’re alive. I don’t do this often with a podcast guest, but if I thought about somebody who would experiment with me, who would embrace this, and he has incredible value. I mean, ridiculous amounts of value to offer Ruckus Makers watching this. It’s going to turn into a podcast, too. I thought of first, of course, Dr. Sheldon Aikens, and he is the founder of the Leading Equity Center. If you’re not familiar with this work, I highly recommend you follow Dr. Akins. As a founder of Lead in Equity, he’s also the host of the Leading Equity Podcast, which is a great podcast, and author of Leading Equity Becoming an Advocate for All Students, which is available. I want you to pick that up today for pre-order. I think it comes out on July 20th, if I remember correctly. Super excited for this book. With over 11 years in education, he has served as a teacher, principal and director of Special Education. Dr. Akins has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools. He has earned a bachelor’s degree in social science education, a master’s in leadership, and a PhD in K through 12 education. Welcome to the show, Dr. Atkins. Danny, thank you for having me.
Dr Sheldon: I really do appreciate it. I’m glad that we’re trying something new going live on your end. Thank you again for your time. I appreciate it.
Daniel: Pleasure is All my pleasure. People need to be aware of your work. Your work matters. It’s so important. We’re here to talk about this new book, Leading Equity. We’ll get into that in a second. I love to start and go through the time review a little bit with you. I wanted to ask you about that moment when you learned how to trust yourself, how to use your voice for the first time. What was going on there?
Dr Sheldon: It’s interesting, I started the podcast about four years ago and what’s really personal for me, I wanted to create content. I live in Idaho. As a black man living in Idaho, you have your experiences. I grew up in the South, and so it’s a culture shock. It was just a lot different. I initially moved over here because I got a job at the local university here. What would happen is I would have a lot of students come up to me and they would tell me different experiences. I primarily worked in high schools from the university. It was a grant house at the university, but I would go into the schools and work with high school kids, sometimes even middle school kids, helping them think about careers. What life looks like after school, after high school, options for college careers and things like that. A lot of the kids, especially our kids of color, would just come up to me and open up and share thoughts. Some of the experiences that they were having. Honestly, I did not know how to help them. Danny,It was like I’m dealing with stuff as an adult. When I walk into the high schools, I deal with stuff and teachers and principals and librarians and things like that. I’m trying to work things out for myself and then I have students on top of that telling me about their experiences. I didn’t know how to help. I didn’t know what to do. Pat them on the back and “it’s going to be okay” didn’t seem like enough. I’m sorry you’re going through that. Hopefully it gets better. You know those? I didn’t like having that kind of conversation. I want to give him some actual help. And so that was that moment. It was about four years ago that I started the podcast, because actually when I met you in Chicago years ago, you, Jethro and Will Parker, we all met up and y’all really encouraged me because I wanted to create content, but I’m not a writer. I hate writing, which is interesting when we start talking about the book. But initially I wanted to share this content, but I just got my doctorate. I’m used to interviewing folks. This podcast session I’m going to seems like it makes sense, doesn’t seem all that hard. And that was the moment about four years ago and here we are. I just released episode 248, the Leading Equity Podcast. I know so much about the network that I’ve built, the amount of just great conversations I’ve had over the last few years. Very eye opening for me.
Daniel: I think that’s one of the biggest gifts of doing the podcast for me too. My skill set has tremendously grown because I’m talking to people much smarter than me on a consistent basis, and I get to learn from their stories of success and failure, and most importantly, taking action on one idea that they teach me. Let me ask you one more question about the podcast before we get to the book. You said almost 250 shows, four years of doing this type of thing. Obviously, there’s been a lot of reflection and growth doing the show. For somebody watching or listening and maybe they’re thinking about, “Hey, I should start a blog or a vlog or a podcast”, what would you say to encourage them in that pursuit because of the value that they can get out of it?
Dr Sheldon: I would say do it. I always tell people when they reach out and say, “hey, I want to start a show, I want to start something” and I’ll meet with them and I’ll run them down with the equipment and kind of how to get started. They’re excited, they’re thankful and all these things. Then I check in about a month, maybe 90 days later. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Oh, well, I have to wait for the school year to finish” or, you know,” my daughter this” or there’s always excuses. I try to tell people, people aren’t going to listen to your stuff in the very beginning. I remember checking my stats early on in the first couple of months and it was crickets. It wasn’t until probably about a half, six months in, maybe even a year when people started actually reaching out and saying, “Hey, we enjoy your show” and my stats started to kind of go up a little bit more and it takes time. I always tell people, don’t be three years from now wishing that you had started three years ago. No one’s going to listen to your stuff in the beginning and people will say, Oh, well, you know, it’s saturated. There’s all these education podcasts out there. And I said, But your podcast isn’t out there. People listen to shows because they know, like and trust you. It’s your voice and it’s the format of your show. There is a niche for you, but when you say that, Oh, I have this excuse, you know, time is not there or you know, it’s too many out there already or whatever it is, I just say, go ahead and get started. Even if you’re not coming out every week, at least start creating content and start getting that in your bank and start publishing it. Don’t wait till it’s too late.
Daniel: Yeah, that’s so good. It could be a crowded space. It doesn’t matter because the world doesn’t have your voice. We’re all unique. Picking yourself, choosing yourself, showing up as a way of service. Yeah, nobody listens in the beginning. They didn’t listen to my show either. What’s neat is when you’re consistent, what I would call a professional, that you show up even when nobody’s listening. You create this vault of content, and by the time people show up, it’s like, “whoa, look at all this amazing stuff Dr. Akins has created for me.” And that’s part of the secret, actually. Hundreds of episodes out there, hundreds of articles, books, whatever. People actually think about what you’re talking about because you’ve been refining it over the years. You have some refined ideas for us in leading equity, becoming an advocate for all students, which is available now for pre-orders. I definitely want to encourage people to pick that up. You could get at leadingequitycenter.com/leading-equity-book. We’ll have that in the show notes for you as well. Let’s start talking about the book, Sheldon and here we go. There’s ten steps in the book. Give us an overview, please.
Dr Sheldon: Going back to me saying typically, I’m not much of a writer. I don’t like to write. I get to sidetrack. I’m typing and I see all these read on a microsoft word and misspelled something. I didn’t put grammar or punctuation or whatever, so I’m backspace and then I forget my thoughts and it’s just a whole process. Oh, I got to get back on. Someone calls me or I have a meeting in between writing and I just get sidetracked. It was like the process of writing was a challenge and I’ve been approached before by publishers, but when I got approached this last time, perfect timing. It’s always been a goal for me to have a book. Again, the writing process is a struggle. Being able to share what I’ve learned over the last few years in regards to education and equity, I want to be able to share that. I don’t believe in checklists. I don’t believe in check boxes. People will call me or reach out to me and say, “Sheldon, I missed a terrible lesson. I know I didn’t explain it right.” Or I’ll have a school administrator say, ” We just had a meeting about statistics. And when it comes to discipline and I know I didn’t handle this correctly, what are the steps I should have taken? “And I always try to say, “Well, I don’t believe in a checklist, because sometimes when we see, okay, you know, when you go grocery shopping and you got your list of ingredients for the day, this is what I’m going to make for this afternoon. I’m going to make chicken ravioli or something. I know all the ingredients. I go to the store, pick, check, check, check, check. Done. I am ready to go make that meal. I’m ready to put these ingredients together and then that’s it. When we compare checklists to those types of things, I say, Well, just because you did all these steps doesn’t mean that you’re at the end. You’re officially certified as an equity enthusiast. No, there’s a continual process. That’s a journey that we take. In the book, I start with knowing yourself, recognizing your own privilege that we have and we all have privileges. And the last chapter of the book,you’re going through a journey, you’re learning about the importance of getting to know students’ names and getting to know the inside and outside of the classroom. You’re learning about the importance of educating yourself and not relying on your colleagues or relying on those students to teach you. But you’re actually doing the work to learn about things yourself. You’re going through the process of recognizing or understanding what type of person you are when it comes to doing advocacy work, when it comes to Are you an equity bystander? Are you an equity broker? Are you an advocate? Are you an ally? What is it like? How would you classify yourself? Right. And then we get to the final part where it’s talking about the importance of, okay, you read this book or maybe you’ve gone to some PDS and maybe you’ve been actively working on yourself. Let’s keep in mind that our students don’t just see you throughout the day. It’s one thing if they come to you as a school leader and they have a relationship with your students, but guess what? They see your teachers as well. How can you take what you have learned throughout this process and what you’re actively learning throughout this process and translate that information to your colleagues, to your supervisors, to your people at home, your family members, when you’re at the dinner party, when you’re out celebrating. We just celebrated the 4th of July. When you’re out in these picnics and these things you hear conversations happening or you’re in a staff meeting and you know exactly who they’re talking about, they may not say it, but the language is worded in a way that you know exactly which family, exactly which neighborhood, and these type of things. Are you willing to speak up? Are you willing to stand out even if everybody else seems to be on board? Are you okay with being that one person that says, “Hey, here’s something we probably didn’t consider. Here’s something I’ve been thinking about over the past few weeks, over these past few meetings that we’ve been going to. I think we should probably look at some other options or can we think about how this might impact this group of people, who aren’t present in this meeting by the way, that we’re making decisions for?”So that’s my goal for the books. You’re starting here and you’re continuing on your journey. You’re going to end up here, but it’s not. The book is done, there’s still more work that we can do. Danny, one of the things I’m very proud of is I believe that no matter where you are on this journey, if you’re brand new, “I never heard of equity. I always thought equity was house stuff, stuff with mortgages and things, or I’m just now learning about what equity and education can look like and I want to get there. Or This is my life experience. This is what I’ve been dealing with all my life. This is just every day for me. No matter where you are, you can definitely gain a lot of tips and strategies throughout this book.
Daniel: I love that you point out we’re all on a different journey and the continuum looks a bit different, but this book will equip us to walk as you hold our hand through that process. Tell us more about voice, because you talked about speaking up in a meeting. Maybe colleagues are talking about a certain family that we all know what they’re saying is off and you want to confront that, but you’re not sure how to approach it. What would you say in terms of finding your voice and using your voice in these situations?
Dr Sheldon: I’m glad you asked that question because if folks have been listening to the show, you might have noticed that this show has kind of changed over time. I mean, four years, I’m not going to have the same exact episode every week. You start to change. I think the earlier episodes are really on the what and the why of the different topics centered around equity. And then I started to get a lot more people asking, “I get it. Sheldon, you’re right. I’ve identified things at school. I’ve identified some changes that I need to make as a school leader. But the approach of getting buy-in and the approach of having these conversations are difficult for me. What are some of the strategies that I can utilize to speak to these points to help create that buy-in that I need in order to change some of these systems that have been in place since before I’ve gotten here or while I’ve been here? I’ve realized there’s some changes that need to be made because it’s negatively impacting groups of people.” I kind of started developing more talking points. So within the book, there’s strategies on how to approach those difficult conversations. I need to bring awareness. I just witnessed my colleague call out a student and I really felt like that interaction wouldn’t have been the same had that child been of a different identity or had that child been in a different space. But I could tell that there were some exchanges that needed to happen. I want to bring awareness to this. So a couple of steps that I mentioned in the book, and I’ll just abbreviate it because I don’t want to give too much of the tea to those because I think it’s really beneficial if you read it. One strategy is starting off by saying, “Hey, listen, I know you didn’t mean anything by this when you said X. However, it’s offensive. And here’s why.” Now you’re engaging in a conversation.” Look, I know you weren’t.” or “I believe you had the best intentions, but I want you to try to look at it from a different perspective” or “how that student might have taken it or how that parent might have taken that comment that you made. Here’s why. “Sometimes we just tell people, “Don’t say that.” Shut things down and that’s not what we’re doing here. We don’t give them the why so we don’t educate them as far as, “this is why you shouldn’t say this or that. Here’s why.” So that’s one approach. Another approach is you can start with your own vulnerabilities, start off by telling a story. Hey, listen, you know, I remember when I first started teaching, I had a situation and I know I didn’t do the right thing. I said something I shouldn’t have said or I acted upon my instincts as opposed to really getting the information, learning the whole side of the story. But I just took one side of the story and I just acted upon it. And this is a mistake that I made when I saw you do something last week. It kind of reminded me of that situation. And now you’re opening up the conversation with Noah. I shared some vulnerability with you. I saw something that I’ve done in the past that you reminded me of. Can we engage in that conversation? I think just those two strategies alone. Again, that depends on the situation and your relationship with those individuals that you’re approaching. Those are good starting points and you can tweak and develop things from there, but at least you have something to go by. A lot of times people just say, “Hey, I get it. I know I need to address this, but I just don’t know how to approach you.”
Daniel: What I’m hearing, both those approaches are founded in empathy. One saying “Here’s my story, here’s how I messed up, here’s what I’ve learned and maybe you can learn from my story because you just did the same thing, by the way.” The second The second one is “Hey, I’m assuming with best intentions, what’s going on here? I know you, but you might not be aware of how that message probably is landing with people and how it might be causing harm and that kind of thing. I really appreciate both of those approaches and they seem very practical and very doable. SWe’ll learn about voice. Earlier when you’re describing the book as well, you mentioned just the importance, right, of no one’s students’ names, right? No, no one backgrounds walking a mile in their shoes. Again, this is empathy. But, in terms of relationship building, which I think is honestly a superpower, whether you’re the school leader building relationships with all stakeholders, including staff and parents, or if it’s the classroom teacher building relationships with the students as well. Your book digs into that topic. For folks watching live, we’re listening to the podcast. What is something you’d like to say? Regarding relationships.
Dr Sheldon: I think the entire book, if you were like, what was the overarching message behind the book? If you were to take one take away or one word, it is about relationship building. And I know it gets honed a lot. It’s almost a buzzword these days when it comes to strategies as an educator. But it’s really important. I see the difference when I was in a classroom and I would have fun with my students and then they would go to the next room and then the teachers would come up to me and ask me, “Well, how do you get Johnny to do this, this work?” Or “How are you able to keep Johnny in his seat? Or I seem to end up wanting to kick him out of my classroom every other day. Seems like what is your secret sauce? Or they’ll see me dap up Johnny and we have our own handshake or we have our inside jokes and they’re trying to and other teachers are looking at this, trying to figure it out. I say, listen, I try to have a unique relationship with every single student that comes through this door. I mean, yes, as a classroom, we have jokes and we have things that we do. Like they know what to expect when they come into my classroom. But on an individual basis, like I really try to connect with each student. Every kid doesn’t isn’t interested in the same things. What is this child interested in? Even if I could care less about what they’re interested in, like, it may not be the type of music I like or the type of movies I watch, but at the end of the day, this is what my students like. I want to learn about that. And that’s the same to me. It’s the same thing as parenting. We have our kids at home and we would like to. I don’t know any parent that doesn’t want to connect with their children, especially when they get older, especially when they start hitting those teens teen years. We want to do the same thing and it’s all about connecting with them. Yeah, I can push all the stuff that I like and I can talk about nineties, hip hop and 2000 hip hop but a lot of my students, that’s probably not what they’re interested in. It’s not about me, it’s about what they’re interested in. So those simple things, such as finding out and again, a lot of people talk about this, but it’s really to me, I really do stand on this. It’s very important to have those individual relationships and just taking that time to just sit and chat with kids and, hey, how was your weekend? What did you do this weekend? Hey, how was your game the other day? Or I remember you telling me about your recital. How did that go? Having those little small talks can make such a difference. It gets to the point where kids, when they come into your classroom or when they walk in through the hallways, they don’t want to let you down. They don’t want to end up in the principal’s office anymore and see you.”You know, we just talked. I don’t want you here. “But if you have that rapport with your students, those kinds of things, they’re willing to work harder and they’re willing to not just try not to disappoint you because you have that relationship with them. And I think it’s what we talk about, okay, learn about your students. I also think it’s important that we learn about our students and can learn about us as well. Like who is my teacher? What does my teacher like to do? What is my principal like? What are some of the things that they’re interested in outside of the school? Because I think we come to school and as adults, as students, we’re not always like who we are authentically because there’s rules, there’s protocols, there’s discipline, there’s all these things that are attached to a school. I think most of us, the majority of those who are stakeholders, aren’t always themselves because there’s certain images that they have to put on. Being able to see kids or seeing adults outside and in their element, being themselves to me makes such a difference. And that’s all part of that relationship building.
Daniel: Absolutely. Well, the Ruckus Maker watching and or listen may have missed it. But the fact that you might have a secret handshake with a student shows a level of care in the relationship right there. Something you highlighted that I really want to reflect back is the idea that you reveal stuff about you. They want to know who you are. What I tell Ruckus makers is you’re a 3D character. If there’s only five things people know about you, who are your enemies? Inequity probably should be one of them. If let’s see, talk about your superpowers, your core values so that people know who you are. An important point, too. A lot of great stuff there with relationships. I think here’s the thing. You said relationships are almost like a buzzword these days and that pains me to hear that was because of a new concept. You probably are familiar with it, but I just learned it’s called a gap. And so what happens is that educators, Ruckus Makers have knowledge on how to build relationships. They have the right attitude. They want the right to build strong relationships with everyone. But the P is for practice. So you can’t just have knowledge, attitude, you have to have practice as well. John Dory says ideas are. Easy executions, everything. You’ve got to be a leader of action, have a bias for action to make this stuff a reality.
Daniel: Sheldon, we’re going to take a quick pause to get in some messages from our sponsors when we come back. Let’s talk about buy-in from staff and maybe how this is not your typical equity book. In the last few questions, I asked all of my guests. . Well, today’s show is sponsored by three sponsors. One will be organized Binder, who helps really level up the executive functioning among all your students. The beautiful thing about executive functioning is if you get that. It has incredible return on investment in every single class. You teach it once and it spreads throughout all your classes. Students can be successful so you can learn more at Organizedbinder.com. The Show is also sponsored by Teach FX. They have what they call a Fitbit for teachers. Imagine you can basically record and chart out and score almost the amount of time that you’re doing as a teacher. Talk time should be a majority of students so that they’re doing the thinking and learning and not the teachers. What we find is that educators think they’re giving ownership to the students, but in reality, they’re taking the entire time. You can learn more. I think there’s a 20% discount. Teachfx.com/BLBS. In the last show. Sponsor is Harvard’s Graduate School of Education that has a certificate of School Management in leadership program. I’ve heard from a tremendous amount of Ruckus Makers who are going through that certification program that is legit, incredible, and Extremely practical, working with case studies, things that you can bring into your school building immediately and transform your leadership and the culture. Go to betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard to learn more. We’re back now with Dr. Sheldon, founder of Leading Equity Center and author of the new book available for pre-order Now Leading Equity Becoming an Advocate for All Students. Sheldon, let’s talk buy-in for staff because there’s going to be people, let’s be honest, they resist in the message for whatever reason, it’s not landing with them. Or maybe they’re actually actively working against this idea of equity. How do we get buy-in from staff?
Dr Sheldon: A good question. I have a lot of principals, even district wide folks,leaders within their school or their districts that I work with. I would say the common challenge that these folks will tell me is either one, the staff will tell them, oh, not our school. This is not here. We don’t have an equity issue. A lot of the time they’ll mention, “We don’t have a high population of students of color, so we don’t have any equity issues here.” So that’s one comment that I’ll get. The other one is, “Well, I don’t have everybody on board yet. Once I get everybody on board, then we’ll start making some equity changes at our school. “And the challenges with both of those is one, when they say that it’s not our school and not here, this is not a thing at our school. Especially when they say because we don’t have a lot of students of color. I always say, “Well, equity work is not limited to folks of color. We say coach responsible teaching with, say, these types of these types of words. Automatically often will say, “Well, black and brown students of color, this is a challenge for them. We had to keep in mind that even if you have a school that’s predominantly white, you’re going to have social class issues, you’re going to have the kids that live in this neighborhood versus the kids who live in that neighborhood. You’re going to have the more affluent folks. You’re going to have those who have more access to resources like those types of issues that can happen across the board at any type of school. But if we are just limited to race, then we’re going to miss the bigger picture. When there are IEP meetings that are being held in the middle of the day. And you know what? Parents were wondering why parents don’t show up to these IEP meetings, but at 10:00 in the afternoon. In the morning? yeah. The parents are at work. Are we doing these meetings when it’s convenient for us because we’re at work? We expect our parents to be at a show of our gardens, be it to show up to these meetings. The one thing is equity is not limited to just race. Every school has room for growth. Now, the other comment about where folks will say, well, once everybody’s on board, then we’ll start making those changes. The reality is you will not have everybody on board. It is a process that’s part of the change. You got people that are not going to want to change. When you’re sitting there waiting for everybody to say,”okay, we’re ready to do it, then that’s not first of all, that’s not good leadership, nor is it really going to address the issue that you’re having. You’re going to have folks that are watching certain news stations that are reading certain blogs and reading certain things. All types of political stuff that’s happening and they’re believing all that stuff. You’re going to have folks that are actively trying to work. You’re going to have some veterans at your school that they’ve been teaching the same stuff for the last 20 years, and they’re not wanting to change any of that. They’ve been grading the same way. This type of systemic dress code has always been the same. It’s always been a tradition for this. Or we do this every single year at this time of year. That doesn’t make it right because you’ve always done it. If you recognize that there are some changes that need to happen, that this celebration that you do every single day. I don’t know, October of every year or whatever you got going on with these traditions. Are they excluding other people? Has your demographics changed over the last 20 years with your student population? Is this still something that we should be doing or should we make some changes? You’re not going to get everybody on board. As a leader, it is your job to start working as a team. Eventually people will start to latch on and people will start to come on board. But from the beginning, if you’re saying “I want everybody on board from the very beginning, that’s not going to happen. And that’s not just an equity thing. I would say in general, when we want to make changes at our school and systems and we want to change policies, we want to change procedures, we want to change a lot of the way that we do stuff. There’s going to be resistance. There’s going to be people that just don’t want to have these types of changes happen. And that’s part of that strong leadership is being willing to take these things on, even if they are going to be a challenge. And working with your team, if you’ve got assistant principals, if you if it’s just you, whatever you got going on, take those resources that you have available and be able to start leading that change.
Daniel: Absolutely. It’s flat out unrealistic to think everybody’s going to be on board in the beginning and actually, too, like, would you want it that way? What’s the challenge in that? Where’s the leadership? Where are you growing as an individual? I think that’s a part of the fun, is to say, “Okay, I can see a future reality that’s not here yet. As a leader, I’m going to tell you why that’s a better place for us to be and existing and how we’re going to get there.” Cast that vision. Before we get to the last two questions I ask all my guests. You mentioned Sheldon and Pritchett that this is not your typical equity book. What did you mean by that?
Dr Sheldon: If you listen to me, do solo episodes or see me on stage keynotes and things like that I was raised in the church and so I got a lot of inspiration when it comes to speaking from pastors. It’s just how it was. So when I would get called to come on stage to be on the pulpit and do a sermon, that’s my style. That’s my approach. But I didn’t want to write a whole book that was just preaching to you the whole time, you know? You got to do better. I didn’t want to do a little bit more than that and actually give tools and tips so packed in the book. There’s lesson plan templates on coach responsive lesson plan templates. There’s implicit bias journal prompts for a whole week. You can just do just every day, just kind of reflect on what you have going on, their strategies on like tips on how to help amplify your student voices, how to learn students names. There’s strategies on how to look at students as assets and not deficits. There’s strategies on how to decolonize your classroom. I’m telling you, these are the things that we need to do. These are the steps that we need to take in order to be an equity minded educator. And here’s some examples. Here’s those talking points that I mentioned earlier. Here’s those you know, here’s some experiences that I’ve had. This is how I handled it. Here’s some suggestions as well, depending on where you’re at. But I wanted this book. I wanted folks to leave this book feeling a lot better and not just feeling like, Oh man, I just need to do better, but actually feeling a lot better as far as what they’ve learned and the process of how to do better as an educator.
Daniel: You’ve made it to the last few questions I asked all my guests. Again, I’m excited for your book. I encourage everybody to pre-order for sure. Leading Equity, becoming an advocate for all students. You can get that on Amazon. You can get it from Dr. Sheldon’t website as well. Okay. Sheldon, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world, but just for a day, what would your message read?
Dr Sheldon: Just for a day? I would probably say we. Embrace the experiences, the authentic experiences of all school stakeholders, not just for students, but just for all school stakeholders. We embrace the unique experiences of all our stakeholders, and I think that that part right there is important, because the thing about marquees and slogans, sometimes we’ll say stuff and it’s on the walls in our handbooks, but the action has to be there. So if I’m saying, yeah, we embrace all the unique experiences, authentic experiences of my or our stakeholders. I need to be able to show that and produce that through actual or tangible evidence as well.
Daniel: We’re back to that idea of what you say matters, but what you do and probably matters a lot more. I appreciate that answer. Now, Sheldon, you’re building your dream school. You’re not limited by any resources. Your only limitation is your imagination. So how is Dr. Sheldon building his dream school? What would be the three guiding principles?
Dr Sheldon: I think going back to the authenticity. We are in schools these days and as adults and as students we take a little bit of ourselves. It’s not reflected in our schools, in our daily practices. I think that would be the number one thing. It’s just an authentic experience. Students are allowed to be themselves. There is not a bunch of stress on, you know, oh, you have a hoodie on or you have a hat on. You’re too loud, you know. No, let the students be themselves. And let’s see how that goes. Let’s just try it and see how that goes. That would be the first principle. The second principle is I really do want to get rid of standardized tests and grading. I don’t think it’s equitable. I’ve looked at different models, I’ve looked at different situations. I’ve even read books on equity and grading and the current structure I think needs to change. So that would be another piece to the puzzle, if you will. And that third piece would be I’ve gone back and forth with college. I was working in a position where like, that was the goal. You finish high school and you go on to college. But more on what life looks like after high school for you. I think that rather than pushing a four year degree or two year, all that stuff, know what’s next for you? Let’s help you get there because, you know, some people really do want to enter into the workforce right after high school. Some folks do want to go to college. Some folks do want you to know, life happens, situations happen. Maybe they need a little bit more time to figure some things out. But I want whatever your choice is, at least you have a plan. At least you have a choice. We’re going to celebrate whatever that is. I think that would be the third piece to the school.
Daniel: It sounds good. We covered a lot of ground today for everything we discussed. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Dr Sheldon: The journey continues. People come at me and say, “Sheldon, you’re the equity expert. “And I say, “No, I am on a journey just like you. I just try to stay a chapter ahead so the work continues there is no full arrival or certification. None of that kind of stuff. It’s just a constant trying to learn how to be better and educating yourself.
Daniel: 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 leader is better schools podcasts 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 @Alien Earbud and using the hashtag #BLBS. Level up your leadership. Better leaders, better schools . com and talk to you next time. Until then, class dismissed.
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