Tracey A. Benson, Ed.L.D., is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He is a former public school teacher, middle school assistant principal, and high school principal. Dr. Benson received his Ed.L.D. in Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Masters of School Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

He is the co-author of Unconscious Bias in Schools. Tracey is the also the Founder of the Anti-Racist Leadership Institute.

Speaker 1: And you said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. And there we were in the middle of a pandemic in George. Floyd was murdered in front of people, caught on tape by police and the world's consciousness was awakened to the reality that black and Brown people have been experiencing forever racism. We've had the consultants, we've had the speakers come in to the districts and talk about it. We know it's there. We know that it's systemic yet. What do we do? I'm so excited today that dr. Tracy a Benson joins me for a second time on the podcast. And we talk about a new Institute. He's founded called the anti-racist leadership Institute at the end of the show. He mentions this metaphor of a ladder and get him past our phobia. So you want to check it out.

Speaker 1: It's a bonus show. So it's pretty short, but that's what Tracy does. He helps you get past the fear, get past those cognitive blocks that we have to discuss. What is quite a frightening topic. Racism, not only will Tracy help you get past the fear, but he'll also help you implement the change. The change all of us want to see within our schools and our communities. So ruckus maker, thanks for being here. I hope you enjoy this show in just a second, but before we get to our conversation, our message quick message from our sponsors,

Speaker 2: All students,

Speaker 1: They 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 at organized binder Or a word from our sponsor, teach effects. Are you automatically tracking online student participation data during COVID innovative school leaders across the country have started tracking online student participation using teacher effects because it's one of the most powerful ways to improve student outcomes during COVID, especially for English learners and students of color. Learn more about teacher effects and get a special offer@teachereffects.com forward slash B L B S. That's teach fx.com forward slash B L B. You're waiting for your district to develop you don't hold your breath. What would you be able to accomplish if you poured jet fuel on your leadership development? Rob, a principal in North Carolina had this to say about his mastermind experience. I have found myself trying more things because I know that I have the support from other amazing school leaders to

Speaker 3: Help guide me through. If I get stuck, turn your dreams into reality and level up your leadership apply to the mastermind today at better leaders, better schools.com forward slash mastermind. Well, Hey there ruckus maker, I'm joined again. Second time on the show by dr. Tracy, a Benson and assistant professor of educational leadership at the university of North Carolina. Charlotte is a former public school teacher, middle school assistant principal and high school principal. Dr. Benson received his doctorate in ed leadership from the Harvard graduate school of education and master's of school administration from UNC chapel Hill is a coauthor of unconscious bias in schools. And Tracy's also the founder of what we're going to talk about today. Uh, the anti racist leadership Institute. And in case you haven't heard a bit of his story, uh, he was my guest in season two, episode two 48. You can go back and check that out.

Speaker 3: And recently he's been featured as a host on the school leadership series podcast. So Tracy, welcome back to the show. Great, Danny, thank you so much for having me back, you know, it was great for talk with you the first time and I really appreciate the opportunity to do this 10 part series on unconscious bias. And I'm great and very, very blessed to be back to talk about the Institute because it's been a great time for us and a good resource for leaders. Thank you. Thank you, Tracy. And we'll definitely get to the Institute, maybe just say as a teaser to go back and keep people in, check out episode two 48 of the show and then the content you're creating for the school leadership series. Can you tell us just a little bit about unconscious bias and what that means to you? So it means that you know, that we have in the United States, we have a long history of racism that our society has been built upon.

Speaker 3: And these messages of our historical racism carry on up until today, right? And every aspect of our life and business and policing, we've been seeing recently in our society, um, in medicine and also in schools. And so we bring our work on unconscious bias to talk about the vestiges of racism in schools. Now, proportionately disadvantages, kids of color. And so we want to bring my two, one, what does racism look like in schools? We call it racial bias that, you know, because we it's more of a normalized bias, but we call it unconscious bias because it's just so normal. And often we don't do these things purposefully. And so we want to bring folks attention to one are in the way we've ingested racial bias as educators and how we unintentionally play those biases honor, honor students, then how to bring attention to knowing what our own biases are. And then implementing specific strategies, not just thinking annoying, implementing specific strategies to interrupt those biases and what they're a result of lessening, the impact of racism on our kids, increasing their lifetime outcomes, their graduation rates, and also their academic achievement. And thanks for that description. And I'm

Speaker 1: Sure the work you do with unconscious biases is, uh, informing your work with, um, what you founded there, the anti-racist leadership Institute. Uh, but tell us more. So that's, that's a big project, maybe a heavy lift you're doing it. I know it's a very exciting for you. And a lot of people are signing up to join. What is the anti-racist leadership Institute?

Speaker 3: This is something that came out of really intense need of, you know, the, um, uh, intense, needed interests of folks who want to know how to interrupt racial biases and their school districts. So I think since the, you know, since the killer George Floyd Americans really woken up to the fact that racism is real and it's real big, and it's why I'm spreading our country, of course has been around for hundreds of years, but there's a more of a recent attention and awakening and re and realization that we actually need to be an active part of participating in anti-racism. And so, you know, after the killing of George flood, I have a lot of, uh, requests for folks about just coming to me from different school districts or universities, different or education based organizations, uh, asking my, we, you know, we know that we don't like, you know, we want to sort of be the change we want to see in the world.

Speaker 3: We want to lessen the impacts of racism in society. And we know as educators, we're a part of that. And so folks were coming to me like, how can we integrate anti-racism into our school district, into our organization, into our university? And how can we do it with intention? Because a lot of these organizations that have already been through the cycle of, you know, bring it in an outside consultant to talk at them for awhile, or run a couple of workshops per year and really raise a consciousness of the practitioners, but they notice that it doesn't really change practice, right? And the purpose of engaged in it and sort of train and workshop is to change practice. And so a lot of these organizations have been through this process, uh, time and time and time again, but not really achieved any substantive change. And so, you know, getting back, going back to the drawing board with me and my team, we, um, wanted to create a, uh, a learning opportunity and an implementation strategy.

Speaker 3: Folks asked you to realize substantive change. And so the purpose behind the Institute one is to raise the conscious awareness of the participants. One increase their racial literacy about what racism is, how it impacts the students, how it impacts them, understand the dynamics, what Rob the engine we'll call it right fragility, which is the biggest barrier to realize and change. And then also then to discuss what the implications are for developing a strategy and then locating ourselves in terms of what is our particular role as leaders going into the work. And so we do this by having a month long of intensive study, through reading, to discussions, to watching films, to accountability part being, or so we're together for a total of 10 hours over the course of five weeks, virtually two hours per week with leaders from all over the world. In our last Institute that just ended yesterday.

Speaker 3: Our, um, our September Institute, we had two individuals in California, two from Missouri and one woman, uh, she's in Beijing, China, you know? And so we all came together all over the world to come together to talk about the issue of anti-racism and what that looks like and push each other to really think better and develop strategies for our particular context. And so that five weeks of very intensive study accountability partner in learning and development strategies is then supported with 12 weeks of what I call, um, anti-racist executive coaching personally by me, where we, I meet with individuals every other week for 12 weeks during the implementation phase. Cause that's when the work gets tough. Now during the 10 weeks, and we talk about what could happen. We raise our conscious awareness, but when individuals go back into their context, they realize that there's a lot of barriers that they have to, you know, in hurdles they have to overcome in order to implement them, find it on their side, by side, the coaching individuals, to the cognitive aspects, meaning that getting over the fear and trepidation about actually implementing things, to saying the word, race and racism within the school district, and then also adjusting their client as they implemented so that they can realize change.

Speaker 1: I have follow up questions, but I want to ask you this. And I know the ruckus maker listening, can't see us, but we're on video. And I want that. So we have a human connection. Your face lit up when you were talking about, uh, connecting leaders from the around the world, you know, I mean, you had a huge smile on your face. So I just want to check in with you and ask you, uh, why do you think that is? What was that all about?

Speaker 3: I mean, it's, it's this global awakening. The racism is really inspiring. You know what I mean? Just the name, the number of places that, you know, my, I mean, one that the book has been, I never expected the book to have such a global impact, right? This concept of racial bias. We know it's a global phenomenon. We know what the history of colonialism around the world, that racism is an issue. And for folks to come in and say, we want to be anti-racist folks from Australia. As I mentioned, China, Brazil, I just got off the phone, spent over the interview with a guy from the UK who told me, he's like, I just heard about this concept of unconscious bias and I wanted it. I Googled you. And I want to talk to you. So this concept of racism is really, um, something that has been a long standing issue, not just in the United States, but around the globe and for folks to be coming together and wanting to actually start to a global conversation and wanting to start to address the issue of racism, I think is as one inspiring to see that as a, you know, as a country, but also as you know, globally that we are taking this issue seriously, finally, and coming together from all different places to talk about the concept of racism, because the concept of racism is one we're trying to nibble it to eliminate when separated from these bad white people over here.

Speaker 3: And now we're separated in this sort of concept of bad white people, which is not what it is. It's a concept of racism, believing one race is inferior and one was this racist superior. And that's what I think we're, we're beginning to gravitate around. And I think something that we're, we're actually, I'm at a point where we realized that it's a threat to sort of our national safety and our national way of life. And so we really want to solve this issue so we can be better and closer a nation. And as a global community

Speaker 1: Sharing that, you know, my work with school leaders in the mastermind, probably one of the best parts of it is connecting with those leaders, not only around the U S but Canada and many different countries. Um, we had our first, uh, South American leader join as well from, uh, Argentina and like what a, what a treat, you know, I never thought that would be possible in here we are. And Sophia's in the groups. So we love her. So, okay. I think you said 10, 10 weeks. Did I get that right? 10 weeks to our virtual meetings? Is that, is that correct? In terms of the program

Speaker 3: 10 hours or the course of four weeks? So it's, it's on, so it's easy. So it's every other week within a calendar month. And so we have shorter months, we have longer months. So it's simply either every Tuesday or every Wednesday, depending on the participants. So you can do imagine we've got some folks in China supposed to on the West coast and fro from the, on a central time zone and get me on the East coast. So we have to find a time that works for everybody got together and were together for five weeks, you know, during any given calendar month. And then that's followed by a 12 weeks of implementation support. So are we thinking about the totality of the Institute? It's 17 weeks. Okay.

Speaker 1: Okay. And I heard you say too, I mean, essentially that, that ideas are easy. People have gone through sort of this process of thinking about what it means, but where you're really helping is that execution, you know, execution is everything. And so going through the program, there is discussion there's implementation and figuring that out in, you mentioned anti-racist executive coaching. Can you bring us to a moment? You know, you don't have to reveal details and names and locations, but can you tell a story of like one of those things that you helped a leader on pack? And

Speaker 3: Yeah, so I think the secret sauce to this Institute is, is it's half technical in terms of what we actually do, but the other half is cognitive framing. And we often forget that the individuals we have to lead this work had their own cognitive constructed barriers around Antares, like what is possible. And so the most prevalent barrier that folks have when they come into the Institute is this barrier of fear that they are not the right person. If they say the wrong thing, they're going to be seen as racist. And they're really afraid to make other people comfortable. I can never get over those cognitive barriers. We can never get into the real work. You know, when I was at the Institute, I talked about, about having like a phobia, right? Folks come in with anti-racism phobia. I mean, they have so many fears about what it means to say to a faculty that, you know, what racial bias plays a role in this building.

Speaker 3: How do we then alleviate our, our racial bias and the impact on our black and Brown kids? And they're afraid that teacher may push back though, Oh, I'm not racist and get really offended and things that might happen. But that is not a bad thing we cannot talk about. We are so afraid to talk about racism that we actually never talk about it. And so, in terms of like the phobia, you know, someone who is afraid of Heights, you know, big in terms of like the technical learning around there, someone's afraid of Heights could watch someone climb a ladder, climb a bridge and see how to do it so many times, but that doesn't take away the phobia. So unless they get over their fear, they're never actually going to get up on that ladder so they can know the technical aspects. And this is what we do in education currently.

Speaker 3: And we do anti-racism that we learned the technical moves. We have a book study, you know, we have someone coming in talk and so, you know, the technical aspects, but then we never actually get over our own four years of doing the work ourselves. Right. And so for that person to actually get over their fear of Heights, they actually have to be able to climb the ladder themselves. They know how to, but they actually have to bring themselves to do it. And so in the, in my current, in the one that just finished, uh, I have a superintendent that was truly afraid to say the wrong thing. So this was actually preventing her from taking the first step, dipping our toe into the pond of anti-racism because she simply did not believe she had the words. She didn't want to be anything but perfect. She was afraid to be imperfect.

Speaker 3: So I helped her get over that cognitive barrier. I use this process called that immunity to change process. And so it's from this organization called minds at work. And these are two professors out of Harvard who were my professors when I was there. And Lisa Lakey was who was an author, one of the books, she was my immunity to change coats. And so I use this process specifically for anti-racism phobia to help us get past the cognitive barriers. And so the majority of the work is actually internal personal work to then do the technical work of changing practice

Speaker 1: Change from the inside out, get past the phobia and learn how to climb the ladder.

Speaker 3: Right. There you go. There you go. Exactly.

Speaker 1: I know that ruckus makers will want to jump at this opportunity, Tracy. So if they want to sign up, sign their team up, where can they find more information and get enrolled?

Speaker 3: Yeah, it was it's. It's great. We, we welcome any everyone. We welcome, you know, we welcome teachers. We welcome APS. We welcome principal, welcome teacher leaders. I've even had deans of colleges and chancellors and post some education based organizations of any, and everyone who's in education, who wants to be a better leader for racial equity in education is welcome because it doesn't take positional leadership to assume cultural leadership and make a change. And so where most can find access to. And right now I keep the, the, the incidents very small purposefully, you know, invited hundreds of people. So each cohort is just 10 and we do that purposefully because I don't want to have mission drift on what we attempt to do. And so folks can find it at my website at Tracy, a benson.com. So you'll post in, log-on see our suite of services. You know, our, our sort of Cadillac service is they, um, anti-racist leadership Institute, because that has been what is proven over time since you've been offering, this is the catalyst to real change. And everyone who's gone through the program has realized internal as well as organizational change around anti-racist leadership. So again, folks can find information about this at my website, Tracy, a benson.com

Speaker 1: In ruckus maker. Of course, we'll have that linked up for you in the show

Speaker 3: Notes. We'll also have linked up for you. Tracy's book unconscious bias in schools, Tracy, thanks again for being my guest, we covered a lot in a short amount of time. Is there anything that we missed or maybe a better question would be what's one thing you want folks really to remember about our discussion today? What I want to, what I want for us to remember is that, you know, that if we want to really make true change, we have to do substantive change, right? And want to, to get out of the loop, know the normative loop or bringing in speakers and talk at people to then not waste time, money, and energy and suck that stuff. That's really not going to make change. So to say that in the, that I am not the only answer to this, but I want to promote folks getting out of that sort of that vortex and that loop of, you know, what's popular right now. But what, what is really important is that being gay substantively, and one of the ways to do that is to come to the leadership Institute and think about race differently about how we can be the change we want to see. So we don't have to depend on anybody else. We can be the change. And so I want to invite folks to be that change in 20 minutes.

Speaker 4: Thanks for listening to the better leaders, better schools podcast with ruckus maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel app, better leaders, better schools.com or hit me up on Twitter at alien earbud. 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 alien earbud and using the hashtag B L P S level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then class dismissed.

Show Highlights

  • Interrupt racial biases in school districts with substantive change.
  • Racism is really inspiring. A Global Awakening of Consciousness
  • The secret sauce to the Anti-Racist Leadership Institute 
  • Address phobias and separate the concept of bad white people
  • Climb the ladder to get over anti-racism phobias
  • You are the right person to implement change if you can say “racism”
  • We are so afraid to talk about racism that we actually never talk about it. 
BLBS Bonus_ Tracey Benson: Introducing the Anti-Racist Leadership Institute

“They realize that there’s a lot of barriers that they have and hurdles they have to overcome in order to implement their plan. I am there side by side, coaching individuals, to the cognitive aspects, meaning that getting over the fear and trepidation about actually implementing things and saying the word, race and racism within the school district, and then also adjusting their client as they implement so that they can realize change.” 

Dr. Tracey A. Benson



  • Organized Binder is an evidence-based RTI2 Tier 1 universal level solution
  • Focuses on improving executive functioning and noncognitive skills
  • Is in direct alignment with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework
  • Is an integral component for ensuring Least Restrictive Environments (LRE)

You can learn more and improve your student’s success at https://organizedbinder.com/



School leaders know that productive student talk drives student learning, but the average teacher talks 75% of class time! TeachFX is changing that with a “Fitbit for teachers” that automatically measures student engagement and gives teachers feedback about what they could do differently. 

Learn more about the TeachFX app and get a special 20% discount for your school or district by visiting teachfx.com/blbs.


Copyright © 2020 Twelve Practices LLC

(Visited 447 times, 1 visits today)