I am in the fifth semester of my doctoral program. I just completed a course that I believe every educator in America should take. This course should be in every teacher preparation program, every educational masters’ program, every administrative preparation program, and every educational doctoral program. Seriously.
Social Justice Leadership.
This was the content of this life-changing course. Have you, as an educator, taken any classes that address these important topics?
For those of you who will not take this course anytime in the near future, I want to recommend what you can do to experience the shifts that I have made throughout this journey. I cannot stress enough how important I feel this experience is for every.single.educator in America. We can do a lot to close the achievement gap in our country if we develop cultural proficiency across our educational system; if we, the leaders, become social justice leaders determined to ensure the success of each and every student we serve.
Step #1: Buy the green book, Culturally Proficient Leadership: The Personal Journey Begins Within by Raymond D. Terrell and Randall B. Lindsey, for yourself. Take the time to complete each and every reflection and activity within the book. Those reflections, including the cultural interviews, began my journey towards cultural proficiency and opened my eyes. This work begins within. You must know and understand your own culture and how your cultural experience forms your perspective. The composition notebook you see pictured above was part of my required work for this class, to ensure that we completed each reflection. [I loved this from the beginning, and if you read my blog regularly at all, this comes as no surprise since I highly value reflection!]
Step #2: Consider buying the green book for your entire staff, to support them in beginning their own personal journey towards cultural proficiency.
Step #3: Buy the brown book, Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders, for yourself and your leadership team. Not only does the content of this book give you the background of the barriers to cultural proficiency and the steps needed to progress along the cultural proficiency continuum, but the Appendix provides an entire set of resources to support you leading your team through critical experiences to explore culture. This work requires the ability to facilitate productive struggles and support people in cognitive dissonance. It is not easy. It is not comfortable. But in my opinion it is critically necessary.
Step #4: Consider buying and reading The School Leaders our Children Deserve: Seven Keys to Equity, Social Justice, and School Reform by George Theoharis. This book is a synthesis of real principals who are social justice leaders, working to transform themselves, their schools, and education for all students. This is the practical application of the theory behind social justice, with examples of actions culturally proficient leaders take.
Bonus Step #4.5: If you are a research junky, consider exploring Educational Leadership: Culture and Diversity by Clive Dimmock and Allan Walker. This is a MUCH drier read, especially the first few chapters, but it provides a global context and research to back up the relevance and necessity of cultural proficiency work. The perspectives from this book tie nicely with the work of Dr. Yong Zhao and the need to “prepare our students to thrive in a global society we cannot yet imagine”.
Step #5: Spread the word. Share the message. Don’t be afraid to have the critical conversations- about race, class, ability, and all elements of culture and the inequities that still exist in our society for certain cultures.
If you are still reading this, thank you. Thank you for sticking with my thoughts and recommendations and lecture. If you read this and take action, please share! Leadership can be an isolating experience. Social justice leadership can be even more daunting and isolating. But, as I wrote in my final course reflection, imagine how quickly we could close the achievement gap if every educator in America went through their own cultural proficiency journey and if every leader was a social justice leader?
Thoughts for your consideration:
- Have you had any courses that address social justice and/or cultural proficiency?
- How are you a social justice leader?
- Where is your organization on the cultural proficiency continuum?
- What inequities exist for students in your organization?
- How do you address the elephants in the room within your system?
- Do you have the courage to have the brave, crucial conversations needed to ensure there is equity for all?