Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the relationship between equity, voice and leadership.
A few weeks ago, a friend and I got together for one of our ‘education chats.’ Both of us are very passionate about education and we set aside some time on a regular basis to share our ideas, our latest experiences and insights, and our hopes for our students, our colleagues and our schools.
We spent some time discussing what it means to be inclusive, to understand our privilege and to understand how this privilege might actually benefit our students rather than pretending we do not experience privilege. Since both of us have leadership roles, we realized that formal leaders play a significant role in creating learning environments where everyone’s voice is heard, where those who are normally silent are invited to the conversation, and where everyone in the learning community is honoured, included and celebrated.
Creating equitable and inclusive learning environments demands that leaders are reflective, willing to admit our bias, able to understand our own vulnerability, always committed to act with integrity, always willing to be challenged and to engage in continuous learning. Engaging in “equity work” can be uncomfortable therefore courage is needed!
A few weeks later I had the opportunity to speak at the Quest Conference in the York Region District School Board. I had the privilege to serve on a panel with very wise people. The message I shared on this panel is that equity work demands that formal leaders facilitate the creation of learning environments where we all share our experience and expertise AND we are not afraid to ask for help, to question what we do not understand, and to admit our mistakes. Only in these environments will we create the type of community where all have a place, where every voice is heard and where we act upon the diverse insight that emerges.
Each and every student, staff member, parent and community member has something significant to offer our learning community. There is a richness in our communities because of this diversity. Leaders must remain vigilant so that our learning communities provide opportunities to listen and to respond to the voices of all.
I am writing this blog post as the prayer service is occurring in Newtown, Connecticut for those students and staff members who were killed. This is such a tragedy. Together we must work together to support each and every student effectively so that a tragedy like this never happens again.