Leadership: A Personal and Professional Exploration for Educators of Color

26 Aug

As August verges on September and schools have just or are now entering the 2013-14 year, I’d like to let you know about a professional growth opportunity I’m offering with Steve Morris, head of the San Francisco School, through the Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative. Leadership: A Personal and Professional Exploration for Educators of Color is for emergent, questioning and current leaders of color in independent schools who are defining what it means for them to be a leader, considering their possibilities in and beyond independent schools to be educational leaders and looking to expand their professional connections and relationships. If you or someone you know is interested, please feel free to share this link to the BATDC website, which includes registration info: http://www.batdc.org/ongoing-programs/leadersofcolor/.

A note on this workshop and why it’s for educators of color, specifically.

To be honest, Steve’s and my original inspiration was to create an affinity opportunity for folks who identify with a group that is under-represented in independent schools (and yes, one fixed parameter for the workshop was always independent schools, as BATDC specifically serves that sector of preK-12 education providers. And whether you work in a public/private/charter/parochial school does make a difference, so creating affinity around this identity made sense). In version 1.0 of the workshop then, the folks who could sign up would include: educators of color, transgender educators, working class educators, LGBQQ educators, single educators, physically disabled educators, educators who immigrated to the US, educators who don’t have children… it would depend on the educator to self-identify, and help to define the cohort.

My thinking was this: as leaders, we need to know ourselves and recognize the complexity of our identities and how they matter in our work and professional relationships. We also need to recognize the complexity of other people’s identities. And that internal and external recognition requires intersectionally, that is to say: the ability to reconcile how race, class, sex, sexuality, religion, abilities and other identities that impact people’s experiences in our school communities intersect and impact people’s experiences, status and access to resources and opportunities. In my book, the ability to think and engage people intersectionally is a necessary, powerful and core skill set for any leader to be effective in working with and inspiring others to do their best and thrive.

And rather than just talk about different aspects of identity, I thought convening a group of people who identify differently in and outside of the majority would help us as a learning cohort to practice thinking diversely about diversity.

Not that Steve and I didn’t have doubts about how people would receive this proposal for affinity v 2.0.

And those were borne out through a quick initial survey of colleagues. The main objection to an affinity group for leaders who identify as “underrepresented” was that it was too broad a group: there needed to be a focus.

To which I thought: “yes, and…” Yes, I can see that point. If you’re going to affinitize, you need enough for people to affinitize around. And we have a culturally normed habit of grouping “people of color” together, so it feels less diffuse than “underrepresented leaders.” And “people of color” is a hugely diverse group anyway: not just racially and ethnically, but also in terms of class, SES, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, politics, abilities and nationality. So to think that’s not a broad group (and then to treat the individual in the group narrowly) is a critical misperception. And that got me back to where Steve and I had started: even if an intersectional affinity group wasn’t going to fly, we could–and needed to–use an intersectional lens with whatever group we designated, no matter how seemingly homogenous or diverse.

Not that I’m giving up on an affinity experience for educators who identify with underrepresented groups in independent schools. I’m still excited about facilitating that professional growth conversation.

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