Joining in the Present to Build an Equitable Shared Future: A Collaboration of Teachers to Study How they Embody the Principle of Equity
Adam Kinory at the School of the Future in New York, NY and his colleagues are educators who sought to reconstitute the long dormant New York City Chapter of the New York State English Council and National Council of Teachers of English. The chapter will be open to any teacher, across content areas, that seeks to improve their instruction of reading/writing, with the nucleus of teachers being from their school. The process of forming a chapter, will provide a vision around which teachers at the school can unite, learn to improve their ability to collaborate, while also address inequities in student achievement. By coming together in service of starting a NCTE chapter they hoped to prioritize creating a shared, preferred, vision of the future over of the self-flagellation and critique that too often results in pessimism and disenfranchisement.
What is the project and their goals?
Join in the Present to Build an Equitable Shared Future is a collaboration across teachers to look at how they embody the principle of equity in interactions with each other and students they teach. To accomplish this, they had two goals.
- They wanted to read a shared text, using protocols, and rotate the role of the facilitator. They sought to create a sense of “equity” amongst teachers and empower them with the tools they needed to take charge of their own professional development.,
- Using this core group of educators, They wanted to form an affiliate chapter of the national council of teachers of English (N.C.T.E..)to plan a conference, where participants would have a shared experience of creating something new. Through their new chapter creation, they could adjust social norms and reflect on how equity informs decisions that are made.
What did they accomplish?
The project goals were met and new a project was created.
Using the teachings of Peter Block’s text Community, they rotated the role of the facilitator, and used the protocols of the National School Reform Faculty, and ensured that everyone was “equal” in the control they had over the destiny of the group.
In re-starting the New York City chapter, Adam joined the board by request and attended board meetings regularly. They learned that the United Federation of Teachers (U.F.T) already had an existing New York City affiliate of the N.C.T.E., however the affiliate was dormant. The N.C.T.E wanted to restart the chapter but did not have a point person to do this for them. Adam worked with the representatives of the U.F.T to restart the committee and held two committee meetings.
Shared read became a separate project. Teachers across grades 6-10 met and engaged in a shared read of professional text, and used it to explore how to improve equity in teacher-teacher and teacher-student relationships. In creating equity by conducting a shared read at school, they established a common vocabulary as to the characteristics of an equitable community and have taken steps to integrate those characteristics within their pedagogy. Teachers have reported that their participation has led them to re-conceptualize how to interact with their students, reconsider curriculum, and clarify their own sense of mission and purpose.
What challenges did they come up against?
Trust was the most basic challenge. Building trust was a challenge in reinstating the affiliate committee with the U.F.T. Trust was a challenge that made it uncomfortable to collaborate with people that Adam had not worked with before and to make sure people felt free to talk. Participants did not immediately take to the text of Community.
The committee has less than dozen people from across New York City. They hope to grow the committee over the new few years.
They are considering two specific protocols to utilize within their practice.
They are considering a shared read of Freedom and Accountability at Work by Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block. By having a shared read of this text, participants will have the opportunity to explore how to deal with the anxiety that comes from having choices and control over our own lives and dealing with the denial that those choices exist as such denial often leads to hierarchy as people trade their freedom for certainty. If we accept our anxiety and explore the root of it, we can create equity in our relationships with ourselves and others.
The Second consideration for a shared read is Collaborating with the Enemy, by Adam Kahane. If this shared read is chosen, participants would explore how to build equitiy and agreement even when they fundamentally disagree with the most basic assumptions of those they engage with. They want to move from the broad sense of “equity” by design to choosing and using specific protocols to evolve the way they structure interactions that address the following questions: How do we maintain a stance of equity when interacting with those who seem to diametrically stand in opposition to us? How do we clarify the choices before us so that we do not blame some outside force (other teachers, the principal, parents) for our own disappointments? What does equity look like when we are attuned to our own neurosis?
- Equity in Education: Where to Begin?
- 9 Ways to Promote Equity in Our Schools
- What Research Can Tell Us About Educational Equity Guiding Principles for Equity Part 2: Drive Your Equity Plan