Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Courageous Conversations—A First Timer's Account

“As we work together to restore hope to the future, we need to include a new and strange ally—our willingness to be disturbed.” ~Margaret Wheatley, Willing to Be Disturbed. (A quick read, and worth it.)

These past five days, I jumped in with both feet. I was willing to be disturbed. Too willing, perhaps. Because I am disturbed. Deeply, to-the-core disturbed. But the good kind!

I was lucky enough to attend the National Summit for Courageous Conversations 2014. The focus? To begin, or continue to have, meaningful dialogue about race. Racial Equity. As the founder and president Glenn Singleton shares,

We must continue to engage in honest, unapologetic conversations about racial disparities in education and effective ways in which to unlock the untapped potential of children of color.
After the first day, I entered a state of thorough disequilibrium. I have always loved the idea of Wheatley's excerpt (above), but I haven't been this "disturbed" in a very long time. If ever. Without a doubt, I have returned home a changed person.

The choreography of the event was both inspirational and effective. Each moment was exceptionally deliberate, done to nudge you—sometimes push you—into the next challenge. Titled a conference or a summit, in my experience, this was part of a movement. To be in a room with 900 global representatives, all equally eager and committed to making positive change in our children's educational experiences was powerful! I felt the effects, the growth, of what happens being in a room where everyone has the space to be honest, and to be supported when falling and encouraged when flying. And I more deeply understood the tragedy of continuing to ignore issues of race in education. Because they permeate every nook and cranny of our buildings.

I consider myself a reflective person. Very reflective. So it's no surprise to me that I'm processing my thoughts in this post immediately upon arriving home. I'm flipping between quadrants and learning something new each hour about myself. That's where the work needs to begin. And it's not easy.

I was given multiple opportunities for safe, personal exploration. About race. About white privilege. About a host of other topics, personal and educational. I reflected on difficult scenarios, prompted by a facilitator, a colleague, a stranger or myself. I shared mysteriously moving moments. And I realized that my belief system in many ways is flawed and ignorant. That I surprised myself many times these past five days. And I feel somewhat lost in my own skin, but better equipped to do something about it.

And I wasn't alone. My school district sent a large and diverse representative group of people, all creating their own unique stories. I believe my district has both a rare opportunity, as well as an unambiguous responsibility, to use the momentum of our courageous conversations together as the genesis of substantive change. By attending this summit, we did not just go through professional development. We lived a shared experience while gaining personal insights. I believe we established some level of self-actualization as a district, defining the foundational theme that should and must steer our district’s every conversation. All other dialogue benefits and extends from this one. ALL.

My take-aways as a first time attendee:
  • Learning about yourself is the only way to grow.
  • I contribute to the structure of the status quo.
  • I will model positive change by continuing to learn how to participate in courageous conversations.
  • This responsibility begins with me. I need not wait for "directions."
  • As I reflect on the experiences of the past five days, I will be gentle with myself.
Anyway, it's a start.