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114. PRACTICE: Leading for Justice When Half the Staff Voted for Trump

by Lindsay Lyons
May 9th 2023
In today's solo episode, Lindsay is sharing a mindset shift for school leaders that can be put into practice related t... More
I'm educational justice coach Lindsay Lyons. And here on the time for Teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader, turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling, and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings. If you're a principal, assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nerdy out about co creating curriculum with students. I made this show for you. Here we go, everyone. Welcome to episode 1, 14 of the time for teacher podcast. Today we're talking about a practice we can put into action. This is for you leaders. If you facilitate team meetings, staff meetings and you're interested in leading for justice, but maybe half of your staff voted for Trump, right? Or you have some sort of political disagreement about the process of leading for justice or you disagree on terms like social emotional learning or there's this broader political context in the community that you need to navigate as you're doing this work and you're like what do I do next?

We're gonna talk a little bit about that today. And your free resource for this episode is actually going to be a series of staff meeting templates with agendas and slide decks and all the things you could just kind of grab personalize and go. So let's get to it. All right, everybody, let's dive into the practice episode where we're talking about leading for justice when maybe half of your staff voted for Trump. Right? So the context here is I've had multiple questions from leaders that basically mirror the title of this episode. But some are kind of how can we work with the differing opinions among our staff or between administrators or families or the community? And how do you arrive at a common understanding of these concepts so that you can really move forward? And, you know, I've heard phrases like walk the line or um try to advance justice well, uh maintaining neutrality and, and I've addressed a lot of these phrases like neutrality and, and this stuff before. So feel free to listen to some older episodes on those nuanced pieces. But today, I want to talk about like, what do you actually do when you're in that position as the leader in that community? And you're like justice is important.

We need to do this. I'm just not sure how to navigate the conversation or because I'm so uncertain as to how to navigate the conversation. I've been putting it off. So we haven't really done anything because I know that I want to do it well, and I don't want to create more chaos or harm. And we're kind of in that, in between phase where we're not doing anything because we don't want to because we're fearful of making it worse and all the things. So we're going to take a deep breath and we're gonna dive in today. Um, and the other piece of this too that I want to, to kind of bring to light is another question. This actually came from a leadership team. I believe it was the D E I committee who at, at a school district who was really interested in saying, you know, like we've done really good work in our committee. We've read a lot of books, you're definitely in like the theory and thinking about what is possible and reading all this information and thinking about maybe what we do next, but we haven't actually started taking action because we're not sure how to bring the theory to practice. And we're not sure how to bring the work of our D E I committee to the entire staff.

So these are kind of the two questions that are in my mind where clients or workshop participants or different people have, have asked these questions over and over. So we need to record an episode about it so that we can get the answer out to a bunch of people. And again, caveat that by saying that it's not one answer, right. There's not one right way forward. This is something that I've kind of played around with, have collected a lot of information on, have tested out some of these approaches and have received like a lot of positive feedback and success and you know, your community best. So you can kind of take what we talk about today, do a little bit more of your own research or talk to other people, test out some pieces, personalize it a little bit and then go forward and tell me, I would love to hear how this worked for you. What didn't work? What did you need to shift? What are the responses you got that were unpredicted, that kind of thing because we're all gonna learn together and we're all gonna move forward together and when we share that information and what we tried and what worked and what didn't that's gonna make us better collectively. OK. So here we go thinking about the why, right? I always like to start with the why.

And I think if you're listening to this, you already have the why, right? That justice is the goal. Justice is an important goal not to lose sight of justice for all students, justice for all identities. We frequently talk about in my workshops that dignity, upholding the dignity of all people is the line, right? So when we talk about neutrality and all kinds of things like that. We don't really strive for neutrality, right? We don't want to strive to be neutral when injustice is happening. We land on the side of justice, we land on the side of upholding everyone's dignity. We will not violate that whether that is a family member, a student, a colleague that's not acceptable. So one is just getting comfortable in that right? In that line, in the language that you use around that line, we will uphold the human dignity of all people in our community and and in the broader kind of world community as well. The other piece is facts matter. We are in an educational institution, facts matter. I've talked about this before again, feel your way through this, think about the language that's going to resonate with your community and also to not flex on that reality. It is important to maintain our goal of justice, to uphold the dignity of all people and to say that facts matter, right?

I really like uh Diana mcavoy and um I'm sorry, Paula mcavoy and Diana has these are two scholars who talk about their kind of the way they parse apart some of these disagreements or arguments is that there are settled empirical issues. Example, racism does exist, we can collect a ton of data and share a ton of data on that. We can't argue whether that's a fact. It is a fact versus a policy issue, meaning what policy should be put in place to advance justice, to eradicate racism, right, to be anti racist. So that's what we can disagree on. What's the way forward so that we can all achieve the better society. But we're not gonna disagree that there are problems currently and we can look at the data that says that. So we're not debating facts, facts are facts, we are debating what's the way forward and the way forward, The ultimate goal of that is justice on the way we will uphold all people's dignity. So I think that's kind of the grounding, get comfortable in that. Think about the language that works best for you and your community, you can core that language and we'll talk a little bit about how you can do that today. So how when we look at the conversations that we've had even informally with family members, when we see things like the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that exist after things like the Holocaust, um the uh violence in the north of Ireland, Apartheid in South Africa.

Uh There have been so, so many examples of this. I actually think this would be a fantastic thing to dive into as a staff and think about how we could talk to students about this because I think underlying all of this is are, it's p there are pieces there um that will inform us in our way forward as a local community, as a national community in the United States um as a global community and society, you know, with a lot of conflict, but often we center story, so we center our personal experiences, we hear and center the emotions of one another. We of course acknowledge facts and we ground the work in often, I I I like to ground the work in, in my um kind of restorative approach in classrooms, in schools, in my personal life in shared values. So when we think about someone who is kind of entrenched in their political view, and they're disagreeing with someone who has a different political view and we can think about versus the idea or the thought or the message that we're trying to get across, we're trying to convince someone else that we are right?

If we think about the value, the underlying value that we hold, that is a reason that we're in that position, it's often hard to disagree with a value. For example, if someone is saying, you know, the value that underlies my position is that I am afraid for me or my family's safety. Oh OK. Well, that is something that we can all resonate with, right? We all want to be safe. So versus focusing on the thing we're trying to convince someone else of or the policy we're trying to push right at the very beginning or as a way to kind of work our way out of that entrenched state, let's talk about the value that we share and what's going on. Underneath. Another way to think about this is the acronym I usually use is base because I like acronyms and this is an adaptation of Glasser's five needs. But base is belonging, autonomy, survival, or enjoyment. So usually one of these four things, belonging, autonomy, survival, enjoyment, underlie a lot of conflict. So I would see this in teacher to teacher conflict, teacher to student conflict, student, to student conflict in a school setting. And think about, ok, so maybe this child is not feeling a sense of belonging that caused this behavior that maybe was disruptive or unhealthy.

But the the source of it once we can name it as a lack of belonging or a lack of autonomy or voice, a lack of survival needs being met, right? The child is hungry, of course, or they're tired, of course, their head is down, right? Enjoyment. They need fun in their lives. We all need fun, we need joy, right? So thinking about the underlying needs that are kind of at the heart, at the root of what we're talking about in some of these conversations where we're disagreeing on things, we can center values, we can center our base needs and we can also sense emotions. So starting a conversation, but here's how I'm feeling. Not, this is what I think those three pieces values emotions and needs that underlie the situation, the perspective, those are all things that we can empathize more deeply with versus I need to put myself mentally in your shoes, particularly if you're spewing like hatred, right? That's not really an activity that we, we need to do.

But we can connect to the humanity of the other person, right? They can connect to our humanity, our shared values, our emotions that are shared by all people and the needs that are shared by under all people that underlie our conversation. So these three pieces I think are really key and have really shifted how I approach conversations. And I've seen a big change versus uh what I used to do is really keep it intellectual or ideological that often doesn't result in, in change. So considering that what I also want to add to kind of the layer of that, that's kind of the base, that's the foundation. And I'll, I'll share with you the, the resource, the free resource is actually a series of resources for this episode where you're gonna get access to a three part series and then 1/4 kind of bonus staff meeting, team meeting thing. And I'll talk about that a little bit later. But the first one is co creating community values and agreements. So you're actually having that conversation of what values are important to us collectively. Yeah, individually and how do we kind of navigate all of that? So that's gonna be a set agenda with a slide deck and, and all the things that you can actually just take and use and personalize to your community.

So you'll have that guiding, you'll have that language. Then when you go talk about the other important things that you're disagreeing on a policy issue. Uh The data point that students are, are bringing to like a student experience that is shared a family experience that is shared a community current event that is important in impacting the students and the families of your community, The teachers, then you have that foundation to dive deeper into that and have a generative conversation. OK. So the other piece of this is I I mentioned the student data point or the student experience. I highly recommend if you have not already read it Street Data by doctors Jamila Dugan and Shane Safir. Really, really good. They also have a podcast Street Data pod, which I absolutely love it is phenomenal. Uh but they talk about collecting student data and and specifically data on the student experience which they call street data and just getting at the fact that this is what students experience on a day to day basis. I would also encourage people to think about that from like teacher data and family data as well. But the student experience data needs to be primary, right? We're here for the students.

So since our conversations around, what is that street data that we're seeing? What is the student experience? What is that telling us? And then what's within our locus of control to, to do something. There's always something within our locus of control. Yes, there are structural issues we need to fix. We need to really make sure that we are thinking about what do we see in front of us? What are our students experiencing and what can we do right now ourselves to move the needle forward on that? So I think that's an element of kind of like thinking about the larger political landscape that we're part of and then bringing it local into the community. Like this is a student in front of me that I know that I care about regardless of my political like voting record. I see this student if I'm a teacher here, I am hoping that we have hired appropriately so that this teacher sees the students in front of them that they know they love those students, they care for those students, they can hear that student's experience and empathize and want to make a change to make that student's experience better. If that is not the case, that teacher should not be teaching at that school, that that's just it, right.

And that's a different conversation, but I'm going to go ahead and assume we have hired well and that teachers have those good intentions with the students who are in front of them, they care, they want to do better, right. So if that's the grounding, then we need to center student voice more often bring students to those staff meetings have students on the leadership teams and make sure that we're constantly inundated with student voices and student experiences. It's often a game changer in terms of the things that faculty and staff will think about will say, will advocate for. If there are students in the room, it's very different than if it is just adults. That conversation is different. What is said, what is suggested, what is just even considered? Right? Mentally, there's kind of like AAA I don't know if it's a filter but like there is what is important is the students and that becomes more front of mind than if the students aren't present in the room, right? So that's a dynamic that we want to think about. Also a final thought I want to share is we want to use staff meetings and team meetings.

So if you're like a content leader and you facilitate like a social studies department or, or something like that, that works the same way. But we want to use these meetings with staff to practice so much of this is so important because we, we kind of skip sometimes the conversation about how do we talk with staff, how do we lead for justice with staff, how do we have conversations about current events or politics or identity with staff? And we say staff, you should do this with students and maybe we'll give you a P D on how to do this with students but we don't actually do it ourselves. We don't actually facilitate those conversations as leaders with our staff. And the way that we get staff to do it well with students is to do it with the staff, right? So the the other cool piece of this is you could do a staff meeting or professional development, whatever you wanna call it. And the conversation can exist within the container of a protocol or activity that staff can actually do with students. Or if if a staff member doesn't actually work directly with students, it might be that they work with families so they can do this with families or they can work this, do this with uh community members or their team that they're part of.

So I think that's really critical too is we want to see staff meetings as the hub for practice, we want to constantly and consistently practice and we want that practice to be housed in a container or a protocol or something that they can take back in their roles in the school with students or otherwise and actually practice there, right? Or, or facilitate there in a way that builds student skills because we are as staff parallel parallel. I'm not sure if that's the word, but we are working in parallel. We're helping students do build these skills and have these conversations and talk about justice. We're also doing it ourselves. So when we do all of those pieces, we ground the work just to kind of recap here ground the work and shared values, the shared human emotions and based needs versus our opinions or academic intellectualizing. We center student voices by having them in the meetings on the leadership teams. We look at the street data, the student experience and we center those pieces of information in conversation and then we see staff meetings as an opportunity to practice, looking at that data, thinking about next steps, centering the student experience discussing and if we're disagreeing, especially thinking about the shared values of our community, our emotions and our needs and just doing that consistently, we are going to have a better staff culture.

That is one that doesn't get entrenched in political viewpoints, but one that advances justice sees the humanity in all of us in each of us as staff members sees it in our students, in our families identifies that we have a locus of control where we can do something we are not externally blaming, we are owning what we can do. We are intent on making the world better, making our school and our students experience at school better. And we are navigating those really critical conversations with empathy and upholding dignity of all people. So if you are interested in getting kind of the three part series with kind of there's a bonus one on unit dreaming also which I just absolutely love. But the three part series you can sign up for that we'll link it in the show notes and in the blog post, Lindsey Beth lions dot com slash blog slash 114. It's episode 1 14. So Lindsay Beth dot com slash blog slash 114. In the show notes on the blog, here's what you'll get. The first thing right away. You'll get the co creating community values and agreements, staff meeting, put that into action, personalize it as you need, You'll have the agenda to slide deck all the linked resources.

The next one is actually gonna be building community via circle. So circle protocol, great protocol to can house conversation both with staff and with students and families and anyone else. So an activity for example, and that will be like story of my name. So you'll learn Circle Protocol, you'll practice it by everyone sharing or being invited to share the story of their name. Then the third one, how to talk about race and current events with your staff. So there's a template, you insert the current event or the thing you want to talk about and you go forward and talk about it. So you're doing the practice and then you can reuse that one again and again because it's a template and then just insert whatever issue you want to talk about or student experience, data point, current event, blah, blah, blah. So that one, you could kind of reuse rinse and repeat. But everyone's used to the format we've done the grounding and values and agreements. We have the protocol of the circle if you want to use that repeatedly and then we can go forward and then the fourth one is a bonus. It's um on unit dreaming. So it's just thinking about how to increase that curricular fluency and build that muscle. That Dr Goldie Mohammed talks about in terms of curricular fluency that we want teachers to develop that being able to develop units and create curriculum based on anything, right?

Based on something that's right in front of us and just kind of get the practice with it and, and find the joy in it. So that's kind of a fun, fun one to balance the, the hard and the serious of the other three. If you're interested, go ahead and grab that freebie. Please let me know how you personalize it, how it goes. What's the response that you receive from your staff? I'm super excited to hear and I will see you next week. If you're leaving this episode, wanting more, you're going to love my life coaching intensive curriculum, boot camp. I help one department or grade team create feminist anti racist curricula that challenges affirms and inspires all students. We weave current events into course content and amplify student voices which skyrockets engagement and academic achievement. It energizes educators feeling burns out and it's just two days. Plus you can reuse the same process any time you create a new unit which saves time and money. If you can't wait to bring this to your staff, I'm inviting you to sign up for a 20 minute call with me. Grab a spot on my calendar at w w w dot Lindsay beth lions dot com slash contact.

Until next time leaders continue to think big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach Better Podcast Network better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there, explore more podcasts at teach better dot com slash podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode.

114. PRACTICE: Leading for Justice When Half the Staff Voted for Trump
114. PRACTICE: Leading for Justice When Half the Staff Voted for Trump
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