I am currently reading Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice by Elena Aguilar. Each chapter ends with a series of reflective questions for the reader to consider in our own equity and coaching journey, and I’ve decided to blog some of my reflections. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Chapter 9: Surfacing Current Reality
Surface Current Reality is the first of the four phases of Transformational Coaching that Aguilar created. I appreciate that she uses story-telling to illustrate the phases and her coaching moves. This chapter’s story was her first interactions with another teacher, Khai.
What came up for you reading this chapter? What thoughts and feelings?
Wow. I had a lot of thoughts, emotions, and judgments as I read this chapter. The phrase “these kids” bothers me, like it bothers Aguilar every time she writes about it being said. The phrase is usually a way for teachers to talk about BIPOC students. I felt sad for the students in Khai’s class and school when I heard the discipline statistics. I felt bad for Aguilar who had to observe some truly negative interactions between the teacher and his students before their coaching relationship had developed. I felt sick by the micro and macro aggressions described. I struggled to stop my own judgmental thoughts, as Aguilar used her own self-talk to reminder herself to be open, to listen, to look for strengths, and not to judge this teacher.
Recall your own experiences as a kindergartener (or elementary school student). If I’d visited your classroom, your teacher, and you, what would I have noticed?
I love that Aguilar used this question as her opening way to get to know Khai in their first coaching session. She learned so much about his childhood, his background, and his beliefs that inform how he teaches. It also humanized him for her, which was important after she had witnessed him berating three of his Black Kinder students on the first day of school. I can barely remember my own kindergarten experience. I remember loving my teacher. I remember her inviting us to a local park behind her house for an end-of-year picnic and my memories of that feel fun and happy. Actually, that might have been my first grade teacher, but I’m not sure! I don’t remember anything about the academics of my first year of school. I know that my class was full of white students, because that was the make-up of our town. In general, I was a shy kid in elementary school who liked to read and to play school at home. I was a rule-follower. I don’t remember anyone getting suspended in elementary school ever.
What data could you gather to gain insight into racial inequities in your school, organization, or district? What data could you gather to gain insight into inequities for other marginalized groups – for how girls experience math and science? For students with learning differences?
In the era of accountability we have lived in for the last decade+ we have plenty of data to gather. We can look back at attendance, achievement, and suspension data as a district, by school, and by student groups. However, since COVID-19, a lot of our traditional data measurements have been suspended (pun intended!). Now is a great time to consider what other types of data we have available to us. In an elementary system with minimal discipline records, it’s important to consider other sources: referrals to intervention programs, referrals for testing for special education, when do teachers pull in the principal to help in a parent conference?, student enrollment in enrichment and speciality programs, etc. As a principal, I always found it helpful to connect data with individual student stories. Whether I had made a home visit and knew more about a family’s situation, or I could share the experience I had when observing a student during a lesson or even after I had a positive interaction with a student during lunch, these stories made the data personal and meaningful in our discussions.
Coaching for Equity Reflections Series: