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February 1, 2022

Ask an ASCD Expert / Counselor Feels Alone in Quest for Antiracist Teaching

ASCD faculty and authors respond to educators' dilemmas.
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Q: I'm a secondary school counselor in an affluent, mostly white school. I have been advocating with our counseling department to lead conversations and training with students, staff, and our school community around race, equity, and privilege. But I've been met with radio silence from administration. I can't in good conscience work for a leadership team that doesn't see antiracist teaching as a priority. How can I strategically get leaders on board to see that equity is a key part of school improvement?
Hearing Only Static in the Mid-Atlantic
A: Don't give up now. Fundamental to high-performing schools is a culture of achievement that far exceeds student performance on high-stakes assessments. It is a conviction shared by school-based leaders, teachers, staff, students, and stakeholders that all children can succeed academically and that all students should feel welcomed, seen, acknowledged, and heard.
It is difficult for Black and Brown students to separate their academic identities from their racial and ethnic identities. Their academic self-confidence is linked to their personal commitment to academic excellence and their willingness to persist through challenge, struggle, and disappointment. Trust and safety are fundamental needs for historically marginalized students, and teachers are uniquely positioned to develop relationships with their students that encourage them to thrive. Accordingly, the teacher-student relationship is a critical determinant of student growth and mindfully establishing a sense of belonging for all students is integral to a culture of achievement.
The conversations in schools continue to elude the questions "Who do we serve?" and "How do we serve them?" These essential questions often get pushed to the periphery or dismissed because they force us to sit and reflect on our own beliefs, attitudes, and actions that lie at the heart of our personal identity. Yet, as schools increasingly become more diverse, we must sit in personal reflection and be willing to engage in critical dialogue that celebrates and directly addresses diverse worldviews and equity in schools. To adequately meet the needs of all students, we must acknowledge others and their way of interpreting the world.
Here are a few guidelines and questions you might share with your administration to start to frame transformational dialogue and learning approaches rooted in antiracism that are designed to meet the needs of all students.
Understand the current conditions of the school.
  • Do your school mission, vision, core values, and guiding principles align with and connect to intended expectations of how equity is seen, heard, and felt for all students?
  • Is there clearly defined common language that conveys that shared vision?
Own your student demographic data.
  • Who do you serve and how do you serve them?
  • Do educators in your school/school district respect the diverse needs of the students that you serve? How is understanding and empathy measured?
  • Do the educators that sit around the table making educational decisions for students reflect the identities of the demographic that you serve?
Listen to student and family voices.
  • Are you welcoming the voices of those impacted by decisions?
  • Are you following through with actions, like the ones mentioned here, that support the establishment of an equitable learning community?
I know you are invested in this work, and I encourage you to stay the course. As you continue to make meaningful efforts to onboard other stakeholders and make space for new avenues of learning, be assured that your personal truth, heart for the work, commitment, and advocacy is one step toward a more equitable school for the students you reach.

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Alicia Monroe

Alicia Monroe is a PK–20 experienced educator and international education consultant. Her nationally recognized research, Co-Creative Dialogue in Culturally Proficient Schools, provides a glimpse into the socio-dynamics of school communities and methods of self-correction that will support student achievement. Her notable success in creating a culture of belonging and achievement in schools along with her expertise in developing equity and access models that frame educational opportunities for all students are the core of the ongoing professional learning and support she provides to school districts. A sought-after speaker and facilitator, Monroe has presented her research at several international and national conferences.

Monroe also serves as Assistant Director, Strategic Initiatives at Rowan University. Notably, in this role, she created and implements the Rowan First Star STEAM Academy, a pre-college transition program that engages foster youth in project-based, experiential learning, college to career discovery, and intrusive mentoring and coaching. As adjunct faculty, she teaches undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level courses. Her partnership with the Office of Accessibility Services provides for collaborative planning, mentoring, career coaching, and job placement for differently abled students and alumni. She is also the CEO and Founder of Solutions for Sustained Success, LLC., which offers services and professional learning in the areas of education, organizational systems, change management, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and equity and access.

Monroe received a Doctor of Education degree and earned the coveted Larry Marcus Medallion for Excellence in Doctoral Studies from Rowan University, a master's from Pratt Institute, and a bachelor's from the College of the Holy Cross. Monroe's LinkedIn profile details her leadership, scholarly publications, conference presentations, professional affiliations, and honors.

ASCD Faculty Expertise:

  • Whole Child

  • Culturally Relevant Teaching

  • Equity

  • Instructional Best Practices

  • Leadership

  • Family and Community Engagement

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