Over the past few years, I have pondered deeply over this term, “equity” because it sort of came out of nowhere as a part of a long litany of education “buzzwords.” Because of the widespread usage (and misuse) of this word and the passion that so many exhibited when discussing it, I paid attention. I listened…I read…I studied…I participated in the discussions…and most importantly, I observed. My conclusion was very simple. I concluded (at the time) that this new idea called “equity” relative to the school and the classroom was not something new for me to “learn.” Instead, this new idea (at the time) called “equity” relative to the school and the classroom was the embodiment of who I am as an educator and as a human being.
What exactly is equity? The short and simple answer is to be “fair”….to meet every learner in the classroom where they are. To avoid at all costs giving all students the same thing toward meeting their needs in the name of equality when in reality, students in any given classroom are in different places and therefore have varied needs including their social, emotional and academic needs. Equality will fail toward meeting the needs of diverse learners but equity stands a much greater probability for success. Resultantly, schools and school districts all over America are making the attempt to infuse professional development for their staffs toward creating an awareness about classroom equity and ultimately creating equitable learning environments in their classrooms. This is certainly to be applauded, commended and sustained forever!
Here’s the problem, however. You can teach “equity” but you cannot teach “humanity.” They are two separate entities and they are not synonymous. To be clear, equity in the classroom not only makes sense; it is common sense. For some, equity is a “no-brainer.” It just makes sense to these individuals because it is a part of their DNA…it’s the way they are wired. But there are others out there who see equity as a burden to be avoided. Their position is that “I teach my content area(s) and it is up to the student to grasp them” (which is an “equality mindset”), whereas the equity teacher will retort with, “I teach children and therefore have to make regular and ongoing adaptations to meet their individual needs” (which is an “equity mindset”). In other words, there’s a humanity in the second teacher’s assertion that is evident, but completely absent in the first teacher’s assertion.
As the title of this blog post states, school and classroom equity are not only effective practice…school and classroom equity are a reflection of the educator’s humanity toward the children they serve and a window to the educator’s soul relative to those same children! Yes, those are strong words and hopefully discomforting to those who may be working too comfortably within an “equality mindset” of teaching. Equity doesn’t solely speak to your equitable practices in your classroom. Equity speaks directly to who you are as an individual. It’s a reflection of your humanity toward all of your students. It’s a window to your soul relative to your care and concern for all of your students. Equity can be taught to anyone but can only be “received” and embraced according to one’s humanity for their students. That requires not only an “equity mindset,” but a “humanity mindset” as well.
Let’s go further… I feel strongly that there is no true discussion on school "equity" if it doesn't include discussion on implicit / explicit bias and culturally responsive pedagogy in the classroom. Bias in the classroom is real and in 2019, there continues to be many who are not even aware of their biases. I have experienced it my entire life. Toward effectively infusing equity into all of our practices in the classroom, as staffs, we must simultaneously have the courage and the willingness to engage in open and honest discussions about implicit and explicit biases in our classrooms. Moreover, toward effectively infusing equity into all of our practices in our classrooms, culturally responsive pedagogy must be the norm. When I say cultural responsive pedagogy, I mean, we are children driven. We therefore take into consideration who’s sitting in those classrooms culturally and meet them where they are. In order to know them culturally, one has to be willing to forge relationship with them and be committed to learning who they are culturally toward making solid connections with them and becoming “culturally competent practitioners.”
Again, professional development in equitable practices is vital. But how one receives and embraces it is personal. You can be taught all the equity that has ever been written but whether or not you will receive and embrace it and make it the reality and the norm in your classroom speaks to your own humanity toward all of the learners in your classroom. If you truly want and desire for each of them to maximize their God-given potential regardless of the circumstances upon which they were born, your humanity toward your children will play a vital role relative to how you make equity the foundation for teaching and learning in your classroom learning environment.
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