Innovation — Both Opportunity and Responsibility
The following blog is the eighth of 11 dedicated to providing an overview of the No-Nonsense Nurturer leader behaviors in anticipation of CT3’s summer leadership workshops. We hope to support all leaders with behaviors essential for every organization.
The No-Nonsense Nurturer® Leader:
- Models humility
- Sets high expectations
- Creates a culture of coaching
- Builds collective efficacy
- Recognizes and develops growth mindsets, always striving to be asset based
- Solicits voice and perspective
- Generates culture (and systems) of accountability
- Builds trusting relationships
- Commits to being an anti-racist
In this series, several CT3 associates share personal stories or examples about how you can commit to each of these behaviors.
By definition, innovation means “a new idea, method, or device” (Websters). School leaders are no strangers to innovation. It is required to educate our scholars in preparation for the ever-changing world we send them into. Schools have innovated the standards (common core), methods (integrating technology), and the purpose (problem-solving and citizenship) that define what education is at its core.
No-Nonsense Nurturer® Leaders need to be innovative with an anti-racist lens. Earlier in my career, I worked at an all-girls charter school in Atlanta. Working in that environment requires constant consideration of how to build strong, smart, confident girls who are ready to face all the challenges being a woman in our society presents. I had to constantly think about the ideas, stereotypes, language, and actions that reinforce positive or negative ideas about womanhood. Being an anti-racist educational leader is no different.
As No-Nonsense Nurturer anti-racist leaders, we must constantly interrogate the ideas, stereotypes, language, and actions we take that normalize the ideas of white dominant culture. We have to seek ways to dismantle our current systems that were not designed for students of color and rebuild systems that are equitable and put students of color first.
How do we create new ways of speaking about and to students of color that allow them to feel seen, heard, and celebrated? How do we create policy that supports a truly anti-racist experience for students in schools that assume the race of a scholar has no bearing on the outcomes they can achieve? What would an innovative curriculum that teaches students a multicultural anti-racist history look like?
The anti-racist schools our students deserve require us to be innovative. We must innovate our methods, our expectations, our language, and our actions to build better schools and a better world. We must be innovative in how we position all students as competent learners and view their cultures as assets to learning instead of hindrances. Here are a few ways that we can innovate daily to support students of color and take anti-racist action.
- Use direct language that names racism and oppression.
- Speak truth and ask hard questions. If you don’t understand something about another culture, ask questions that seek to understand instead of speaking based on assumptions.
- Question the foundation and basis of policies and structures that don’t support students of color.
- Put the purpose of the policy over the power of implementing the policy. Uniform policies aren’t inherently bad. They were initially designed to remove the stigma that can be associated with brand name clothing and the distraction that clothing can create in a classroom. The policy becomes oppressive when we remove students from classrooms over belts and socks, when we take the power we have to enforce the policy and use it to remove students from learning.
- Commit to learning if you don’t know or understand something about another race or culture. Anti-racism requires that we constantly question and take action to dismantle racist structures. The more we know and understand, the more rigorous our questions and replacements will become.
We often characterize innovation as big, sweeping changes like the computer or the cell phone. It’s important to remember updated features on the landline telephone shaped a path for the cell phone. Features like *69 and caller ID were small steps that became or supported the features we have today. As educators, we must constantly update the features and methods in our schools that will shape the path for dramatic changes in policy.
Take a minute today and think about how you can make a small innovation that will protect students of color in your school. Don’t wait for someone else to create a more anti-racist world; take action, model for others and make anti-racism your responsibility and not just an opportunity.
By Kendra Shipmon, Partnership Manager, Associate
CT3 transforms the quality and culture of education for youth, especially those in traditionally disenfranchised communities.