While working in Kansas City, I met Ben Carman, the Director of Special Education Fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School. After a couple of hours of working with him, I could tell that he was indeed someone who shared my passion and commitment to educating our children. His determination, focus, humility, drive, and insightfulness flowed throughout our interactions and conversations. Yet, one of the things I found most refreshing about Ben was his personal conviction and perspective about combatting and ending educational inequity for black and brown children.
Here are a few nuggets Ben shared with me that I think we all can glean from:
- Put Your Own Past Into Perspective – Though Ben had experiences very similar to those of his students when he was growing up, he has realized and accepted that those similarities do not close the inequity gap nor do they allow him to “understand what his students are experiencing.” He acknowledges his access and privilege as a white man, and works to use both to empower and support students and their families.
- Push to Ensure that Cultural Responsiveness and High Expectations Coexist – Though it is a tough balance to find, Ben prioritizes valuing students’ experiences with preparing them to be successful outside of school. He shared, “Sometimes people mask low expectations in the name of cultural responsiveness. We cannot ignore the context our students grew up in, nor should we ignore what is necessary for them to be successful in the collegiate, professional world.”
- Support Students by Engaging their Families and Community Members – Demonstrate your respect and appreciation for students’ backgrounds by honoring, valuing, and engaging the people and resources within their communities. Provide opportunities for those who have come from and/or are a part of the school community to share and engage with students. Encourage involvement that not only helps inspire students, but that develops true partnership and promotes leadership as well.
Ben’s bold, selfless look at who his students are, what they need, and what his role is in providing those things encouraged me to reflect more deeply on my own convictions and the actions I need to take. I hope his “nuggets” will do the same for you.
By Karen Smith, CT3 Associate