These challenges of the week were developed in collaboration with colleagues throughout the field, over the course of four years, during my work as Instructional Specialist for Educational Equity in the ICSD.

Challenges of the week 2008 - 2009

Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(5/24/10– 6/4/10)
Personal:
Go to one of the libraries in any of the 12 schools in our district and browse the MLK Lesson Plans book that has just been added to our collection. Find two or three lessons that fit with your role in the district, and begin thinking about how you can incorporate them into your work next year. Secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, social workers, counselors, and others, there are lessons that will fit in with your unique roles, too.

Institutional:Get everyone on your team, department, grade-level, or workspace to do this.


Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(5/3/10– 5/14/10)

Personal:
Go to the ICSD Participates in the MLK Community Build webpage and look at the lesson plans that our colleagues have created to support us in joining this community project. Find one lesson that fits into what you teach and try it out sometime this spring. Secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and others, there a lessons in here that everyone can do.

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, department, grade-level, or workspace to do this.
Here is the link: http://mlklessons.notlong.com


Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(4/12/10– 4/23/10)
Personal:
Add three new items to your classroom, bus, workspace, or office that affirm the dignity and strength of students and families who are not economically privileged. These could be posters, books, calendars, poems, sculptures, figurines, pictures, etc. The challenge is to choose items that testify to the broad range of experiences, accomplishments, and contributions of students and families who do not have economic privilege. At the end of the two weeks, think about the impact this challenge had on your students and/or their families. Was it difficult or easy to find the three items you chose?

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, department, grade-level, or workspace to do this. Discuss whether or not it was easy to find these items, as well as the impact you think this challenge had on your students and/or their families.
external image Equity%20Challenge%20of%20the%20Week_clip_image002_0000.jpg



Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(3/15/10 – 3/26/10)

Personal:
Share the following message with the families of your students. You could send this home as a special note, put it in your regular Friday news notes, and/or post it on a blog or listserv if you are already using one of these for family communications:
“Dear Families, Please feel free to come in and observe our class anytime. Just sign in at the office and they will send you to my room ( ). You do not need to let me know ahead of time. I want you to feel welcome whenever it fits with your schedule.”

For Secondary Teachers:
You might want to add in the following: “If your child would be very resistant to having you visit her/his class, come visit one of my classes during another period. This will still allow you the chance to get to know our school and my subject area a little bit better.”

For Non-Classroom staff:
Think about a classroom teacher or two you could actively encourage to try this challenge, and speak to her/him about this.

Institutional:
Find a time to get everyone on your team, grade-level, department, at the bus garage, or in your workspace to discuss this challenge and work on encouraging classroom teachers to try it.


Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(3/1/10 – 3/12/10)
Personal:
Share the following quote with your students and engage them in a discussion:
In Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Dr. King writes, "In a real sense, all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother's keeper because we are our brother's brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." (pg. 181)

In addition to discussing this with your students, figure out a way to have your students discuss this with their families. Elementary teachers might include this challenge of the week in their Friday Newsletter. Secondary teachers might send this home along with a brief note reminding families how much you value family input and letting them know the best ways to get in touch with you. Remember to follow-up by asking students about their conversations.

Office staff, school counselors, cafeteria staff, and others, perhaps you can post this in a conspicuous location, with the prompt: Tell me what you think printed underneath. A smiley face and the word “really” might be all it takes to get a few students talking.

Institutional:
Find a time to get everyone on your team, grade-level, department, at the bus garage, or in your workspace to discuss this quote.

*This challenge inspired by a bulletin board at DeWitt Middle School.



Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(2/1/10 – 2/12/10)

Personal:
Choose one of Bill Henderson’s characteristics of champions of inclusion to actively practice during the next two weeks. These include:
  • "Champions of inclusion CONNECT with students who have disabilities as individuals who are contributors first.”
  • “Champions of inclusion COMMUNICATE enthusiasm and act comfortably around students with disabilities.”
  • “Champions of inclusion CHALLENGE students with disabilities to work their best toward high standards.”
  • “Champions of inclusion CREATIVELY adapt and UTILIZE appropriate strategies and materials to help students with disabilities learn and succeed.”
  • “Champions of inclusion COLLABORATE with others to maximize students’ development.”

Online resources to help you with this work can be found under the “ableism” section on the links page of my website. If you would like to ask Mr. Henderson himself, his email address is whenderson50@comcast.net

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, grade-level, department, or in your workspace to try this. At the end of the week talk with each other about how it went.

*Thanks to Samantha Fishman, an educator at DeWitt Middle School, for this idea.



Equity Challenge of the Week(1/11/10 – 1/22/10)

Personal:
Take time this week to speak with your students about “bias.” You may want to start by asking them what they think the word bias means. If necessary, you could then explain that bias is when a person or group of people is hurt or treated unfairly because of who they are. Your students could list the many different kinds of people there are. This list might include Jews, Muslims, Christians, Black folks, White folks, People of Color, Gays and Lesbians, Wealthy people, People without enough money, People with disabilities, People from the country, etc.
You could build on this by adding that bias is also when we use a particular identity as a put down for others. You might explain that statements like “you’re so gay,” or “that’s so retarded” are examples of bias because they use being gay or having a mental disability as putdowns.
For those of you who are not classroom teachers, adapt this challenge so that it works for children in your particular workspace, and let me know how you did this.

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, grade-level, department, or in your workspace to try this. At the end of the week talk with each other about how it went.

*Thanks to a teacher and class at Northeast Elementary School for inspiring this challenge.
Important note: Bias can also refer to one's frame of reference, one's past experience, one's own lens or identity, etc. Therefore, bias can be negative, positive, or neutral.



Equity Challenge of the Week(12/14/09 – 12/23/09)
Personal:
Take time this week to help families connect with what students are learning in the classroom. Find a way for students to engage their families in talking about a specific concept or skill you have been teaching them in class. In your weekly newsletter or blog you might include a specific “conversation starter” that families can use with their children. For part of a homework assignment you might tell students to “talk about this with someone in your family and ask her/him to initial your paper.” For bus drivers, secretaries, cafeteria staff, and others, you could say to students you see "Tell me something you've learned today." Then, encourage them to share this with their families. The next day, remember to follow-up and ask the student if she/he shared.

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, grade-level, department, or in your workspace to try this. At the end of the week talk with each other about how it went.


Equity Challenge of the Week(11/30/09 – 12/11/09)

Personal:
Take time this week to engage students in talking about race. If you are an elementary school teacher, you could do this during morning meeting, instead of reading aloud one day, or during one of those times when you find yourself finishing one activity but not really having enough time to do another complete lesson. In secondary schools, this could be during home-base or family group, in just one of your classes, or even during cafeteria duty. Secretaries, bus drivers, aides and assistants could try this during any of those times when you find yourselves talking to a small group of students. Find your growing edge, the place where you just begin to step out of your comfort zone when talking with students about race, and think about what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Institutional:
Take 10 minutes this week to engage some of your colleagues in talking about race. This could be done in your office or break room, the staff room, during a grade-level or team meeting, on bus-duty, etc. Find your growing edge, the place where you just begin to step out of your comfort zone when talking with colleagues about race, and think about what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable.



Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(11/15/09 – 11/24/09)

Personal:
Take time to explicitly communicate high expectations to the students you work with, and to communicate your belief in their ability to successfully meet these high expectations. Consider both academic and behavioral expectations. All of us who come into contact with students can find ways to communicate these beliefs.

Institutional:
Take 10 minutes this week to engage some of your colleagues in talking about high expectations for all students. This could be done in the staff room, during a grade-level or team meeting, with the other people in your office, or even during something like bus-duty. Find the places where you share common beliefs and explore some of the places where you have differing expectations.


Equity Challenge for Two Weeks([[tel:11/2/09– 11|11/2/09– 11]]/13/09)

Personal:
Now that school has been in session for two months, think about 3 – 5 students that you don’t feel like you know very well. These can be students in your classroom, on your bus, students who you see in your office, etc. Write their names down in your daily planner or on a sheet of paper in your work space. Each day, make sure to have a brief conversation with each of these children, and put a check mark by each name on your list.

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, in your department, in your office, or in your work space to do this challenge.


Equity Challenge for Two Weeks(10/19/09– 10/30/09)

Personal:
Commit yourself to using person-first language, to noticing when others do not, and to suggesting to them why they might want to change what they say. What is person-first language? It’s language that puts the person first. For example, student with disability, student in regents class, student in AP class, student with autism, etc. The following is a list of other examples, printed with the author’s permission:


Examples of People First Language

Say:
Instead of:
People with disabilities.
The handicapped or disabled.
He has a cognitive disability (diagnosis).
He’s mentally retarded.
She has autism (or an autism diagnosis).
She’s autistic.
He has a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
He’s Down’s.
She has a learning disability (diagnosis).
She’s learning disabled.
He has a physical disability (diagnosis).
He’s a quadriplegic/crippled.
She’s of short stature/she’s a little person.
She’s a dwarf/midget.
He has a mental health diagnosis.
He’s emotionally disturbed/mentally ill.
She uses a wheelchair/mobility chair.
She’s confined/wheelchair bound.
He receives special ed services.
He’s in special ed.
She has a developmental delay.
She’s developmentally delayed.
Kids without disabilities.
Normal or healthy kids.
Communicates with her eyes/device/etc.
Is non-verbal.
Customer
Client, consumer, recipient, etc.
Congenital disability
Birth defect
Brain injury
Brain damaged
Accessible parking, hotel room, etc.
Handicapped parking, hotel room, etc.
She needs . . . or she uses . . .
She has problems/special needs.
http://www.kidstogether.org/pep-1st.htm

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, in your department, in your office, or in your work space to do this challenge.


Equity Challenge for Two Weeks([[tel:10/5/09– 10|10/5/09– 10]]/16/09)

Personal:
In one of your home-school communications this week, include the following information:
"I know that it is often difficult to make ends meet with the weekly family budget. Often two jobs don't quite pay enough and sometimes unanticipated expenses, like a broken washing machine or car, add to this difficulty. For any school-related trips or supplies that cost money, please let me know if you would like our school to take care of this for you. I will respect your privacy and won't ask any questions. Of course, you are welcome to share any information with me that you would like me to know about. You can send me in a note, give me a phone call, or even stop by in person. What's most important is that your child be successful in my class."

Institutional:
Get everyone on your team, in your department, in your office, or in your work space to do this challenge.