As educators, we see ourselves as lots of things - regardless of our actual titles. Counselors. Nurses. Mediators. Moms. Dads. Teachers. Friends.
But we don’t always see ourselves as agents of change. Specifically, we don’t always see ourselves as agents of social change. Even more specifically, we don’t always see ourselves as agents of social justice. And even more specifically than that, we very seldom see ourselves as agents of racial justice.
It's time for you to see yourself as an agent of social and racial justice. Because you are.
First, let’s talk about what justice is and then explore 3 simple ways that you can be an agent of change in your school, district, or organization.
First, what is social justice? As defined by racialequitytools.org, justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Social justice, then, is justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. Within social justice is also racial justice, which is justice specifically in terms of race and racial identity. Racial justice goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems, supports, and practices to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures (www.racialequitytools.org).
What does this have to do with educators?
We hold tremendous power to change not only the lives of individual students in our schools, but also the systems in which they live, grow, and learn. We accomplish this through big moves, like advocacy and policy change at local, state, and federal levels. But we also accomplish this through the small moves that we make every day in our work with and for students. This includes things like how we think about them, how we speak to and about them, and about the opportunities we create for them. Today, we are going to focus on three small moves, which ultimately translate to big impact in the lives of our students.
Know your current story. What is the story of students of color in your school, district, or organization? Where are they overrepresented? Where are they underrepresented? What story is the data telling about students of color?
Envision a new story. What do you want for your students? What do you want them to know, experience, feel, and accomplish as a result of their time with you?
Live the new story. In order for the story you want to actually become reality, a few things have to happen. First, you have to believe that it is possible and that you are a major factor in changing the story for your students. Second, you have to tell the new story. Say it over and over again. Share it with everyone who will listen. Be clear about what you see for them and why. Third, make the shift. What would it take for this new story to actually happen? Do that! What changes do you have to make to your practice? Make them. What policy changes need to be made? Make them. What mindsets need to shift? Shift them. And watch what happens for your students.
Know this: Injustice and inequity may not be your fault, but achieving just and equitable outcomes for students is your responsibility - but more importantly, it is your opportunity. Be the one who changes things for good.
Check out 31 Justice Moves for more actionable and practical ways you can change the story for students each and every day.