Without intentional strategies to foster a sense of belonging, diverse-by-design schools run the risk of reproducing inequities we see in society — communities pushed to the margins in favor of the dominant group. Educators recognize that schools must meet the universal human need of feeling valued and respected. Yet more than 40% of teachers in an EdWeek survey reported that it is “challenging” or “very challenging” to make students feel like they belong in the classroom. So now what?
We are excited to share the You Belong Here Toolkit, developed through a Community of Practice led by Dr. Nicole Evans and Sara Cotner, from DCSC member, Montessori For All. Participants from Compass Charter School and Brooklyn Prospect Schools also collaborated to create this resource. None of us predicted the pilot year of Communities of Practice to face a global pandemic, but we learned about the sustaining resilience and strength in a community as unique as DCSC members.
1.) CONNECT AS LEADERS:
Since the group kicked off in December, we saw ongoing collaboration and development of case studies from member schools across several states. They shared ideas both in person and virtually, bringing along perspectives of an Executive Director, School Principal, Curriculum and Instruction Leader, and Director of Learning and Support.
2.) GROW EXPERTISE:
Made by and for educators, the YBH Toolkit includes concrete strategies to track and improve on the extent to which all children, families, and staff feel welcome and included in a school community. With an eye toward the competing priorities of school leadership, these tools succinctly direct practitioners to areas of focus in order to maximize impact through a brief self-assessment.
“This work is deep, repetitive, cyclical, ongoing, and extensive. It never ends, and yet we must all start. Regardless of where you are on your journey, the You Belong Here Toolkit is for you.”
— excerpted from You Belong Here Toolkit Overview
3.) BRING JUSTICE TO EDUCATION:
We’re seeing an exacerbation of inequity alongside both the outbreak of coronavirus and protests against anti-Black policing and violence. As many leaders imagine possibilities for a Fall 2020 semester, the self-assessment offers an opportunity to reflect on culture, staffing, anti-bias and anti-racist teaching, professional development, and sustained partnership with families — centering equity in the midst of healing.