If you are interested in bringing an equity lens to your coaching, this episode is for you! Kim has a conversation with Darnell Fine, an Instructional Coach at Singapore American School. Darnell is currently working on his doctorate in educational leadership from USC grounded in racial justice scholarship! They discuss the relationship between education, coaching and equity, successful strategies coaches can use when working to bring an equity lens to our coaching conversations with teachers – as well as pitfalls to avoid, how to identify if schools really are living their mission, and how to start these kinds of conversations on a school wide level – including with parents.

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Show Notes

Please tell us about your journey into coaching, and how coaching was part of that journey.

Did my student teaching at Feinstein High School, open spaces, Providence Road Island, with teaching practicum at Brown University. Fluid interdisciplinary model, very constructivist, teachers were super collaborative. Was able to sit at the table with all of those folks. Last day before I left, I had a coaching session where I was coaching them on how to respond with sensitivity to trans student they had in one of their classes. In a formal ed setting, there can be an opportunity to coach others beyond titles.

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter. Georgia State University. School Reform Initiative. Learned different protocols and strategies and techniques. An ethos of having a collaborative conversation with communities of learners.

Berkeley Carrol in Brooklyn NY, not in a formal coaching role.

ASL, coaching through a lens of equity as a DEI leader and Dept chair in English. 

Between Atlanta and London, I was doing a lot of consultancy work, coaching organizations around issues of diversity equity, and inclusion.

SAS. Classroom teacher + interdisciplinary team leader. Transitioning to a coach next year.

You have a unique perspective on coaching, please tell us about how you bring an equity and justice perspective to your work.

You start with the self. USC for PhD. SAS has a relationship with USC so I can do my PhD while at SAS. I was looking for an EdLeadership program that would help grow the skills I already had around coaching with an equity lens.

  1. Start with self. Developing critical reflection. What is your way of knowing the world. Whose stories or ways of knowing aren’t being represented. From race to gender to class to passport. Being really reflective on that and the power that comes with that, and how others will look at that. That influences behavior, what we’re committed to, what we see, how we coach, and how we teach. Once you understand how you own way of seeing is situated in the world, you can start to teach others.
  2. How can I raise the lens of others?
  3. Develop curriculum: curating and building workshop experiences to be immersed in learning
  4. Understanding the local context. Don’t coach and give something to someone that isn’t necessarily needed. What community needs assessment are you performing? These are our values as an institution, often already grounded in equity.

How does DEI and instructional coaching fit together for you?

Tech is designed by people, if the purpose is to solve a human need, it’s a matter of equity. You want to make sure the problem you’re solving is improving people’s lives.

You’re either here to look at education as a practice of freedom, or you’re here to keep the status quo.

When I interview at an institution, I’m also interviewing them. My school values all the things that make it clear that I can speak truth to power.

How can you tell in the interview that they live the mission?

That’s in the pre-research. You’re not moving for the country, you’re moving for the school. The next place you need to be is a place that is more compatible for your vision / mission / philosophy. Treat your job interview as not just a transactional experience but as a case study for your life. I wanted the next place I moved to to be a sanctuary for me, where I could be my full self. I want to be able to do my job without feeling like I was walking on eggshells.

In working to achieve this equity focus in our coaching, what are practical strategies that coaches can apply? What are pitfalls we can fall into without even realizing it?

A lot of times the people that you coach may use the protocols as patronizing, especially if you’re not aware of the power dynamics. Those protocols are about democratizing conversation. They can feel autocratic, but they’re about ensuring democratic and equitable voice.

Protocols are important in setting parameters of conversation in ways that empower equitable exchange in dialogue.

Sometimes we have to equalizing things by bringing a third point: data, student work. Turn a critical lens to that third point.

A lot of coaching for equity comes in the design of the protocol. How do we want our coachees to feel. Sometimes it’s using coaching as a healing practice, sometimes it’s relational. How do you want the people that you’re talking with as human beings to feel? Emotions should be embraced. Sometimes getting the people that you’re coaching to feel anger is needed if your end goal is social justice.

Having an equity-minded ethos when you’re approaching anything that you do.

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Show Notes continued…

How do you help teachers find the time to have these conversations?

COVI9 has taught us a lot about having a sense of urgency. What if we treat racism, sexism, oppression, classism the same way we treat COVID19, as a pandemic that is harming the safety of our students. We have to make time. The safety of our students depends on it.

Where are schools at with this work?

I’m having this conversation with a lot of international schools, all around the world. They’re more at the forefront right now. Because of renewed consciousness around anti-racism and fighting against white supremacy in the US.

Most conversations came prior to the uprisings in the US. There’s a sense of urgency now because of how students and alumni are speaking about their experiences.

Even if schools solve this issue, the way that the world works, these symptoms of oppression are sustaining, and will continue over time. The conditions of our schools aren’t static. If culture isn’t static you’re going to have these issues again. Building the structures that are proactive not reactive. What can you do to make your school a safe place for trans students? Even if they’re not in your community right now, you will have them. What can you do right now to make sure your school is not perpetuating anti blackness. How can create the structures that are ready for the incidences when they come, in ways that are not reactionary, and reflect the mission

How do you start this work with schools?

Think of it like a coaching session, but you’re coaching the institution.

  • What is the climate of the institution? Let’s do a climate survey. Is the school treating education as a practice of freedom? Or continuing a system of oppression.
  • Create a mission or diversity equity inclusion statement. What do you want at your school?
  • Start to engage with the school community as if it’s a community of practice that’s reading and exploring different texts
  • How are you engaging them in different PL that will introduce new topics? 
  • Once you start to raise your standards, adopt benchmarks. Use them like you would in a backwards design unit.
  • Revisit PL and have another assessment. Your assessment is a performance-based assessment. How are you going to measure that you’re actually achieving this? Don’t limit yourself.
  • Transition to PL models. Building of workshops that are specific to the local context or specific issues. Art, socratic seminars, experiential workshops, role plays, action research.
  • Revisit initial climate survey and do post-assessment, post self-study, post-audit, and think about how you’ve grown. Learning is a change in behavior. There should be a change in behavior that you can see. You should have some evidence of learning, even if some of it is performative. You should have some evidence that this work is being acted up

How can we create interest conversions for our community stakeholders in international schools (primarily, but we can talk about other schools too) in order to promote justice & equity?

When the interests of the people needing social justice are aligning with those fighting for social justice. To get people on board, sometimes you have to align people, including parents who are often treated like clients. DEI is about academic excellence. You are withholding knowledge skills and dispositions that students will need if they want to go to top-tier universities. Those are institutions that are engaging in these conversations. They have leadership for DEI, they have diverse populations. If you send your kid to those schools and if they’ve never interacted with people of color, they’re not going to last long because they’re going to need a lot of remediation. All they need to do is do a site visit at Harvard. We’re doing a disservice to our students if we’re not engaging in these conversations. The alumn will tell you that they have been miseducation or underdeveloped on these issues

Achievement gap on DEI. Schools function based on international-mindedness but are so disconnected. Should call it an opportunity gap. If you’re not providing the opportunity to engage in this type of learning, it’s educational malpractice. We have a moral obligation imperative because the world is diverse. We need to be able to humanize each other because we exist in the world together. Everyone is going to be inhabiting this world with others.

A lot of times people see coaches as the end-all to a discipline, and that is diametrically opposed to looking at it through an equity lens. 

Emily Style: half of the curriculum walks into the room when your students / coachees walk into the room

You should not be imposing your will on anyone. You need to take a step back, it’s not always about giving the answers but helping the people you coach develop their own uplifting supports of practice. Your job is to facilitate so they’re constructing their own knowledge. Help them develop the capacity to lead themselves. Not to impose your will, but to empower so that they don’t need you anymore.

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If you are ready to dive deep into your coaching practice, to help you #coachbetter and build a thriving coaching culture in your school, please join us for our next cohort of The Coach!

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