I was the older sister, and I would make my sister sit in a chair in our little playroom. I had a chalkboard. I always give myself credit for why she ended up being a better student than I was: It was because of my tutelage in those early years! Education was a passion early on, and that was just affirmed throughout in college. I was one of those lucky people who knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to be an educator.
At Goshen Community Schools, we are relentless in our pursuit of what is best for our students. We pause and reflect frequently to think, ‘What could we be doing differently to get even better results with our students?’
My title is director of secondary programming, equity and inclusion. One of my big projects is helping to facilitate work toward better equity and inclusion practices.
We had a teacher who went to the school board with kind of a plea for improved professional development for teachers in Goshen. The goal is to be sure that we are examining our own implicit bias, that we have those culturally-sustaining teaching practices going, and that our teachers feel confident that they can explain that work and how they feel equipped to demonstrate cultural competence in the classroom. We also had school board members who expressed some real desire for more explicit action plans toward equity and inclusion in our district.
The Equity and Inclusion Council has been meeting since the end of July. We’ve done a lot of meaningful work within the group. Those practices start with examining your own culture and having an awareness of where you’re coming from and how your worldview is very much impacted by your own culture. From there, we composed a philosophy and purpose statement to really drive the vision that we have for our school system.
We got feedback from staff and students on the statement that was composed, and also collected general data points about how our staff and students feel we respond to issues of equity and inclusion. We also looked at quantitative data of our district. The council’s Phase 2 will be to develop a strategic plan.
At Goshen schools, we’ve always celebrated our diversity. We’re proud of that, and I would say that’s true for Goshen in general. We just want to make sure that the language we use to describe how much we appreciate our diversity is actually in line with concrete practices that we do in the district.
I see this enhancing what our teachers already know, and taking a little bit more time to slow down and think about culture in general, who the students are in front of us, and how our own cultures and the lens we look through is different than the experiences of the students in our classrooms.
We have always been a district of innovation, and I see Dr. Hope just continuing what Dr. Woodworth has given: The gift of thinking creatively to make sure that our families in Goshen and our students have the best education – one as good if not better than anywhere else.
Writing and editing by Scott Weisser and Neil King
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