In the summer of 2018, we began a company-wide conversation to organize the various activities, discussions, and small steps undertaken by many across Teachstone since our earliest days, to address issues of equity, cultural sensitivity, and bias. We recognized that even within our organization, a group of well-intentioned and motivated people, we had not made a formal, structured commitment to equity work.
All of us involved were driven by our personal and professional experiences and stories, including our company’s hometown of Charlottesville’s recent, horrific, and revealing racial violence led by white supremacists. We acknowledged the need to broaden, strengthen, coordinate, and share our work, both across Teachstone and in the communities in which we work. I, personally, acknowledged I could do far more to demonstrate my deep commitment to children’s rights, including the right to an equitable, anti-bias education, if I better coordinated with my colleagues.
We agreed to start with Teachstone’s Equity Initiative, developing three subcommittees each with explicit goals
We enable diverse, inclusive, and culturally responsive interactions across the organization by (a) defining our Teachstone core values through an inclusive company-wide process and (b) planning and implementing ongoing professional development on the various topics of equity.
We define and enable cultural and linguistically responsive interactions between (a) Teachstone and our users and (b) our users and those with whom they interact.
We approach each interaction with intentionality, cultural humility, and openness.
As part of our groundwork, we reached out to partners who are engaged in this work, including BB Otero from Washington, DC, a thought leader and activist, who delivered an important charge to our company. She reminded us that it is ongoing work – and must be thoughtfully nurtured and integrated in all we do.
We took initial steps, including the development of a Tribal Advisory Council. We had a listening session at the Region XI Head Start Training Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to listen with openness to the perspectives of tribal leaders and to integrate their input into our work. Following this session, we have held quarterly meetings with representatives from tribal Head Start grantees with the purpose of improving, understanding, and strengthening support for the implementation of CLASS in both assessment and professional development, including the growth of video resources highlighting exemplary practices in tribal programs.
We also developed and submitted proposals to present on our initiative and learn from the field, a field with many astute education professionals who have been at the forefront of this work. We engaged with and learned from leaders at tribal conferences and at the annual conferences of national organizations such as BUILD, NAEYC, and NHSA.
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity, along with my colleague, Manda Klein, to collaborate with colleagues outside of Teachstone on the conference sessions, including Dominique McCain, Director of Early Matters Dallas, and Yvette Sanchez-Fuentes, Division Director of Children and Family Services at Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo.
Recently, Dominique, Manda, and I co-facilitated a webinar on CLASS & equity. We shared information about Building Equity, a wonderful book explaining the Building Equity Taxonomy. It is a framework for supporting equity work in schools and aligns well with the adoption of the CLASS system and school-wide attention to teacher-child interactions. As we developed the webinar, we quickly realized we needed more time than the hour allotted and would need to follow-up with at least three more webinars over the coming months.
The dates/times of these upcoming webinars will be announced soon.
In the meantime, please reach out and share your thoughts, as many of the webinar attendees did who followed-up with excellent ideas and questions to move us forward in our conversations and collective work.