Dr. Melissa Winchell
Developing Your Staff through Threaded Conversations
Looking for a way to advance equity? To provide meaningful professional development?
Consider choosing one or two ongoing equity conversations to have throughout the year.
Matthew R. Kay, high school English teacher and author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, calls these kinds of conversations "threaded conversations."
Threaded conversations are relevant to your context, reflective of larger issues in the society, framed by a difficult question, and persistently discussed throughout the school year.
To further threaded conversations, leadership curates relevant resources (data sets, demographic maps of neighborhoods, relevant research articles, books, examples from other schools/organizations, and so on) that contribute complexity to your staff's conversations.
Your staff, too, can be invited to curate resources and to meet in small groups or professional learning communities (PLCs) to dialogue about the threaded conversations you've chosen.
Questions that could generate threaded conversations for your school or organization might be:
How do various identities within our organization or school experience our organization/school, and what can we learn from these diverse experiences and perspectives about how we can grow and change?
How does a school learn their community--inclusive of all its diverse communities--in ways that generate trust and allow its educators to better understand its cultures, families, languages, and identities?
How can we change our school's approach to discipline so that our discipline does not disproportionately affects students of color?
What is inclusivity, what definitions of inclusivity do we value, and how can we operationalize inclusivity within all of the work of our organization/school?
In what ways does "majority rule" prioritize inequity and further marginalize members of our school or organization? What, if anything, should we do about it?
What assumptions do our school/organizational policies and traditions make about what is "normal," and who do these policies and traditions leave out? How can we re-imagine those policies and traditions as truly inclusive and equitable?
What identities, cultures, languages, identities, and experiences are represented in our school's/organization's staff, marketing materials, curriculum, training, and so on? Which are underrepresented and how can we change that?
For information about how to have threaded conversations that can change your school or organization, we highly recommend Kay's Not Light, But Fire.
And reach out to us at EQUITYedu. This semester we are working within an urban school district, a predominantly white school district, a statewide organization, and a community college. We're resourcing leaders to choose threaded conversations, helping to curate resources, and creating brave spaces for conversations that are dialogic and transformative.