Building an equitable environment for all students is no easy task. It requires perpetual commitment from all stakeholders.
Communication is a key contributing factor to building an equitable learning environment. With a concept as sensitive as educational equity, stakeholders must feel safe contributing openly and honestly to the conversation. Open communication regarding all of the components to building an equitable educational experience may seem daunting, in part due to the self-awareness and self-reflection involved. As a result, a communication barrier may form among the stakeholders.
How does one overcome the communication barrier?
The most important contributor in overcoming the communication barrier is removing the punishing elements involved in open and honest communication.
Eradicating the punishing consequences allows stakeholders to speak freely without fear of penalty. Once stakeholders are able to discuss these sensitive topics openly, it enables the issues to be talked about on more detailed levels which can lead to more adept, specific solutions.
The staff must be made aware of the difference between discussing issues involving equity among students, staff, and the community and crossing the line. Staff that has actual boots on the ground need to be able to speak freely with stakeholders regarding the concerns that they are experiencing and proposed solutions.
Holding a communication training or seminar to establish expectations, rules, and regulations of creating and maintaining open and honest communication may be beneficial for all stakeholders. Establishing communication guidelines can prevent unexpected shifts and aid in developing a plan to maintain a pertinent and relevant discussion.
It is not uncommon to see a recurring trend in topics when discussing educational equity. Because of the nature of the subject matter, similar groupings of issues tend to dominate these discussions. In the pursuit of establishing equity are concepts like biases, prejudices, inequitable services, and exclusionary practices.
Focus: Begin With the End in Mind
When discussing sensitive topics such as these, it is imperative to maintain conscious purpose. By staying focused on the end goal decisions can be made by looking at the long term instead of creating short sighted patches. The goal for any school administration should be to seek real change and create an equitable educational experience for all students. In order to move toward this goal stakeholders must be accepting of open and honest communication. This includes reviewing and potentially making alterations of current perspectives and judgments. By working as a team, educational communities can produce measurable change toward creating an equitable experience in the quest to close the achievement gap for diverse learners.