Equity & Access Newsletter

Secondary Edition

What Allies and Leaders Sometimes have to do to make students feel safe

Most of us are in positions where we're responsible for the safety and welfare of others. When incidents happen that we know are wrong, we may struggle to handle them appropriately for various reasons. We may not know if the timing is correct or if we're using the appropriate language. When we dare to stand up for others, it gives us the opportunity to give voice to those who feel they may not have one. Another role of being a leader is showing and telling people you work with and for, what is appropriate and what is not.

Recently five African American Air Force cadets had racial slurs written on their dorm room door. Lt. General Jay Silveria, Superintendent of the Air Force Academy decided to bring over 4,000 cadets and 1500 faculty staff together. Lt. General Silveria used this moment as a learning opportunity for the cadets and staff to let them know what types of behaviors or actions will not be tolerated at the Academy.

The video is an excellent example of courage and taking action when incidents occur. As these uncomfortable incidents happen, how might you find your courage when the opportunity arises?

USAFA Superintendent talks to cadets about racial slurs found on campus

What's Wrong with Positive Stereotypes?

Have you ever been excited that an Asian student is coming to your building or class because they will improve your assessment scores? An educator admitted that to me and felt ashamed because it was the first thought that came to their mind without knowing anything about the student. Yes, Asian students are our highest achieving group. How can a positive stereotype be a bad thing? What are the negative consequences if we perceive all Asian people as "being good at math?" When we use stereotypes, we put people into generalized groups which strips away a person's individuality and identity.

Let's think for a moment if we have a middle school student who is Asian, and their assessments show that math is not their highest area of achievement. If we have the stereotype about Asian students, how might those beliefs affect how we interact and teach the student? We may think the student just isn't putting in the required effort to do better. We want all students to perform at a higher level, but we must make sure that we have realistic expectations of growth. Spend the time to find out more about the student and what motivates them. Our blind spots may interfere with seeing the student as their true self.

The video, Myth of the Model Minority will give you more insight into how this stereotype evolved in the U.S. in a short period.

The article, The Pain of Positive Stereotypes gives several reasons why we shouldn't use positive stereotypes.

Markman, Art. “The Pain of Positive Stereotypes.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 15 Feb. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201302/the-pain-positive-stereotypes.

What's in Your Toolbox?

Possible Signs of Trauma and How To Support Others Dealing With It

As we're building relationships with students, we sometimes find that they may be dealing with some form of trauma. Mental Health First Aid defines a traumatic event as "any incident experienced by the person that is perceived to be traumatic... Mass traumatic events include terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and severe weather events."

There are ways we can support students who may be experiencing trauma.

  1. Learn about local resources in your community.
  2. Ask how you can best help.
  3. Talk with the person as an equal.
  4. Offer support in whatever form seems right, including small things like a hug or having coffee together.
  5. Know that behaviors like withdrawal, irritability, and bad temper may be a response to trauma. Remain friendly.
  6. Encourage the person to talk about their reactions if they feel ready and want to do so.
  7. Don't interrupt to share your own feelings, experiences or opinions.
  8. Don't trivialize the person's feelings or minimize his or her experience.
  9. If the person wants help, offer your support and connect him or her with local resources and services.
  10. If at any time the person becomes suicidal or begins abusing drugs or alcohol, seek professional help. The counselors in your buildings are an incredible resource.

Here are some possible signs you may notice someone experiencing trauma

  1. Shock, denial or disbelief
  2. Anger, irritability or mood swings
  3. Sandness or hopelessness
  4. Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  5. Anxiety or fear
  6. Withdrawal from others
  7. Trouble sleeping or nightmares
  8. Easily startled
  9. Fatigue
  10. Racing heart, aches, and pains or muscle tension

That trauma could affect their behavior at school and academic performance. We know that engaged learning happens when students feel safe, valued, and supported.

10 Tips to Help Someone Experiencing Trauma, 10 Signs a Person May Be Experiencing Trauma

10 Tips to Help Someone Experiencing Trauma - National Council. www.bing.com/cr?IG=3F4F2D4B6FFE4F738D3F4C00A78794D5&CID=16EA2917B5BA61392FA22221B4BC602A&rd=1&h=JAFoWnmL7DeHfj1SzCubWrXkUsFV4SVJtIKSgxOgW8k&v=1&r=http%3a%2f%2fwww.thenationalcouncil.org%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2016%2f06%2f10-Tips-to-Help-Someone-Experiencing-Trauma-1.pdf&p=DevEx,5068.1.

Input from Equity Champions: Coming Soon!

You may remember in several newsletters we've mentioned the Equity Champions. Champions have been chosen and participated in their first training session by the time you receive this. There's an Equity Champion at each school building. One of their roles will be to contribute an article to share in the monthly newsletter. In the coming months, we will share more about their roles and expectations. Do you know who your building "Champion is?"