#AISDATHOME NEWSLETTER

CULTURAL PROFICIENCY & INCLUSIVENESS- MAY 2020

#AISDATHOME: STUDENT EXPERIENCES

Educational equity includes creating space for student voice and leadership in Austin ISD. On Thursday, May 14th, all Austin ISD staff were invited to engage in a virtual #AISDAtHome: Student Experiences conversation organized by The Office of Equity, the Office of Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness, and the Department of Communications & Community Engagement. Four students from Crockett's SOAR (Students Organized for Anti-Racism) class spoke about how they are experiencing our current reality. The students had lots of insights and advice, but in particular they emphasized the critical role that teachers and staff have on building connections with and among students. Their words challenged the 250+ educators, support staff, and district leaders in the space, but also inspired us all to do better today, and as we re-imagine school in the fall. It was a powerful, student-centered dialogue and there will be more to come in the future. Listening, and then acting in response, to students' first-hand experiences and advice to the school system can transform our approach to leading them and drawing out the greatness inside of them.


We offer this video as a reflection for you to consider the student voices we are missing as we prepare to reopen school in the fall.

Whose voices are missing?

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CP&I Leadership Pathway

The long awaited Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness (CP&I) Leadership Pathway is open! This Leadership Pathway is designed for teachers who are currently engaged in critical self-reflection and on the path to developing their cultural proficiency lens.


Who should consider this pathway? Teachers who:


  • see injustice and bring it to the attention of leaders and their colleagues
  • understand racism is real and has disproportionate impacts on minoritized students
  • co-create a welcoming, safe, and inclusive classroom environment with students
  • model care and concern for the impact of their instruction (pedagogy, structures, practice) on each student
  • seek out learning/growth opportunities
  • critically self-reflect, monitor and adjust instructional strategies and structures to meet the individual needs of students


To Select this Leadership Pathway:

  • log in to the AISD Cloud with your AISD username and password;

  • search for Leadership Pathways;

  • click on the Leadership Pathways tile;

  • acknowledge that you are eligible to participate; and

  • select your preferred pathway

Isolating Race Daily

Our current reality has caused our team to halt face-to-face professional learning, yet we still have a desire to connect with you! All staff who attended Isolating Race received an email from the CP&I Team to join us in a Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness BLEND course!


To Join the CP&I BLEND:


  • you must be an AISD staff member.
  • search your inbox for an email from "Cultural Proficiency".
  • navigate to BLEND and enter the provided code (please do not share).
  • join in the Isolating Race conversation!
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Permission to Pause

When the world is in time out and leaders make decisions out of a sense of urgency I gravitate to what sustains me. Self-care is undervalued in the system of education, it is somehow seen as a form of weakness or unnecessary in ones daily/weekly schedule. To take care of oneself is often last in a list of to dos that make up the daily tasks of adults in general and educators collectively.


The CP&I Team has partnered with Central Office leaders to design, and host weekly "Self-Care" Virtual Circles. These circles are open to ALL Central Office staff and take place Tuesday 4-5pm and Wednesday 12-1pm. These circles are offered as an invitation to pause. We recognize our role as Central Office leaders is to make major decisions that impact the lives of all Austin ISD students, families and staff. To mentally prepare and rejuvenate we have to learn to pause even if for a moment from time to time to check in with ourselves, take stock of what's important in our lives, and the lives of those we make decisions for.


Self-Care prepares me to face issues that would otherwise cause me to make snap decisions and act on behalf of others without considering how my decisions could harm their ability to achieve success. I prioritize time to reflect, read, think, exercise, and just be. Sometimes sitting and watching nature is the most peaceful and relaxing thing to do.


As we continue in this #AISDAtHome alternate working, learning, listening space, will you give yourself permission to pause? Even if for a few moments...

~Dr. Angela M. Ward

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community care and self-care

Click here for resources focusing on community care and self-care.

resources for families

Click here for links to access food, diapers, medical, mental health, employment, utilities, technology, housing, senior needs, and childcare needs.

AISD crisis support fund

Click here to learn more: Austin ISD and Austin Ed Fund created the AISD Crisis Support Fund to support our school communities by supplementing access to food services, health programs and remote learning.

#AISDATHOME Uncertainty

Everything is just as uncertain as it was the last time we shared this newsletter. We are on week 8 of working and learning from home. We are about to break for summer and we don’t know what next school year will look like. Uncertainty can breed fear, insecurity, and aggression and yet, at my house we’ve settled into a routine that feels good right now; it’s relatively peaceful. I marvel at how adaptable humans are, how adaptable I am, and question myself, “How can I feel acclimated to this context?” One answer is that as a white woman I’m sitting in lots of privilege. I continue to be able to work and earn my paycheck so I have stable food, shelter, and connection with my son - my basic needs are met.


Last newsletter I shared about using part of the Courageous Conversations About Race Protocol -the Compass to process things that are coming up for me. I thought I could share a personal written compass reflection with you here as I work around the compass about the idea of adaptability of humans. Remember, the compass invites me to reflect within myself about how I'm thinking, feeling, believing, and acting about something.


My quick adaptation to the current context has me thinking about my personal racial consciousness journey and how intentional I had to be (and still have to be) as a white person to learn about the nuances of white supremacy and racism- I was conditioned and adapted to not see it. It’s making me question and is illuminating the way we as a society have adapted to conditions where many people are predictably and systematically harmed or even killed by our systems. I believe that our systems should serve all people or at the very least do no harm. I also believe brains can adapt to things that can be considered beneficial AND things that are devastating and harmful. So, I feel rage, disgust, grief, and hopelessness because inequity by design and violence and harm against people outside of the dominant culture is normalized (we adapted to it) in US culture.


I have more questions than answers, but what I do know is that I would like to see us all adapt to an equitable context, I don't want to go back to status quo when this is over. A quote by Sonya Renee Taylor that’s been circulating rings true for me today,


We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”


I'm working on my personal plan of action and I wonder, in what ways can we act together to make sure these things aren't "normal" anymore?

~Sarah Johnson

AFTER #AISDATHOME

Last month, I concluded with four questions. Two of them were: "How can we take the lead to improve education in this time? What are we learning now that can help us when we come out of this?"


That line of thinking took me back to my reflection journals and a popular text that is much easier to cite than to apply, Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed".


Freire calls humanization "man's vocation". Later he describes the process of humanization as authentic liberation, "not another deposit to be made in men". He then describes liberation as a praxis -- a continuous, adaptive cycle of engagement in intellectual theory, actual practice, and reflection.


In order to take the lead and improve education as we come out of this current reality, I propose a personal theory called Desk Alignment. It positions the experiences of our students as our surest standard, even more so than the STAAR-based TEKS that typically guide our academic undertakings.


We have a powerful metaphor to ponder by looking at our desks as the focus of our individual (and collective) business affairs.


Teachers are often disconnected from the “higher powers” of educational expertise within the school district hierarchy. Granted the crucial ability to “close my door and teach” 70% of the year, a teacher’s desk is always standards-based since it faces the students directly.


Moving up the ranks, the desks tend to shift and spin. An instructional coach, an assistant principal, a content expert at the central office, all the way up to a superintendent all have a different focus than a teacher. [If you’re a school board member reading this, what are y’all focused on today?]


If all educators aligned their desks to face the students and families for one day a week, what would change?


~Bavu Blakes

#AISDATHOME Anti-Racist Family learning

In the last newsletter I shared some of the thinking and learning that my family was doing to build our racial consciousness and work towards being Anti-Racist. In this post I'd like to share a specific example of a conversation my daughters and I had last week. On Friday, the girls and I got up early and went for a run around our neighborhood. We ran for Ahmaud Arbery, we ran for all the Black people we know, and don’t know, who are hurting and scared and tired, and we ran so we could intentionally have a conversation about White Supremacy and how it shows up in our country, our city, our neighborhood, and in ourselves.


Sure I could have told them what happened to Ahmaud as we sat at home on our couch, but as a White mother raising my White daughters to be Anti-Racist (it’s not enough to be just kind or non-racist), I have to be intentional about bringing up race and racism in context because otherwise it is invisible to them. We are living in a society that normalizes being White and "otherizes" being non-White, even naming White as a race six times so far in my post probably has put some of you in your feelings. That’s okay. Recognize it, name it, get curious about it, and then let’s talk.


Talking about race is okay, but as White people we’re conditioned not to. That’s White Supremacy, y’all. It’s not just the KKK or White men who murder a Black man jogging in the neighborhood because he doesn’t look like he belongs. It’s pretending that you don’t see color, it’s justifying or accepting that Black and Brown students are disproportionately disciplined in our schools, it’s demanding neighborhood schools so that your kids don’t have to go to “that school” with “those kids”, it’s celebrating kindness month in February instead of Black History Month, it’s being okay with hiring another White person because they were the best candidate (in the pool of mainly White applicants), it’s having mostly White people (and white dominant thinking/acting people) in power (CEOs, government, etc..), it's most movies and tv shows having White leads with BIPOC in supporting roles, it’s laughing or staying silent when you hear biased/racist jokes, it’s comforting or coming to the defense of people/ideas when they are questioned as inequitable, it’s shutting down or deflecting when race or racism comes up, it’s toxic positivity, it’s making it harder to be Anti-Racist and speak up at work than to maintain the status quo and continue perpetuating the inequities. White Supremacy is a lot of things and it’s woven into our daily lives, and in to each of us, so tightly that unless we are actively working to recognize and disrupt it, we are most definitely contributing to it. It’s in me and it’s in you. So yes, we should be outraged at the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the way it was covered up, but we should be just as outraged at what we’re allowing to happen every day within our own spheres of influence.


So, I say all this to say, the girls and I went for a run yesterday. And we talked about how our neighborhood feels for us and how it might feel for BIPOC who live here. We talked about how safe it felt to go for a run, even though we didn’t see one person we knew. We talked about the murder of Ahmaud and the everyday racism in our own lives that we can choose to disrupt or ignore. And we agreed to always speak up because it's not enough to be kind or non-racist, we need to be Anti-Racist.

~Sara Freund

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Past CP&I Newsletters

April 2020 https://www.smore.com/vspce

March 2020 https://www.smore.com/s5cnu

February 2020 https://www.smore.com/yvg51

January 2020 https://www.smore.com/3y6ex

December 2019 https://www.smore.com/5f2t9

November 2019 https://www.smore.com/n0x65

October 2019 https://www.smore.com/7te4p

September 2019 https://www.smore.com/7z9hk



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