Recently, a colleague asked me, What do I hope to see when I call community members into our mission? And more specifically, What do I hope to see when I call the white members of our community into our responsibility to seek justice and equity? These are challenging and worthy questions.
There are many excellent resources available with suggestions for what to read, watch, and do to help promote justice and equity in our community, but my interest for this letter is how we can deepen our engagement with challenges that feel big, important, and possibly beyond us.
I’ve learned much about engagement from Phillip Schlechty who was an education researcher, author, and speaker (here’s Schlechty discussing the subject). Schlechty’s framework describes four components of engagement. They are:
Attention: Members of an engaged community pay attention to and focus on learning, connection, and belonging as part of the community.
Commitment: Members of an engaged community use resources under their control (attention, volunteering, tuition, participation in annual fund, etc.) to support and improve the learning and experience of our students.
Persistence: Members stay active in the community through its growth, challenges, and difficulties.
Meaning and Value: Members of an engaged community find meaning and value in and contribute meaning and value to the the learning, the connection, and the belonging; they understand how their membership and participation supports the community as a whole.
In our work toward justice and equity, we must attend and persist. We must commit our time and resources. If we’re going to sustain those efforts, though, we must find ways to make the work our own, to align our efforts in this learning community with our personal goals and values.
In our classrooms, Crossroads teachers aim to engage students by making meaning from shared artifacts, activities, and conversations. As a school, we’re working to offer opportunities for our wider community to do the same. For example, in September, we’ll host another session of the 2.5 day seminar “Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism”, which supports participants in working for justice within their institutions.
To answer my colleague’s question, then: What do I hope to see when I call community members into our mission? I hope to see you looking for and finding meaning in our work together. And I hope that, the more our work becomes personal for you, the more you’ll feel our mission as your own.
With great expectations,