by Mary Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Typically, when students are out of school for district in-service, their teachers spend the day in meetings, talking curriculum and learning new ways of instruction. However, last Friday, teachers in the Grandview School District participated in a visual representation of privilege among their peers and how that affects their teaching.
Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez invited every certified staff member onto the Grandview High School football field for a privilege walk. Teachers lined up evenly, and Rodrequez read a series of statements, asking that each person take a step forward or backward if each statement were true in their lives.
Eventually, the educators were no longer even in their line. Some took several steps forward, some took several steps back, while others remained on the line where they started. The end result was a look into how instances in a person’s life which cannot be controlled often relay into how they perceive the world around them.
“We have a lot of things in common,” said Rodrequez, “but the number one thing we have in common is that we are all educators and we are all teachers. We are all one member of the Grandview family. We support each other, but we also need to understand that there are varying levels of things that happened to us in our backgrounds that impact us every single day.”
He went on to say that life experiences have an impact on decisions that teachers make, the way they teach and the way relationships are built with their students.
“With all the things that we have in common, we still have a lot of differences,” said Rodrequez.
The exercise was part of the district administration’s focus on cultural competency to better relate to students and families. The activity led to conversations regarding unconscious bias and trauma.
“We’re going to continue this work on cultural competency, not just because it is a board priority, but because it is one of the main things that we have to get right,” said Rodrequez. “If we don’t get this right, we will not be as successful with our students and our families as we should be.”
Rodrequez said that if the exercise was done with the students in the district, the outcome would have looked very similar. Several Grandview educators felt uncomfortable throughout the demonstration; some were emotional afterward.
“It was truly an eye-opening exercise that showcased how each of us comes from a different background with different experiences,” said Grandview High School teacher Diane Euston.
After the privilege walk, district teachers reflected on what they felt and how they can use their own experiences to better connect with students and their families.