Equity in the Classroom and Beyond


Hello ETTC Teaching Trailblazers!  I am thrilled to present another addition to our Vlog series: “Teaching Trailblazers with Chris from Education to the Core”.  The series will include interviews with a variety of professionals across multiple disciplines in our field of education.  In this episode, I have a conversation with an amazing leader in our field, Dr. Nikole Hollins-Sims.  We discuss becoming more equitable in our schools and classroom practices.  Throughout the conversation we were able to not only cover why it is important to build these activities into your daily routines but how to do it as well.

There are certain people we meet throughout our journey that truly have an impact on our daily lives.  Dr. Nikole Hollins-Sims is one of those people for me.  Her knowledge of equitable practices both in the classroom as well as in our daily lives is truly remarkable.  This dialogue includes a wealth of resources and information to allow you to utilize these concepts in your classroom starting tomorrow!  

Equity in our Space 

For the past two years, I have made a personal goal to become more equitable in my classroom.  This includes strategically choosing texts that represent all students, as well as continuing to build a safe and caring environment that students feel comfortable learning in. I continue to work on not making assumptions or categorizing a lump of students into a category (e.g., boys/girls).  However, my work is not finished yet.  

Equity is essentially everything we do in our field. As Dr. Hollins-Sims stated, It [equity] is tied into every practice and is being able to provide students with what they need at that right moment. By being more responsive to the needs you are allowing the student to gain access to the materials and content, not just talking about it.  

A Common Misconception

I think a common misconception that many individuals may have is that equity is “just a race thing”.  Race is a very important piece of it, but we also need to consider other groups as well.  When designing your lessons, school programs, and classroom setups keep in mind students that may have a disability or socio-economic status.  Other groups to keep in mind are homelessness, sexual orientation, and identity, or even just gender.  

Many times, we as educators have a lot of good intentions. However, becoming more aware of students and families that may be different than ourselves begins the pathway to an effective educator. It is taking that first step of identifying our own biases and privileges to begin this journey. 

Students Need a Space


Active listening is such a powerful tool in education.  We use it in so many educational practices: trauma-informed practices, building positive and appropriate relationships, equitable and culturally responsive practices, and academics.  Students truly need to be heard.  We can learn so much from the student’s perspective of what they need at that moment in time.  

Sometimes, I know even myself it is hard to have some of these difficult conversations in the classroom.  Or when a student mentions something that you weren’t ready for, it is easy to quickly change the topic before other students chime in.  How can we as teachers begin to navigate these topics from all different perspectives?  

Dr. Hollins-Sims provides a great Website Resource: Learning for Justice.  This website provides support and tools to help navigate difficult conversations. It includes learning plans, talk-throughs, and other helpful examples for all educators K through 12.  

It truly comes down to being cognizant of your surroundings and what you can do to safeguard and protect.  This is highlighted in the dialogue Dr. Hollins-Sims and I have in regards to virtual learning and in-person learning.  Knowing that families are listening in and could chime in at any moment in a virtual setting.  It is being prepared.  Take the following 4 Step Process discussed in our conversation:  

  1. Listen (active listening to your students) 
  2. Protect (help students understand “good news vs. not so good news” and be critical thinkers) 
  3. Model (how you want these discussions to go; create safety in those discussions and your classroom) 
  4. Self-Care (take care of yourself) 

Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Equitable Practices HUB 

This is SUCH an AMAZING resource for educators!  PDE Equitable Practices HUB is a one-stop show for all schools and teachers.  You can go through the following six different pillars based upon your need and interest.  You can look at any of these pillars through a school or district level, a classroom level, or an individual level.  

6 Pillars 
  1. General Equity Practices (global, systemic) 
  2. Self-Awareness (bias, power/privilege)
  3. Data Practices (what is data telling in classroom or school, universal screeners, grades) 
  4. Family & Community Engagement (gain engagement and input) 
  5. Academic Equity  (access and opportunity – to curriculum and classroom culturally responsive practices) 
  6. Disciplinary Equity (PBIS, school climate, reduction in suspension and expulsion) 

Mirror, Windows, and Sliding Doors 

I absolutely adore this analogy from Dr. Hollins-Sims of Mirror, Windows, and Sliding Doors.  Students that look different or have different experiences can see themselves in a mirror (or whatever the content will be).  They can also look “out of the window” or have experiences of others and allow perspective.  Finally, the sliding door piece allows for them to go back and forth to see in or look out.  

Looking to Connect with Dr. Hollins-Sims?

Want to learn more about Dr. Hollins-Sims, Equity, or PBIS/Discipline?  You can follow her on Twitter.    @drnicolehsims 

You may also reach out via email: nhollins-sims@pattan.net with any questions you may still have after our dialogue together.  

Do You Inspire and Empower?

Do you feel you can inspire and empower Teaching Trailblazers of Education to the Core?  If so, you could be interviewed for our YouTube series “Teaching Trailblazers with Chris from ETTC”! Click here for your chance to share with ETTC what you are most passionate about and begin to pave the way for a better future for our teachers, for our students, and for education.

Written by: Christopher Olson

At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.

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