It's not easy to talk about race. Regardless of your ethnic background, conversations about race feel like they are loaded with land mines just waiting to go off. People get defensive or scared; no one wants to say the wrong thing. So a lot of times, we avoid talking about race altogether, and that's not good.
CSD has committed to producing equitable academic and discipline outcomes in our schools. Systemic racism and race significantly impact our schools, our students, and our work as educators. Therefore, if CSD ever hopes to make real progress on race-related issues (and we have committed to do so), we need to be able to talk about race openly, honestly, and productively. Courageous Conversations About Race is just one step of many we have taken toward that goal.
Courageous Conversations About Race's Beyond Diversity is a course that teaches participants how to talk about racial equity in schools. The course explores the idea that one of the most significant barriers to making progress on race-based issues is people's discomfort with talking about them. It gives participants a protocol and the tools we need to have these challenging conversations.
Since February 2018, City Schools of Decatur has enrolled almost all of our administrators and educators in this course, and the results have been significant. Many participants have described the course as life-changing and say that they wish every CSD employee could take it. But understand. Beyond Diversity is not "diversity training." Diversity training tends to only work in its traditional form if we are willing and able to address the real reasons why we ask folks to engage in it.
CCAR's Beyond Diversity helps educators understand why talking about race is essential, and it does so "to help them [teachers] understand how difference plays out, what differences are, and why understanding these things actually improves their productivity and their work," explains Glenn Singleton, who created the course and developed the protocol. As they explore the why, the course also helps teachers deeply examine their beliefs around racial equity and student success and equips them with the tools to talk about it. One set of CCAR tools is called the Four Agreements.
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS OF COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS
A key component of the Courageous Conversations protocol is the Four Agreements, rules for engaging in these challenging discussions. Even without taking the course, learning about these four agreements can shed light on what it takes to make progress in a conversation about race.
“In our society,” Singleton says, “we have given permission to disengage from this conversation.” So making a commitment to stay engaged, rather than leaving when things get uncomfortable, ensures that the important conversation will actually happen.
“Come to this conversation with a willingness to share what’s real for us, even if what’s real for us is not what’s real for others,” Singleton says. This is a lot easier said than done, however, which naturally leads to the third agreement.
“We have to get good at being uncomfortable,” Singleton says. “We’re actually building the educator’s capacity to stay engaged as it becomes uncomfortable, to raise my capacity to be uncomfortable. We call that productive disequilibrium.”
EXPECT AND ACCEPT NON-CLOSURE
“We can’t have educators frustrated because they can’t fix it [systemic racism], tie it up in a bow, and have it done,” explains Singleton. “It’s something that is still persistent in our society. There is still a challenge that we’re facing at the larger level, and so we need to be able to stay engaged, even though the final solution isn’t yet in sight.”
While teaching this course, Singleton has seen educators' capacity to engage in this work grow, and he attributes much of the growth to the course’s approach of meeting people where they are.“Wherever you enter is perfect, and everyone is entering from their own place,” he says.
“You’re not in this training to reference yourself to another person or another group of people. You are referencing yourself from where you begin to where you end. And if you can experience growth and understanding, consciousness and healing, as you make that progression, that’s what enables you to develop the high level of efficacy to transform your practice in the classroom."
If you are interested in learning more about CCAR, the protocol, or Beyond Diversity, please read the series on CCAR in our Equity@CSD newsletter starting with the November 2022 issue.