Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Our Commitments

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This work is difficult.

This work is exhausting.

This work is challenging.

Because of all of these attributes of the work that educators partake in, by December we are drained.

It becomes even more important at this time to keep centered and focused.

At Equality, we have a Steering Committee. This committee is comprised of all leadership staff (anyone who supervises other staff) and representatives from other areas of the organization (such as teachers and a social worker). 

Each year the committee takes a different focus. This year, the objective for our Steering Committee meetings is to keep our spirits alive and healthy, to have deep conversations about what it takes to achieve our mission, to learn how to explore and think slowly about important issues, and to provide a safe space to hold discussions that we normally do not have on a regular basis.

We hold a monthly meeting where we reflect on the questions posed to us and delve into why something is occurring or how we got to where we are. This is opposed to searching for a solution, how to fix a problem, how to react, or how to bandage it - there is no action planning. For action-oriented staff members, this is challenging. It is difficult to just talk in depth about a topic.

We had our first of two retreats in August (the second is in January). At this retreat, we made commitments to each other and to ourselves...

  • Make space in the fire for the wild and the weak
  • Suspend judgments... or at least notice when we don’t
  • Ask for help
  • Candidly probe if we feel others may need support but are not asking for it
  • Learn about and practice being messy and/or emotional and meeting others when they are
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt
  • Come back home to who we are and allow ourselves to be fully human without compromising mission

At each meeting, we focus on these commitments. Sometimes we zone in on one commitment. Sometimes we talk about several of them. During many other times I have found myself using the language of these commitments in conversations, usually difficult ones at that, to help guide someone. These commitments have become the guide for this year's challenges.

When someone is frustrated with a co-worker, it's helpful to remind them to "give each other the benefit of the doubt" or "make space in the fire for the wild and the weak." With this common language, which we created together, we are able to speak to each other in our own "language" and find common ground.

During this difficult, exhausting, challenging work that is education... in the month of December... it is important to have uplifting language that is common among school leaders to navigate through this time. Feel free to try out some of our commitments yourself.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

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