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Minding Your Tongue: How to Recover from a Slip and Fail

foot_mouthWhether it is a minor slip of the tongue or an entire foot in the mouth, either can lead to some uncomfortable moments followed by the instinct to explain what was “really meant.”  While most are truly embarrassed and even remorseful when making a racially, culturally, or gender-related insensitive comment, attempts to make explanations or excuses often create a more uncomfortable situation for both speaker and hearers.

Admit and Apologize

If recognition of the faux pas is immediate – as often happens- it is best not to wait for acknowledgment that it was received negatively. Unfortunately, all too often such comments are left unchallenged either by the intended or unintended target of the comment or bystanders.[1] Do not walk away with the false sense of relief that the comment went unnoticed, it is almost a definite it was noticed. The most effective thing to do is to admit you were insensitive, admit your own embarrassment, and apologize for any discomfort or embarrassment caused to others.[2]

Air Out and Move On

 Often an admission of insensitivity and a sincere apology is enough to move beyond the moment; however, depending upon the comment and others involved it may be necessary for some open discussion; again, no excuses. Having discussions of race and culture are often uncomfortable, especially in times when cultural tensions are high. Some may feel that there is an oversensitivity, but unless shoes are on other feet and miles walked in them, these types of assumptions should not be made. It is believed by diversity and inclusion professionals[3] that a work environment that invites open dialogue on these sensitive topics is one where employees develop an awareness of their own biases all the while fostering an awareness and appreciation for those who are different.

Diversity Training – Not a One and Done

 Most organizations offer diversity and inclusion training as a part of their onboarding process, annually to satisfy EEOC requirements, or in reaction to an occurrence; however due to a lack of follow up, many fall short of being truly effective.[4] Just as employees receive ongoing development of their professional skills and knowledge base, they should receive ongoing training in the areas of racial and cultural awareness, [5] for one cannot be sensitive to the feelings of others, until he or she forms an awareness and appreciation for the differences that exists and enrich the workplace.

 Take Responsibility for Racial and Cultural Awareness

 It is important to realize that as our workplaces become increasingly diverse that in the absence of continual training individuals should take some responsibility for their knowledge of other cultures. The age of technology and instant information leaves few excuses for a lack of effort to learn more about the people within shared work environments.

Make it your mission to get to know your co-workers. It is okay to express genuine interest in their culture, cuisine, and traditions. Our lives can be enriched greatly when we invite new people and new experiences into our midst. The more we learn about other cultures, the less likely we are to open our mouths and insert our feet. The closer and more familiar we are with our co-workers, the easier it is to make amends if or when we do.

 

[1] Premack, “14 Things People Think Are Fine to Say at Work — but Are Actually Racist, Sexist, or Offensive.”

[2] “How to Apologize at Work after Making a Microaggressive Comment – Business Insider.”

[3] Miranda-Wolff, “How to Talk about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

[4] Blackman, “What Is Diversity & Inclusion Training?”

[5] Florentine, “Diversity and Inclusion.”

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The Propaganda of Hate

revenge-492560_1280Nature has done almost nothing to prepare men and women to be either slaves or slaveholders. Nothing but rigid training, long persisted in, can perfect the character of the one or the other. One cannot easily forget to love freedom; and it is as hard to cease to respect that natural love in our fellow creatures. –Frederick Douglass from My Bondage and My Freedom

Hatred for another human being is not something that we are born with, it is something we are born into. We are conditioned by our families and society to feel anything other than the need of belonging when it comes to other human beings. Young children who have never been exposed to racist ideologies do not look at the skin of another child and decide this child should be hated based upon a darker or lighter tone of the skin. Young children do not hear a different dialect or accent in the voice of another and automatically assume this a person to be hated, to be mistrusted, to be destroyed.

Human beings who hate based upon skin color, national origin, or religion are no higher evolved than animals. Animals rely upon their primal instincts to protect them from predators based upon instincts. However, animals recognize those who belong to their species, and do not hate or attack, simply because, only to protect. Animals live in greater harmony with those who are “different” than humans do. The reason for this, is that animals cannot be taught to hate based upon visual differences, they learn to react to actions.

Spreading Hatred Through Fear

Military personnel both in the U.S. and abroad belonging to infantry units are provided images, videos, and literal war games to teach them to “recognize” the enemy. A healthy human mind can only accept the act of killing if it is convinced that the subject is less than human. This is how every incident of genocide and slavery has occurred since the dawn of civilization. A close read of religious texts, and historical documents can identify the language used to distinguish the “less thans” in our society.

The hate speeches of leaders of countries speak to the “less thans” those who present a threat to not only lives, but a way of life. Patriotism, nationalism, and religious allegiance become pardons for hatred, as long as it is done in the name of god and country. It is not difficult to whip a group of people into a frenzy of hatred when a tragedy has occurred on domestic or even International soil that involves the citizens of one’s own country. Heavy rhetoric is used to stir emotions, facts are often distorted to further incite rage. With social media it is even easier for misinformation or premature information to reach the eyes and ears of citizens generating fear. Fear is the bases of every act of hatred.

Conclusion

Are we as a Nation too far gone to return to a place within ourselves where we do not hate based upon differences, and do not act based upon unverified actions? We have the technology and the resources to communicate, to work together, to support, to feed, and to teach one another. All of these are instruments of peace. Silencing the propaganda of hatred is our only hope of survival. We are above a dog eat dog mentality. Are we not?

For those who struggle with feelings of hatred for others based upon differences, there is hope – because there is a struggle. Research studies show that depression and other mental illnesses can be directly related to cognitive dissonance associated with the act of hatred toward other human beings. Hatred based upon human differences, be they skin color, national or linguistic origins, religion, or political affiliations can only be mediated through exposure and education. Each of us is responsible in our own element of providing that exposure and education, and thus exposing the propaganda of hate for what it is.

 

 

How to Stand Up for Yourself in the Office, and Still Keep Your Job

Me tooNavigating your way through workplace politics and pecking order is difficult. If you are not at the top of the order, then you fall somewhere below and let’s face it, that means your job security is based upon how much the boss values and likes you. Whether there is an intentional abuse of power or not, there is still power, intimidating to those who are subject to it. The most common abuse of power in the workplace is sexual power. This can be directed from male superior to female subordinate, or vice versa, and same sex superior and subordinate. Standing up for yourself at work, fending off inappropriate advances should not mean also fearing the loss of your job.

Harmful Flirting

It is never a good idea to become sexually or romantically involved with a co-worker, and especially a superior. It is never a good idea to allow flirting, even when it seems innocent as this can be misread. It is difficult to find oneself in a situation where what seems to be harmless flirting leads to expectations or unwanted advances.

Backing Out and Backing Up

If in this sort of situation, it should be nipped in the bud before getting any further. This can be done subtlety and most of the time the other party will get the message. In the uncomfortable event that the message is either not received, or ill-received it is best to clear the air. Admit that the flirtation was not a good idea and that your professional reputation is important to you. If your manager has no agenda, then that should be it. However, if it is not, the very next step to send an email through the office email and state “per our conversation” the date and a summary of what was discussed. This provides documentation. Do not threaten, simply state facts. End the email with “Thank you very much for your understanding. BCC your private email.

Next Steps

If this does not get the message across then the next step is your human resources officer. He or she should then follow whatever policy is in place for processing complaints. It is good to know that in larger companies everyone has a boss, even the owner of a company. That boss is the law. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) takes complaints at their website 24 hours per day. All complaints are confidential and information is used only for investigative purposes.

Conclusion

 In a situation where a superior is offering unwanted/improper attention some make the mistake of ignoring it, hoping it will resolve itself, or worst yet go along in fear of repercussions. Having neutral party to talk to over a situation such as this is more advisable than confiding in a co-worker. No matter how the situation started, you have the right to end it, the right to regain your power, and your rights are protected by the EEOC.

Toxic School Environments Make Teachers Sick

Is your workplace a toxic environment? If there is more than one person per week out sick in your department, chances are it is. Before I left teaching one of the primary problems was the inability to take an actual sick day. You know, the kind when you are really sick. If I needed to take a sick day for myself or to attend to my daughter, my ethical compass would steer me away from that decision. My daughter and I ended up in school many times when we were unwell. This did, I admit, cause some resentment towards peers who seemed to take an average of at least two days off per month. While my sick days were building up, so was my stress level.

Cognitively, I understood why there were so many teachers out each week. Yet, I did not see the district or my school in particular doing anything to fix the problem. None of these teachers were bad teachers. It is just that education has gotten to the point that what is actually taught is irrelevant, and as long as students can be trained to pass tests like seals jumping through hoops, we do not need to invest a great deal of time immersing them into complicated plot lines, or delving into characters to determine motive. No, all we have to do is to make sure students are able to accurately identify which key term is associated with a cold passage read, and viola! We have done our jobs.

The sick days were needed because the toxicity of the school environment, of the district expectations which do not at all seem fitting with what I observed at the state or national level. So, the sick days are real because creativity is atrophying at lightning speed for teachers in our schools.

 On any given Friday as many as 25 teachers were out of a total of 290. That is nearly 10% of the teaching staff. By Wednesday each week what I began to call the “guilt” emails were circulating letting teachers know how many had already asked for Friday off. These emails ran up stress levels for many, myself included. You see, when my students came to my class after having at least one sub, and at times two on Friday, they were bored and restless. However, I had an engaging lesson ready to go, or more than likely an essay test or some activity to assess what was learned that week. Yes, even though their course scores did not factor into how well I was doing as a teacher, I knew that how they were doing in my class did matter to them.

 My soldering on ended up getting the better of me, however, because I was not taking time off from an environment that was becoming increasingly toxic. The overall lack of trust between administration and teachers was palpable, and it was permeating what had once been strong bonds between teachers. How can you trust your colleagues when you are having to lose your planning period at least once per week to cover their classes; and sometimes, when you are sick yourself?

 When situations like this occur in schools or other work environments, it is not because the teachers or employees are bad people, or are even irresponsible people. It is because leadership has either brought or introduced a toxin into the environment. When people love and are excited about their jobs, they do not miss work. There was never one meeting with the faculty at large or with individual departments to talk about the illness that was causing the need for sick days. There was no leadership accountability.

 When the work environment is toxic, it is trickle down. Toxic leadership leads to a toxic environment. Teachers need to be allowed their creativity for more than meeting a lettered standard. Good teachers meet those standards every day without having to write them on a board, or put them into a formalized lesson plan.

 If chefs in the finest restaurants were told they all had to cook the same meals on the same days, and that they had to survey restaurant patrons to collect data to determine if they were going to be allowed to be chefs anymore…they would take sick days too.

 One of the reasons for toxicity in the work environment is a lack of true diversity and inclusion. The current climate of many schools is that teachers are supposed to be the same, what I call Stepford Teachers, yet they are to differentiate the “standard fare” for their diverse classrooms so that every student can learn the same thing, and be able to apply it in the same way on a standardized test. That class is an example of a paradox. 

 If teachers cannot be diverse – using their individuality, their uniqueness and creativity – to diversify the lessons organically, then the entire concept of differentiation is missed. Teachers become teachers because they are creative people who have a desire to share their knowledge with others. Their knowledge, not what has been boxed and properly labeled for them.

 

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion Executive Summary for Cobb County School District, GA

Diversity and Community

Diverse Communities are Strong Communities

CCSD: One Goal, One Community Strong

Diversity for the Future of All

2017-2018 Diversity and Inclusion Plan

On Behalf of a Diverse and Growing Community

 

Submitted by

Jacqueline Burnett-Brown, PhD

 

May 17, 2017

 

 

Introduction

Cobb County School District’s Mission Statement Slogan is: One Team, One Goal. Their overall mission statement is Success for All Students. However, there is no sustainable Diversity & Inclusion Plan for Cobb County School District, one of the largest and most racially and culturally diverse districts in the state of GA. Students of color, differing cultures, and those with learning disabilities show the lowest academic performance of all CCSD students. A strong push towards actual inclusion of ALL students, teachers, and staff in an actionable, sustainable, and measureable way will increase student as well as teacher performance throughout the district. Research supports that when education systems adopt a multi-cultural approach to the curriculum, teachers feel more confident and students thrive (1).

PROPOSED SOLUTION

To achieve Cobb County School District’s primary objective of student achievement, there needs to be an implementation of district-wide diversity & inclusion initiatives into the Cobb County School District to include all leadership, teachers, and staff.

A Plan Designed for A Diverse School and Community

The current Diversity and Inclusion statement employed by the district has a permanent residence on the school district’s website. It is not a living instrument, the stated goals are in black and white, but they are not voiced to teachers, students, or parents. Diversity and Inclusion is more than lip service, it is more than annual cultural days and Black History Month. The proposed D&I plan is designed to take a top down approach to the implementation of diversity and inclusion from the district office, to the board members, each school, every teacher, student, parent, volunteer, support staff employed, as well as the community at large.

The Cost of Diversity

  • The district will generate a budget for salaried diversity and inclusion personnel.
  • The district will generate a budget for materials and technology to support D&I training initiatives.
  • The district will generate a budget for social and local media advertising of their D&I initiative.
  • The district will generate a budget for the recruitment and hiring of a diverse leadership, teaching, and support staff.
  • The district will generate a budget for multicultural text books and other academic resources.
  • The district will generate a schedule and budget for teacher professional learning days to be allocated for D&I training outside of normal school days.

The Benefits of Inclusion

Teachers feel more free to teach in an environment where they are free to discuss issues of race, culture, gender, and other differences2. When these are treated as controversial topics, and therefore considered taboo, it stifles teacher as well as student creativity (3). When teachers are teaching under the myth that they should be color (4) politically, and gender blind, they are teaching under oppression as they are disallowed the necessity as well as joy of seeing their students. Teachers are asked to differentiate, but are not allowed to discuss the ways in which we are all different (5), or to advocate for the rights to those differences (6,7).

In addition to culture and race, it is vital that gender, gender identity (8), and learning and physical disabilities9 are interwoven into the vision statement as well as the curriculum.

Infusing multiculturalism into the curriculum is inclusive of all students, as it allows them to react and interact with one another in a real and measurable way. Students of color and differing cultures often feel the curriculum is not designed for them, but rather for their White American counter-parts (10). Students who recognize their history and their culture11 in the curriculum are more motivated to learn (12), than when they do not.

Research supports that inclusive school environments have less turn-over of teachers13, especially teachers of color (14) and when there is less turnover with the faculty, and they are a part of the community, students and parents have more confidence in the schools and district (15).

Diversity and Inclusion: The Responsibility of Every One

The proposed diversity and inclusion initiative is a top down approach that begins with elected officials: District Superintendent, Chris Ragsdale and board members, as well as HR, district support staff, district and local school leadership.

It is only with total buy in from Mr. Ragsdale down that this initiative can work, so that the district slogan: One Team, One Goal: Student Success becomes a reality.

TIMELINES

Milestone 1. Director of D & I hired or appointed within 3 months

Milestone 2. Broad publication of D&I initiatives and revised mission statement within 6 months

Milestone 3. All elected officials – Superintendent and Board members as well as District, Local School Leadership will reflect in word, deed, and their own diversity the D&I initiatives and mission statement within two years.

 

1 Jacqueline Burnett-Brown, Racial Dialogues: A Phenomenological Study of Difficult Dialogues from the Perspective of High School English Teachers (Northcentral University, 2014), http://search.proquest.com/openview/c9f429614a0306c789151930462db1bb/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y.

2 Ibid.

3 Kamilla L. Venner and Steven P. Verney, “Motivational Interviewing: Reduce Student Reluctance and Increase Engagement in Learning Multicultural Concepts,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 46, no. 2 (April 2015): 116–23, doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1037/a0038856.

4 Angie Beeman, “Walk the Walk but Don’t Talk the Talk: The Strategic Use of Color-Blind Ideology in an Interracial Social Movement Organization,” Sociological Forum 30, no. 1 (March 2015): 127–47, doi:10.1111/socf.12148.

5 Derek Cavilla and Belle Wallace, “Thoughts on Access, Differentiation, and Implementation of a Multicultural Curriculum,” Gifted Education International 30, no. 3 (September 1, 2014): 281–87, doi:10.1177/0261429413486576.

6 Burnett-Brown, Racial Dialogues.

7 Steven J. Sandage, Sarah Crabtree, and Maria Schweer, “Differentiation of Self and Social Justice Commitment Mediated by Hope,” Journal of Counseling & Development 92, no. 1 (January 2014): 67–74, doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00131.x.

8 Sara Staley and Bethy Leonardi, “Leaning In to Discomfort: Preparing Literacy Teachers for Gender and Sexual Diversity,” Research in the Teaching of English; Urbana 51, no. 2 (November 2016): 209–29.

9 Deborah L. Voltz and Loucrecia Collins, “Preparing Special Education Administrators for Inclusion in Diverse, Standards-Based Contexts: Beyond the Council for Exceptional Children and the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium,” Teacher Education and Special Education 33, no. 1 (February 1, 2010): 70–82, doi:10.1177/0888406409356676.

10 Venner and Verney, “Motivational Interviewing.”

11 Thomas S. Dee and Emily K. Penner, “The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance,” American Educational Research Journal 54, no. 1 (February 1, 2017): 127–66, doi:10.3102/0002831216677002.

12 Terry Meier, “‘The Brown Face of Hope’: Reading Engagement and African American Boys,” The Reading Teacher 68, no. 5 (February 2015): 335–43, doi:10.1002/trtr.1310.

13 Susan Fairchild et al., “White and Black Teachers’ Job Satisfaction: Does Relational Demography Matter?,” Urban Education 47, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 170–97, doi:10.1177/0042085911429582.

14 Betty Achinstein et al., “Retaining Teachers of Color: A Pressing Problem and a Potential Strategy for ‘Hard-to-Staff’ Schools,” Review of Educational Research 80, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 71–107, doi:10.3102/0034654309355994.

15 Sadaf Naz, Mohammad Majid Mehmood Bagram, and Shahzad Khan, “Impact of Teacher Turn over on Students Motivation, Psyche and Performance,” International Review of Management and Business Research; Peshawar 1, no. 1 (December 2012): 26–46.

14 Betty Achinstein et al., “Retaining Teachers of Color: A Pressing Problem and a Potential Strategy for ‘Hard-to-Staff’ Schools,” Review of Educational Research 80, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 71–107, doi:10.3102/0034654309355994.

15 Sadaf Naz, Mohammad Majid Mehmood Bagram, and Shahzad Khan, “Impact of Teacher Turn over on Students Motivation, Psyche and Performance,” International Review of Management and Business Research; Peshawar 1, no. 1 (December 2012): 26–46.

 

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