I’ve thought long and hard about this topic.
It’s something that has been swirling in my mind and I’ve struggled with finding the right words to say exactly how I feel.
We all know how important it is for children to be able to “see” themselves in our classrooms.
We find books that feature diverse characters and take the time to integrate them into our classroom libraries.
We talk with them about the importance of respect and inclusion and encourage them to be kind.
We know that they will group and experience hate, disrespect and exclusion but we want the very best for them and hope that they will overcome these experiences.
But, what happens when we become adults?
We know we all carry around biases. We work very hard to keep those biases in check and hope they don’t negatively influence our decisions and behaviors…but they’re there.
What do we do as adults to ensure that those biases aren’t affecting what we do and say with other adults?
First let me say this: I love the blogging community and I love the experiences I’ve had and friendships I’ve made by being a member of this community.
However, I want us to make an effort to be more aware of our biases.
When we create lists of
“Top Teachers to Follow on _____” or
“The Best Books to Teach _____” or
“Top Educational Leaders”, are we aware of the diversity (or lack thereof) in these lists?
When we look at a lists of experts or presenters for conferences/presentations, are we aware of the diversity in these lists?
And if you’re thinking, “Good thing I don’t make any of lists,” think about some possible exclusionary behavior. Who are you including in your mastermind groups, or hops or other positive group experiences? Or, if you’re thinking, “Good thing I’m not a blogger”. Who are the bloggers you follow or who would you recommend as “great person” to follow on social media?
What does it mean to be a diverse educator who sees these lists and never sees someone who looks like you on them?
Is the message, “You aren’t good enough,”?
Is the message, “No one who looks like you deserves to be on these lists”?
I DON’T believe that people are CONSCIOUSLY making the decision to exclude diverse educators from these lists…
But, what about me?
When I am constantly shown images of “top teachers” or “Teachers you should follow”, and someone who looks like me isn’t on those lists… it doesn’t feel right.
It feels exclusionary.
Again, I don’t think ANY member of this community is purposely excluding diverse educators in these lists…but my feelings are what they are.
After talking with my husband about my feelings, he mentioned something called KOL.
In the world of business, KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader.
This is someone considered to be the “go to” for a particular idea or thought. There can be more than one KOL, there can exist a team of KOLs.
For my example, we will say the KOL(s) is like the lists of “Top Teachers”.
If we agree that biases exist (whether conscious or subconscious), then we know that our KOLs are a list created with some bias (again, conscious or subconscious).
IF our list is created with bias, THAN we must do something to counteract the bias. Those who create said KOLs, must make an effort to include some diversity in their list to ensure they eliminate some bias.
Does this sound like affirmative action?
Yes, because it is.
But if you were to switch the word “teacher lists” or “KOLs”, with “Children’s Books”, you would come to the same conclusion.
Example: I teach a variety of learners and I want them to be able to “see” themselves in the classroom. I know that I have biases (as do publishing houses) and I want to overcome those, to ensure my students see their value. So, I purposely buy three books that feature a diverse character for every one book I purchase. I want to over come the bias, so I am making an effort to do so.
This isn’t easy, it means making a conscious decision to include diverse teachers into these lists.
That may feel artificial.
It may feel forced.
But it is what our community must continue to do, until it doesn’t feel that way anymore.
Until when someone sits down to create a list, they are thinking of EVERY teacher, they have ever seen…and they’ve seen many teachers because we’ve all agreed to make an effort to include more diverse teachers.
Challenging our bias is tough. Its confusing and many times emotional. But when we’ve had the difficult conversations, asked questions and made inclusive decisions our answer to the question: