1. What insights have I gained about my role as an educational leader from these chapters?
After reading the assigned chapters, I have reflected on my own values and ideas about perceptions and how they shape thoughts. I have thought about how our perceptions shape our daily interactions in educational settings around the country. Although my building is small, I have thought about all of experiences impact something as small as a conversation between two individuals (student/student, faculty/faculty, or student faculty).
2. What inconsistencies exist between my values and how I behave as an educator?
I feel the goal of any administrator is to be a) consistent in processes and b) objective in dealing with situations. Despite my good intentions, I am not perfect. During my professional career, I have seen multiple situations in which I have upheld the school’s rule but internally, I have had reservations. We have a rule about exemptions concerning final exams in which a student must not be in excess of four (4) absences in a class. Medical notes from a doctor count against that number. I have had students with flu, mono, and concussions end up taking a final despite their being medical documentation. Over the years, I have brought students up for expulsion because the rules have been broken. At times, my conscious has bothered me about some of those situations. Concerning those times, I make sure that students know how to present themselves at the hearing and make sure they know their options.
At my school, I know that there are many students that could benefit from being a part of our program. I do have the final say concerning whether or not a student gets admitted. There have been a couple of times over the past two school years in which I have denied admittance to someone. I like to feel that I am doing the right thing because I rationalize that “it’s better for the program.” Denial is not just based on personal feelings but evidence gathered from many categories.
3. How have schools used labels to define and control minority groups?
Schools use labels in multiple ways to assign affect expectations and control students of various ethnicities. A student who speaks another primary language in their home is considered an “ELL” (English Language Learner). Despite the proficiency level of the student, it’s the connotations of that label that imply a students is not as smart as others. Special education uses its own labels with terms like “ED” (emotionally disturbed) or “SLD” (specific learning disability). We need to be reflective and make sure that schools promote expectations of high achievement for ALL students, regardless of these assigned labels. Students need to be able to define themselves and blaze their own trail.
4. Does the interest theory help explain any attitudes that I may have about becoming an educational leader in a diverse school environment?
At its definition, interest theory describes discrimination that results from people who protect their power and privilege (Koppelman, 2017, p.35). When dealing with situations in a school environment, a leader that struggles with this concept might have underlying feelings/agendas behinds decision that are made. An individual might feel that there are other job that he/she might consider “easier” or a “better fit”. While considering myself to be objective, this concept gives me pause once again. I need to constantly remind myself to look at decisions through different optics and see what potential outcomes are a possibility. I need to do right by the students I am charged with serving; I cannot focus 100% on how I am perceived after every decision.
5. Based on an avoidance rationalization, how can school leaders perpetuate prejudice?
Through avoidance rationalization, school leaders avoid dealing with a problem. Koppelman (2017) states “a person making an avoidance rationalization admits there are problems and will rationalize a reason to avoid them” (p. 27). By not addressing the problem, leaders feel, or perhaps hope, the problem will go away. Perhaps school officials choose to ignore or down play comments or actions. This rationale can easily lead to repetitive behaviors (bullying) in the future due to lack of action. I can easily envision the problem even growing. The non-action of addressing prejudices allows these feelings to turn into discrimination (actions).
6. How do cultural differences in communication styles lead to misunderstanding and conflict?
I feel that these differences often manifest themselves in times of student discipline. With Hispanic students, part of the culture is to not engage in eye contact when being disciplined in the office or out in a hallway. This is direct opposite of Caucasian administrators and teachers who expect eye contact in these types of situations. This issue manifested itself many times when I worked in one district. It was hard for adults to understand this concept. Also, I found it helpful to explain the adults’ expectations to the students while at school.
With disciplining students from the Pacific Islands, the individuals tend to laugh and smile during discipline situations. Once again, this can come across as disrespectful (through no fault). This is where school officials can take a moment and seek understanding while taking the time to explain the difference between home and school.
7. What are my attitudes about diversity in support of a pluralistic school?
I welcome diversity in schools because exposer to differences is healthy for growing minds. I feel that students need to understand that that are part of something larger than themselves, especially in relation to our global economy. By challenging perceptions, students can have the opportunity to re-examine their own values and develop a deeper understanding of their place in this world. America is a nation of immigrants. Koppelman (2017) says, “We benefit from diversity and we learn more from previous and current contributions of diverse groups in our society because the real threat to our nation is not diversity but ignorance” (p. 143). I firmly believe that we are stronger together than apart. Despite what much of the media reports, I see students positively interacting every day.
8. What kinds of activities can I promote to bring about social change in my district?
In my opinion, change in a district is a concept that would take just more than one person (myself). Although, I can play a role at the building level. To identify what potentially could be changed, I must first seek to listen to what different cultural groups identify as an issue. This can be accomplished through meetings (formal and informal) and activities that celebrate our diversity at Gateway. Through this process, we can work together towards a solution. Knowing my personality, I must remind myself to hear and focus on how my parents/students see the issues and their solutions rather than how I would address issues. Our building is predominately Caucasian and not representative of the diversity we serve. To enact and support change, actions have to take place. Koppelman (2017) suggests that “it’s not possible to claim to be pluralistic and be passive because passivity perpetuates social injustice” (p. 152).
9. In your opinion what does it mean for a different majority to be oppressive to other groups at school? For example, should schools in neighborhoods that serve predominantly Mexican American students serve primarily Mexican food in the cafeteria?
In looking at the school above, I feel that food served to the students should fit the nutritional guidelines, fall within the budget, and be able to mesh with students likes. At our school, students really like nacho days regardless of any cultural differences. The company that provides our food gives the school a healthy variety of options. In examining oppression, this should not take place in our schools. Just because a group is larger, they should not be able to exude their will over others. The thought of what has happened over the years with a “traditional majority” during my lifetime gave me pause.
10. Clarify this statement: “Pluralism requires the acceptance of and respect for all groups that constitute a pluralistic society.”
With schools becoming more diverse, educators have to be mindful of what students need to be successful. Our students need to feel valued and understand their cultures are appreciated. Koppelman (2017) states, “That equal coexistence and mutual support are essential for a successful pluralistic society (p. 165). By learning how to coexist and support one another, we lose the idea of conformity and begin to practice acceptance and respect for our peers. This helps to build and strengthen the school community. Students do not feel the pressure to conform but can function being diverse yet belong to something bigger.
11. What do I know now about leading a school to meet the needs of all cultural groups that I didn’t know prior to reading these chapters?
These chapters reminded me that I still have room to grow as a leader. I acknowledge that making everyone feel welcome and a sense of belonging to the school is a large, yet completely worthwhile, undertaking. Having said that, it’s not enough for students with cultural differences just to feel welcome in my school. I have to work to facilitate a sense of belonging. That part involves listening, effective communication, and seeking to understand one another. This will take time and cannot be done by just one person. This has to be part of our mission and faculty has to value this idea. I want students to be proud of their heritage and proud to be a part of the school.