The last week has been one of hard and heart-wrenching conversations. Like many of you, we and our education leader partners have been grappling with the insurrection at the Capitol — yet another incident in this country that signals how far we have to go — while anxiously anticipating other potential attacks on Washington and capitals across the country leading up to next week’s Presidential Inauguration. We’ve all been navigating how to communicate with families, staff and students, and there remains the additional challenge of navigating much of this conversation virtually.
We are learning with you and have pulled together a variety of resources, linked below, to support you through these conversations. While these discussions are difficult and can be controversial, we believe they are necessary.
A key component to creating culturally responsive learning environments is building our students’ socio-political awareness, which Gloria Ladson Billings describes as the ability to use school knowledge to solve relevant social, cultural, civic, environmental and political problems. We can only do that by addressing issues in real time and creating space for our youth to discuss our current events. This requires courage.
As part of our learning, please join me on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m., when I will be speaking at a free webinar with Nellie Mae Foundation Vice President Gislaine Ngounou and South Dakota Teacher Travis Lape, moderated by PDK CEO Josh Starr, about the tools and methods educators can use to navigate issues of difference in the tough post-election conversations they are having.
This is a critical time for each of us to be a culturally responsive leader. That means responding, in real time, to what is happening in our world. Our schools serve as the nucleus of our communities. There is no secret veil we cross that separates our schools from society at large. But to do this well, we must prioritize capacity building and support our teachers and leaders in practicing these conversations so they can in turn create spaces for our youth who are always listening and watching.
We know this work is hard. And none of us can or should do it alone. Please join us on Wednesday, and please review, use, and share widely the below resources. Please reach out if you are in need of additional support.
Conversations about race and equity
- This week’s episode of Code Switch talks about police, “terrorism”, and the symbols of white nationalism that made it to the floor of the Capitol.
- In this article, Atlantic writer Clint Smith says, an image from the Capitol captures the distance between who we purport to be and who we have been.
- In this The Atlantic article Ibram X. Kendi pushes us to resolve to the fact that what happened at the Capitol is exactly who the United States is-just look at our history.
- New York Times writer Charles Blow shares in this commentary that white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy, democracy is the greatest threat to White supremacy because when Democracy works, White supremacists will always, reflexively, be rattled – whether in the 19th century, or the 21st.
- The same day a Black man and a Jewish man were voted into the U.S. Senate, a mob toting Confederate and Nazi flags attacked the U.S. Capitol. As you teach about Martin Luther King Jr. ahead of his birthday observation, acknowledge the link between the racism he resisted and the violence we witnessed at the Capitol. These resources will help foster related discussions within the context of U.S. history.
- Here are recommendations from the Teaching Tolerance advisory board for how they’d engage in conversations with students on the insurrection.
- We cannot talk about racism without talking about whiteness. The consequences of white rage in D.C. illustrate the importance of disrupting a “fundamental disconnect between the racial self-perceptions of many white people and the realities of racism.” Here’s why and how educators should talk about it.
- This Teaching Idea and this Teaching Idea from Facing History and Ourselves guide students to synthesize what happened and outline multiple causes. They include excerpts from texts that explore the ways in which inflammatory language, disinformation, and white supremacy were contributing causes of the insurrection. They are designed to help guide an initial classroom reflection on the events at the U.S. Capitol that occurred that day.
- This resource offers teachers other helpful guidance for talking with students.
- We need to keep student and staff emotional well being front and center. Here is a process for engaging in restorative circles from our friends from Boston Public Schools and some tangible practices from Dena Simmons.
Adult learning and development
- This Huffington Post article gives concrete suggestions on how to discuss the insurrection at work.
- This episode of the NPR podcast Throughline chronicles the rise of modern white supremacy.
- The insurrection at the Capitol is not the first in US history. The Wilmington insurrection of 1898 was successful. The Atlantic published an article on the events several years ago. Time published an article on the Wilmington insurrection in July in connection to the murder of George Floyd.
- NPR’s podcast Throughline took over Code Switch and the episode gets into some of the most urgent lessons we can learn from James Baldwin, whose life and writing illuminate so much about what it would really mean for the United States to reckon with its race problem.
Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.
Lead Executive Officer & President
Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is President & Lead Executive Officer (LEO) of The Leadership Academy, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and developing culturally responsive school and school system leaders to create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive. Since 2003, The Leadership Academy has done work in more than 375 school districts, state education departments, and education organizations across the country, reaching over 12,000 educators in 39 states.
Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrators’ Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. In 2014, Nancy joined The Leadership Academy and served in various roles before being named President & CEO in October 2018. Prior to her tenure with the Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification.
Nancy is a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and was named one of the top 100 most influential leaders in education in New York in 2020. In 2023, Nancy was named San Jose State University’s Distinguished Alumna.
Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She has served as an adjunct professor for NYU, Teachers College and American University as well as an expert guest at various Harvard Principals’ Center Institutes. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership for publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, Learning Forward’s Learning Professional, District Administrator, and Hechinger Report. She is also the co-author of Stay and Prevail: Students of Color Don’t Need to Leave Their Communities to Succeed, a revolutionary guide to disrupting harmful mindsets and practices in our schools to ensure that students can thrive in their home communities.
Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at the Hunt Institute, brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team.