The Fire This Time
I recently presented to secondary ELA, Reading, and Social Studies teachers about engaging in hard conversations in the classroom. The recording for that presentation and accompanying resources can be found on the equity and diversity web page. The day after that presentation I read an article about our superintendent, Dr. Logan, having a conversation with a neighborhood association regarding her doubts about the upcoming athletic season. A few hours after I read that article, I was in a meeting with other district leadership where we were informed that we would be starting this school year remotely. I thought about the presentation I had just given the day before and I immediately regretted how I left something very significant out. Leadership.
Leadership means that you have to make the hard decisions to tell people the truth and take actions to keep them out of harms way, even when that truth and action is controversial. Dr. Logan these past few months, has been steadfast in her ability to show leadership in hard times and engage in hard conversations. She, and other bold leaders throughout history, have shown that that leadership is more than courage. You can be courageous and short-sighted. You can be courageous and misguided. Our true leaders show that leadership requires courage with authentic purpose.
Though I did neglect to define the need for leadership in hard conversations, there is one very important part of hard conversations that I did put into the presentation. It’s the part where I advise staff to begin the conversation with an end result in mind. The end result in hard conversations is always to create a place for healing and reconciliation. We don’t get into hard conversations to start a fire and watch it burn. Or even worse to burn ourselves. No. The fire’s role in nature is to create a space to make the land more fertile for future growth. The fire brings more opportunity. That is why we engage in hard conversations. It's a fire.
Right now, we are enduring peril. We can’t ignore that in ourselves. We can’t ignore that in our students. We can’t ignore that in our community. We have to confront this peril and each obstacle it brings forward. We have to talk about and act on the challenges of setting up Microsoft Teams. How can we reconcile it if we don’t? We have to talk about and act on getting food to students when they can’t make it to the school they attend. How can they focus with food insecurity? We have to talk about and act on what we ask of our transportation workers during remote learning. We’d be missing an opportunity for professional growth and productivity if we didn’t. We have to talk about and act on threats of racism in our society, schools, classrooms, and ourselves. Avoiding these issues does not make them go away, it compounds them.
I believe that we have what is needed to come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger, not weaker. I believe we have what we need to come out of these times of racial tumult with more humanity, not more divided. I believe we have the leadership within all of us to meet this trouble face to face and see it through. We will preserve through the fire this time.
"And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children's children."
-James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time)
Educators play a crucial role in helping students talk opening about the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of social inequality and discrimination (Teaching Tolerance, 2020).
The Omaha Public Schools seeks to provide opportunities for students to safely communicate about what is going on in their lives and the world around them. We believe in engaging students about our world and how students experience the Omaha Public Schools is important in cultivating empathy and understanding while empowering students to take an active role in their own justice.
This past July OPS teachers and counselors met with 5-12th grade students to provide a safe space for students to think, talk about and respond to issues and problems impacting them and their community and to gain better understanding of student’s experiences in the Omaha Public Schools. This project was called EXPRESSION. The expected outcomes for EXPRESSION as follows:
Throughout the three week sessions students were able to engage in conversations ranging from missing their friends during COVID-19 shut down, the unrest around the murder of George Floyd, and the need to continue to find spaces for students to talk to each other through hard times.
A special thank you goes out to the district leaders and staff that were willing to engage but most importantly a thank you goes to all of the students who participated and expressed themselves.
2021 Face-To-Face with Black History Tour
OPS Principal Leadership Development Program
Presented by The Office of Equity and Diversity
In partnership with Black Votes Matter
and the Business Ethics Alliance Presents:
This program is designed to provide OPS principals an opportunity to learn how the courageous examples of moral leadership that led the Civil Rights Movement can give us the inspiration we need to create the changes our schools and district need today.
Ten OPS principals have been selected to participate in Moral Competence and Authentic Leadership development. This program will consist of the interactions listed below:
This program is designed for leaders who are interested in developing their capacity to be change agents in our school district. Participants will learn about how race has led to many current inequities throughout schools, what leaders throughout history have done to confront these inequities, what moral competency and authentic leadership skills they possess and can develop, and how to execute an action plan with social responsibility as the focused outcome.
MHC is excited and honored to continue its partnership with OPS, especially during these current times of transformation. Our summer 2020 offerings filled and were successful and we are so grateful to everyone who assisted our work and everyone who attended and sought to learn about and from the humanities for personal, community, educational and community-based systems change. Our registration continues to fill in record time as we all seek and find ways to connect and inspire each other as life-long learners.
Looking ahead, as we move into the new academic year, our ANNUAL CULTURAL RESOURCES SHOWCASE is coming up on August 29. We look forward to sharing this annual event with you and can’t wait for the joy it brings. Our offerings this fall are also making clear connections with 3 of the Priority Areas outlined in OPS’s Strategic Plan (2020-2025). Grounding in these 3 areas - Ethic of Care, Staff (Professional Growth) ,and Academics – allows us to make real connections between life and learning and contribute to the success of all who work and study in the District. A few new offerings have been added to our usual array of opportunities this fall, as outlined below.
MHC/OPS Education Strategy Courses: Virtual Learning fall 2020
Innocent Classroom 1
Innocent Classroom 2
Innocent Classroom: Lab
Reconstructing Curriculum: Exposing the Hidden Narratives in Curriculum
Reconstructing Curriculum: Social Studies Advanced Pedagogy – New Offering!
Becoming Equity Influencers ™
Secrets to Motivating Students
Building Student Resilience – New Offering!
Immersions about Place: North Omaha
Story Circles for Equity Engagement – New Offering!
Story Circles in the Digital Age – New Offering!
Increase Student Engagement through Absent Narratives
Changing the Narrative about Black and Brown Boys
Personal Power in the Workplace: Classroom
Our MHC/OPS team also wants to recognize the talents and hearts of all those in the OPS District. Know that we are thinking of you as this school year opens in a way it never has before. Thanks so much for your dedication to making OPS the best possible place to work and learn. We look forward to seeing many of you in our online offerings this fall and hope that you and your loved ones stay healthy and positive.
MHC/OPS Education Strategy Team
Please join us in congratulating Equity and Diversity Advisory Board member, Shelley Henderson, for her recent hiring as the Executive Director of A Black Educator Network. A Black Education Network (ABEN) assists our children and youth in reaching their full potential by facilitating academic and cultural excellence wherever they are, using culturally informed research and providing teacher training/professional development workshops, technology, visionary parent education, and networking in our communities here and in diaspora contexts. They couldn't have found a better person for the job.
In a a response to support our community during the COVID-19 crisis, OPS hosted a "Families Learning from Families Virtual Roundtable" event that focused on supporting emotional wellness and coping with anxiety and fear during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also chose to support families by providing support with how to raise and cultivate digital citizenship with our young learners in a remote environment. The goals of these webinars was to allow caregivers an opportunity to talk to and learn from our OPS staff and each other, about how we can best support our children.
On Tuesday, July 28th, OPS Social Workers hosted a discussion on ’Social Emotional Learning: Managing Anxiety focusing on the following: recognizing the signs of anxiety in children, coping skills and strategies to support your child, and additional support and resources. On Thursday July 30th Common Sense Education hosted a discussion on “Creating a Safe Remote Learning Environment at Home” where families discussed: Home Learning Spaces, Establishing healthy 'MEALS' of Media & tech at Home, and Becoming Your Child's Learning Coach
This article was borrowed from Central High's The Register. You can find the full article with images by following this link.
Noemi Gilbert, Staff Writer
JULY 15, 2020
Over 200 students, parents, teachers, and community members gathered at Central on July 11 to demand that OPS cancel its contract with the Omaha police department, focus on prevention instead of reaction for school safety, diversify upper level classes, have more mental health resources for students and have Black history emphasized in the curriculum.
The rally was organized by What Youth Can Do, an organization made up of several current and former OPS students. It began with the organizers giving speeches about each demand. “It is and will continue to be exhausting to be a Black student in honors and advanced placement classes,” What Youth Can Do member and South High graduate Jadriane Saunders said in his speech. “If we do not acknowledge and proactively address the huge gap in representation between minority students and white students.
The speakers emphasized the importance of counseling and mental health services for students. In Nebraska, the ratio of school counselors to students is 347:1. The recommended ratio is 250:1. Counselors increase school safety by providing school and emotional support to students. More counseling and mental health services for students is also part of the demand for prevention instead of reaction.
In response to the COVID-19 disproportionate impact on the Latinx community in South Omaha, The Tri-Faith Initiative, being led by deputy director Erik Servallon, has established a South Omaha Advocacy Effort. Advocacy will stay centered around South Omaha and will focus on housing/rental assistance, utility payment assistance, and work environments; further coalition building and research are required; there are short-term actionable steps that can be accomplished and long term endeavors that are worthwhile for clergy to engage in. As support has increased around these issues, the advocacy group has recently divided into two areas of focus. The Content Committee will be responsible for the creation of a COVID resources pamphlet to be distributed throughout faith organizations. Additionally, this committee will help organize and hold informational sessions for faith/community leadership regarding COVID response and recovery resources. The Communications/Advocacy Committee will be responsible for communicating with faith/community leaders and elected officials regarding COVID response as well as organizing meetings between these groups. Additionally, this committee will be responsible for organizing advocacy actions involving faith/community leaders. The hard work continues but there are many hands working together to lighten the load.
As language, perceptions and social mores change at a seemingly faster and faster rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists and other communicators to figure out how to refer to people with disabilities. Even the term “disability” is no longer universally accepted. This style guide, developed by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, is intended to help. It covers almost 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to disability, most of which are not covered in The Associated Press style guide.
But first some basic guidelines:
To read more from the National Center on Disability Journalism click on this link
Take a stand for humanity! Do you want to be part of the solution? Learn how to be an AntiRacist with our FREE 30 Day Challenge. The journey to cultivating a life committed to being AntiRacist is a lifelong pursuit that starts and ends with you. AntiRacism is an intentional daily practice that requires willpower, truth, love, and patience.
The AntiRacist Table 30 Day Challenge is specifically curated to educate, to help people face and get past shame, anger, and blame, and to develop empathy–all key elements of creating an AntiRacist America.
During the Challenge you will have opportunities to cultivate mindfulness and daily practices centered around equality, justice, and humanity as you integrate The AntiRacist Table Core Principles into your life. Engaging and interactive, the daily lessons infuse videos, readings, reflection, meditation, and other disciplines.
The Challenge will push you to unlearn, reflect, self-educate, and develop awareness of existing oppression, racial beliefs, biases, and privileges.
SPEAKING TRUTHS: IMAGES OF JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE – VIRTUAL EVENT
Photographs do more than record images; they capture moments in history that can reveal justice and injustice. This Speaking Truths event features a panel of six individuals from Creighton University and the Omaha community sharing their experiences recognizing and naming justice and injustice. Each panelist will choose a photograph from the Pulitzer Prize Photographs exhibition that evokes their own story of engaging with injustice and seeking justice. A facilitated discussion will follow.
This free program is presented by Creighton University’s Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (NCR) Program and the 2040 Initiative in the Graduate School. The NCR Program forms conflict competent agents of social change for an equitable world. The 2040 Initiative, housed in the NCR Program, teaches students to engage in constructive conversations arising from changing demographics in the U.S.—individually and as members of institutions and communities.
Reservations are required; free event that will be presented via Zoom. (Select the burgundy ticket icon above to register.) Registered guest will receive connection information for this virtual event.
Have questions? Call 402-444-5071 or email reservations@DurhamMuseum.org.
WHEN: September 1, 2020 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
WHERE: The Durham Museum
801 S 10th St Omaha,NE 68108
Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, citizenship status, or economic status in its programs, activities and employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following individual has been designated to address inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).
Las Escuelas Públicas de Omaha no discriminan basados en la raza, color, origen nacional, religión, sexo, estado civil, orientación sexual, discapacidad , edad, información genética, estado de ciudadanía, o estado económico, en sus programas, actividades y empleo, y provee acceso equitativo a los “Boy Scouts” y a otros grupos juveniles designados. La siguiente persona ha sido designada para atender estas inquietudes referentes a las pólizas de no discriminación: El Superintendente de las Escuelas, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).