Where do I even begin? How can I possibly process and put into words the experiences I just had? How can I share with you, through mere words, the energy, the passion and the desire for change that was the hallmark of the last week?
Truthfully, I do not think that I can. This is definitely an experience that someone has to live through to be able to appreciate it, own it and move forward with it. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of it. I am changed in a way that I did not realize I could still be changed. I have grown in just a few short days, had my perspective challenged and changed and validated. How amazing is that? You are with a group of people, many of whom you have never met, and there are times they absolutely validate the beliefs you hold and walk with daily. On the flip side, they all challenge some of those beliefs and help you grow into a new perspective and way of thinking. And then you change. You become someone who is more reflective, more passionate (if that is possible!) and even more dedicated to the work you do every day.
This four day institute absolutely changed me. My school was part of the first cohort in our area so my school sent a team to the Leading Educators Institute (LEI) in 2017. As I was new to my school and finishing an intense process of writing a doctoral dissertation, it was not appropriate for me to be on that team. However, I was able to be added this year and attend with the new cohort.
What does that mean? It means I have some background that a lot of the folks at LEI didn't have...because my school has done some of this work and I got to experience it as a teacher. Now, however, I will move forward with it as a Lead Learner (I love that phrase) and share my knowledge and passion alongside my colleagues to make our school more equitable for every single child that enters our school.
It was very interesting to experience LEI through this lens because I had already experienced the Content Cycles protocols and workshops that our school participated in last year. I would be lying if I didn't say that I gained a huge new perspective, understanding and appreciation for the work after having experienced the institute. Everything I was unclear about before burst forth in one large A-HA moment for me. That in and of itself is powerful.
We had some absolutely amazing guest speakers during the institute as well. I was moved multiple times; there were times tears were in my eyes (and perhaps even on my cheeks if we are being totally honest) because I see the mistakes so many of us have made with the best of intentions. I often say you don't know what you don't know...and this institute showcases some of that. Even our keynote speakers admitted having made mistakes. Imagine standing before an entire room of educators and admitting that you helped perpetuate the false narrative around students of color (and now imagine you are a person of color making this admission). That takes some serious heart and reflection and it did not go unnoticed.
On Thursday we had Lacey Robinson from UnboundEd as our keynote. Previously they had shared some of her work with us in a professional development session that teachers in my district attended. To hear her speak in person was amazing. She is an African American woman who boldly proclaimed that she KNOWS she has messed up and continued to push a false narrative, thinking she was doing what was right by her students. To admit that in a crowd of teachers that you don't know...powerful and brave.
Together, I am very certain we CAN change the face of education for all kids.