The power to change ourselves: WSSDA Board of Directors equity retreat

“I used to think I had the power to change the world… and now I think that I have the power to change myself.”

Powerful. Eye-opening. Moving. Hard. Emotional. Encouraging. These are a few of the words WSSDA’s Board of Directors used to describe their time together as they explored their understanding of what equity means in their role as district and state education leaders.

Last August, WSSDA’s Board of Directors spent a day and a half during their annual board retreat looking at their own beliefs, assumptions and experiences to deepen their understanding of equity, racism, institutional racism, white privilege, and supporting the unique needs of each and every student. One activity that was impactful was a protocol called “I used to think… and now I think.” This activity reveals each participant’s own learning path from the beginning of the retreat to the end. One response was, “I used to think these types of discussion would have limited impact… and now I think that it can open doors to honest discussion that strengthens the work we do as a board.”

Deeply reflecting on how your view of the world impacts the type of leader you are and the decisions you make doesn’t come naturally to most of us. The board spent time examining the concepts of cultural competence and equity, race and racism and privilege and discrimination. They considered what questions we need to ask to ensure that the students in our districts and throughout the state feel welcomed and valued.

“I used to think the work was easy… and now I think the work is difficult, powerful.”

Equity work means something different to each person, especially a group of diverse leaders like the WSSDA board members. The board has people from different parts of the state, from school districts large and small, and from communities whose students reflect a wide range of demographics and backgrounds. Despite the differences, common ground was evident. And so was a commitment to keep the work moving forward…together.

“I used to think we had come a long way in understanding and changing our perspectives… now I think we have only just begun.”

This entry originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of WSSDA Direct.