Teaching equity: Saint Martin’s first annual regional conference
Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer
On Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, Saint Martin’s University hosted its first annual regional conference, “Teaching Equity: Advocating for Students.” This conference was made possible by the sponsorship of the Teaching Equity Network, and the grant that Linda Meier, Ph.D and the College of Education and Counseling worked so hard to get last year. Charlie Parker, a representative from the Teaching Equity Network, was also in attendance and spoke about the goals of the network and how they aligned with the conference’s goals–promoting equity preparation and performance. The conference consisted of a lecture and facilitation by keynote speaker, Erin Jones, followed by lunch and afternoon breakout sessions. The main focus of the conference was to show teachers how to implement equity in all levels of education in order to intentionally serve all students equally and more effectively. Kate Boyle, Ph.D, an Interim Provost, started the morning by addressing the conference attendees, “thank you for saying yes to pushing yourself and your students in social justice.”
The conference’s keynote speaker, Jones, has 26 years of experience playing a variety of roles in education and teaching in numerous schools throughout Washington, as well as some of the most diverse areas in the nation. While teaching all subjects in French and thus, having to write all of her own curriculum at Stewart Middle School in Tacoma, she received the Most Innovative Foreign Language Teacher award in 2007, among other awards. She was also a candidate for the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Instruction (OSPI).
At the beginning of the conference, Jones addressed her attire for the day: a very intentional outfit consisting of all Nike garments. She explained that since the campaign came out, she has intentionally worn Nike products in support of the movement and in hopes of starting a conversation. She briefly touched on Colin Kaepernick’s recent Nike campaign and what it means to her. She also talked about how she continuously speaks with her students on this idea of sacrificing everything and “if their dream is crazy enough to give up everything to pursue it.” She explained that although this is a protest, she sees it as more of a conversation starter because “equity work is the thing that is going to keep us alive as a country.”
In addition, she spoke a little bit about her background and how it shaped who she is today. Adopted into a family of white teachers from the Netherlands, she always wanted to be an international lawyer because that is all she ever knew, as the town and the school she grew up in was filled with families that worked for and with the United Nations. It was not until she came to America, that she discovered that a “world changer” did not have to be this big job like an international lawyer but she could change the world by teaching as well. When telling this story, she spoke about “the those who can’t do, teach” stereotype and how teaching is “one of the hardest things in the world but one of the most rewarding.”
One of her main focuses of conference was “how can we infect those who are not here and should be?” A lot people need to know about how to say things in regards to touchy subjects like these. A lot of the time, people think that they are being helpful by being politically correct when in fact, “political correctness shuts down open conversations.” This is also a similar theme when people talk about the topic of privilege. She stated, “privilege is not just for white people, I have incredible privilege.” A lot of people think that this idea of privilege is this grand advantage and this great thing, but it is not. There are so many things out there that people do not know enough about, but think that they do, like the previously stated example of privilege, which ends up causing problems in the long run. In order to enact change and truly make a difference in life and in education, “we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because it creates a beautiful product in the end.” Thus, the main point to walk away from this conference experience was, how do we, as educators and future educators, create an environment for people who do not have equity, to feel safe in? How do we encourage others who are not comfortable with being uncomfortable be able to embrace equity and learn more about it?