Voices in Education

Shining an Equitable Lens on Every Student

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Equity is a hot topic in education right now. Everyone gets really worked up when it comes to this idea. Emotions run high and defensiveness rises. People often come at equity work with a laundry list of actions that they think should be taken. There is a saying: “actions speak louder than words.” Well, mindset affects one’s actions so mindset can be more important than actions. If we truly want to make an impact on how equitable classrooms and schools are, there has to be a universal mind shift. We have to change our expectations of children and thus change how we see children.

Five Components to Educating using an Equitable Lens 

1. Shift thinking from all children can learn to all children deserve to learn in a way that works for them.

As educators, we love to say all kids can learn. But do we really believe the words that we are saying. Well, maybe not. Honestly, some children will have a difficult time learning if they are not taught in a way that reaches them. By shifting our lens from "can learn" to "deserve to learn," the new approach injects positive intent with purpose. We have to find the way that each of our students learn and tap into their brilliance. PBS resources offer another avenue to access learning.  Their offerings, in conjunction with using other tools, could be the flip switch that some kids need.

2. Shift from “they don't have the skills” to “they have not had the opportunity to develop the skills” yet.

As soon as we justify a student not doing well in class by them not starting at  preschool, we automatically limit their potential. The truth is that all kids have skills. They developed them from the environment in which they are exposed.  As educators, we must respect this truth and take responsibility for exposing them to what they need to be successful in this place called school. The power of exposure is intense. 

3. Shift from expecting some to fail to expecting all to fail forward!

Children rise or dangerously fall to what is expected of them. By simply expecting growth and greatness out of all students, our equitable lens multiplies in strength. We have to be so careful about the messages we are sending to our most vulnerable minds.

4. Shift from treating all students like they carry the same backpack to recognizing all students carry a different load.

Kids carry way more to school than pencils and notebooks. They carry with them whatever life experiences they are facing as well as stressors in their lives. Yes, having consistently high expectations for all students is equitable, but being aware of our students’ lives and being empathetic to those needs -- is humane.  We have to see all our children and respect, not judge, what is in their backpacks.

5. Shift from judgment based on a single story to reading the sequel.

Chimamanda Ngozi powerfully wrote a TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.”  In this impactful piece, she talks about how we all have a single story that we are judged by. For example, when people see me, they see a happy kindergarten teacher that is smiley and not so tough. But when people get to know me, there is grit behind the grin. We constantly judge our students by their single stories. This leads to my greatest fear as an educator: how  many brilliant minds are we stifling due to the stories we limit them to?

These five concepts are not the only components to equity work by any stretch but they are a strong start.

By shifting how we see kids, we will shift how we treat kids.  We as educators have a tremendous impact on so many lives. By shifting our lens we can shift futures.

Mallory Mbalia

Mallory Mbalia Early Childhood Education Advocate

Mallory is strong advocate for early childhood education and equity.  She served in education as a kinderstar (kindergarten) teacher for several years before pursuing School Administration. She holds her M.A.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction and M.S.A Masters of School Administration.  She currently serves as an elementary assistant principal as well as a trainer for her local station UNC TV! She has been a trainer for UNC TV for over 8 years. She has presented across the state of NC in a variety of settings including large conferences.  She became a part of the PBS LearningMedia Teacher Core program in 2013 which is now PBS Digital Innovators.  She is a proud wife and mom of three young ladies.  Mallory believes in the power of art integration, technology integration, joy integration, expectations and relationships! 

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