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As students enter school, they are already managing living in an oppressive system. Institutions, including schools, can perpetuate inequities and be experienced as places not to be trusted. This can result in a student experiencing a consistent state of stress or threat in which they are being triggered by actions or situations that may seem innocuous to the teachers or other adults in the institution.
One of the most important ways to build rapport with students is working toward cultural synchronization. Cultural synchronization refers to a shared, implicit understanding of communication and interaction styles, both verbal and nonverbal, between students and teachers of different cultural backgrounds that leads to increased trust, decreased frustration and improved learning opportunities. These questions serve as a starting point for working toward a deeper relationship on behalf of gaining a deep and holistic understanding of how a particular student is learning, thinking, and making decisions.
NEP has developed a Liberatory Design Process in collaboration with colleagues from the Stanford University d.school. This Liberatory Design Card deck offers an introduction to the process, mindsets, and activities that build on the tradition of human-centered design (aka design thinking) to allow for deeper innovation and agency amidst institutionalized norms, structures, and oppression.
Use this self-assessment to think about your facilitation skills – where you are beginning, developing, and modeling – and to uncover what support you may need as a facilitator to help the groups you lead get where they need to go.
Prior to leading or facilitating meetings and groups, it is important to get yourself ready emotionally as well as technically. A well-designed agenda is great, but plans can go awry when difficult issues come up. “Getting ready” means spending time reflecting on your own emotional landscape. Learn to understand the factors that trigger your distress vs. those that open you to connecting, learning, and growing with others. Armed with this self-awareness, you will be ready to show up as a leader for equity.
Constructivist listening is a powerful strategy for engaging in conversations that are both intellectually demanding and emotionally challenging. The purpose of these listening structures is to allow new and clearer ways of thinking and acting to emerge. In constructivist listening processes, we put aside our own needs and “agendas” to offer the gift of deep listening to another human being, and the results can be profound.
Systemic oppression manifests on the individual, the interpersonal, the institutional, and the structural level. Using the Lens of Systemic Oppression can help us to think critically about our decisions and increase the predictability that our actions will lead to more equitable outcomes.