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iChange Collaborative - We offer inclusivity consulting and training workshops to businesses, schools, community organizations, and government agencies.

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Latest blog entries/newsletter blasts:

“How should I respond when a student says the n-word?

By: Dr. Danielle Stewart

“As a professional in the field of race equity education, very little surprises me. Teachers frequently describe scenarios in the classroom and on the playground in which students use the n-word. Somehow, during our transition toward a more virtual routine, the word appears more frequently along with an increase of other oppressive and offensive types of behavior. All of us are learning that the virtual world provides an extra set of eyes on incidents we might not normally capture. What surprises me is how unprepared teachers are to intervene.

 It pains me every time I hear about one of these incidents. It takes me back to my childhood experience on a soccer field when a white boy on the opposing team called me that word. I remember the pain, humiliation and guilt I felt, as if I was in some way responsible. I remember my mom immediately approached my white male coach and asked him to intervene. If my mother had not reacted just as quickly as it happened, my coach might not have even responded. As humiliating as this incident was, seeing my coach stop the game and demand a public apology reassured me that I had done nothing wrong and let me know that I was not alone. In that moment, the adults surrounding me were accountable. While the pain I felt that day is still present, it has resulted in my commitment to helping educators understand that we cannot afford to take these incidents lightly. For those who candidly seek how to deal with these situations and want gain greater understanding, I represent not only a professional race educator, but a child who was harmed and yet overcome the harm by having the right kind of support.”

READ MORE…..

Check out my interview with a new voter!

by Sadiyyah Muhammad

2020 marks the year my sister turned 18, and she was eager to register to vote EARLY! She ordered her state ID card in advance, got registered, and researched the candidates. She cast her first ballot on October 22nd, 2020! To make this moment special, we decided to document the process. You can watch our video at this link.

On the way to the polls, my sister was feeling nervous, excited, and a little hesitant. She was eager to cast her first ballot, but like a lot of people, she was wondering if her vote will actually count. “I’m voting early in hopes that my vote will be counted. I want to make a difference in my community, taking one more step in changing the U.S. and correcting the injustices we see. That’s why I’m voting and voting early! It could change the course of the election if more people voted early.”

We arrived at the polling location, and to our surprise, the lines were short! After a page of paperwork, ID verification, a small green card, some extremely important taps on the large voting screen, and a page in a numbered printer later, our votes were cast! Of course, it had to be officialized by the notorious “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker. It was easy, efficient, clear!

After we voted, I asked my sister what changes she’d like to see in our political system. “More ethical considerations for prisoners, homeless individuals, people of the Black community, and minorities in general,” she answered. “I hope my vote sends a message to politicians to not discriminate against minorities. I’d like to see more state officials fund and support organizations that are leading in our community and to help those in need.”

My sister’s message to everyone is “VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!”

Sadiyyah Muhammad, a master’s student in social work at Georgia State University, is interning with iChange Collaborative this year.

 

Spotlight Interview with Treava Milton!

Treava Milton attended the iChange Summer Diversity Institute in six years ago and has stayed in touch ever since. In this interview, she talks about her experience at the Institute, her commitment to DEI education, and her new
role on the iChange Team.

Welcome, Treava!

How did the Institute impact you professionally? After that summer, I spent several years implementing what I learned in that week: I made a much stronger contribution to my school’s faculty onboarding process and was able to collaborate on some really cool and creative student-led workshops.

Tell us about your experience with iChange work. I vividly remember a moment during an exercise when things got real! What was wonderful was that the iChange team was courageous enough to walk the talk with that group – to create the space that we needed to move through that conversation. That moment shifted the tone of the room and the trajectory of the discussion. We got messy, but we made deeper connections, and I made some new friends!  Then I accepted Dr. Danny’s invitation to her Educator of Color Resource/Affinity Group, and I’ve continued to engage with the heartbeat of DEI along with the folks in our group. I don’t know about you, but for me there is something that feels different in the air when I’m with DEI folks. iChange has brought me mentors and sponsors as well as a few friends that I’m still connected with, and for me, that’s the signature of authenticity. I even have plans to visit some friends I made through iChange once COVID gets out of the way! Also, I’ve found people I can reach out to, get counsel from, and lean on for sustenance through some tough times!

Read more of the interview (Here)

The “Coleman” Connection

By Danielle Stewart

When iChange started creating spaces for educators to connect beyond their classrooms, one of our first initiatives was the Summer Diversity Institute. By the end of the first four-day intensive, strangers would be connected to each other by their stories, their challenges, and their willingness to explore new possibilities and approaches to this work. At the time, we didn’t realize how enduring some of these connections would be.

Since then, we’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of educators, and the bonus for us is that years later, these relationships are continuing to flourish.  We sometimes hear from educators that our work has changed their lives. As facilitators, we do not always have a chance to tell them how their work has changed ours too.

(Read the rest of the article)

Refueling for Educators of Color

 Dr. Danielle Stewart

Let’s face it. Confronting the pain of racism and coming to terms with its brutality always takes a toll. This work is not for the faint of heart, and the global pandemic and continuing police murders of unarmed Black people have intensified the pain.

For educators of color, the feeling of exhaustion has never been deeper. Yet here we are, standing strong, still fighting the good fight against a system of racism. We do it on behalf of our students (and future generations), and not infrequently, we do it while encountering racism ourselves. Most of us can’t be just educators. We’re called upon to do the extra work of supporting students of color who come to us when they hear racial slurs, experience microagressions, or feel stereotyped by a white teacher. We listen to their stories, validate their feelings, and help them figure out how to best respond.

We’re also the ones putting ourselves out there to share our testimonies, our challenges, our pain, and our journeys to educate our white students and colleagues, some of whom have a strong desire to grow in this work. (Read the rest of article)

7 Ways Educators Can Support the Identities of Students of Color

Martha Caldwell

Identity and learning are intricately related. Fifty years of research shows that a racial identity solidly grounded in a sense of one’s own intelligence and integrity results in greater engagement in school, better academic performance, and ethical leadership.

Yet all too often Black and Brown students face racist stereotypes from other students and teachers. Racial Stereotype threat occurs when students feel at risk of confirming a negative racial stereotype about their race.  The fear of fulfilling the stereotype interferes with cognitive function and lowers their performance. Stereotype threat has profound effects on learning and achievement, especially when the negative stereotype relates to intellectual competence. This can cause students to spend less time preparing for a task or deny the task’s importance to avoid a sense of failure. Stereotype threat results in altered identities and inhibited aspirations.

The good news is that, as educators, we have the power to consciously and intentionally strengthen our students’ identities. (Read the rest of the article.)

How to Listen with Compassion in the Classroom

by Martha Caldwell

Our students are driven by a need to belong.

In classroom environments where the need to belong is thwarted, however, young people may grasp for power and prestige rather than learn how to form authentic connections. We all know students who try to fit in in negative ways: bullying, striving to be “cool,” buying in to peer pressure, or conforming to negative stereotypes. They typically lack the necessary social-emotional skills to form healthy, supportive relationships and do not understand that these behaviors obstruct rather than satisfy the need to belong. This can produce a fear-based classroom atmosphere that impedes learning.

We can intentionally design classroom communities that challenge this dynamic by teaching and modeling compassionate listening. When clear ground rules for respectful communication are established from the outset, classrooms become safe places for students to share their lives with each other and find support for their growth and development. When students’ need to belong is met in the context of a healthy learning environment, authentic inquiry and higher-order thinking naturally emerge.

Read more HERE

 

Stepping into the Facilitator Role

Dr. Danielle Stewart

When you step into the role of facilitator, you step into the center of this beautiful, transformative change work. The work of cultivating empathy, building and sustaining connections, and creating communities of love and support is the heart of diversity, equity and inclusion leadership. Some of us resist stepping into the facilitator role due to feelings of inadequacies. Despite how we feel, however, we reluctantly find our way into facilitation because these conversations are essential to moving us closer the changes we are collectively working towards. (Read the rest of the article.)

What Should Teachers Learn from the Murder of George Floyd?

Six Recommendations for Educators

Oman Frame and Martha Caldwell

This article was a submission we were invited to make to Larry Ferlazzo’s Classroom Q&A column in Edweek. It was published as part of a series on how educators can respond to George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing social response. The article was published on June 6, 2020. The full series can be found here.

We begin by acknowledging that our Black friends, colleagues, and students are hurting. In the midst of a global pandemic that disproportionately impacts their families and communities, they are again forced to bear witness to cruel and senseless acts of violence against Black bodies. As we mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, we remember Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many others. Our collective grief calls us to face 400 years of state violence that still visits inequity, fear, and intergenerational trauma on Black communities.

No more sitting on the sidelines watching someone else do the work. No neutral place of refuge in the comfort of color blindness. Now is the time for everyone to take a stand. We have serious work ahead, and it’s not going to be easy. Racism is an open wound, and no band aid fix will help it. Healing will take strong medicine and time. (Read the rest of the article.)

Talking about Race in Schools

Oman and I contributed a guest article entitled We talk about race everywhere but in the classroom. Why? to Maureen Downey’s column, Get Schooled, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We know from experience that talking to students about race not only increases cultural competency, but also teaches important relationship skills that result in stronger relationships and greater engagement in school. (Read the rest of the article.)

White Educators: Come Together to End Racism

One morning, I got a text from my friend and iChange co-founder, Oman Frame. The text said, “Martha, go get your people!” Oman was working in a local school that day, and, like many educators of color, he frequently feels exhausted by the demands of race education work. In terms moving our schools in the direction of racial justice, educators of color bear a “disproportionate burden.” They’re tasked not only with supporting students of color in a system that disadvantages them, but also supporting other educators of color in a system in which they’re drastically underrepresented. Add to that the demands of white educators who call on them for academic resources, moral support, and career guidance and you have a recipe for overwhelm. These white teachers love their students and want to do what’s best for them. They understand the need for race education. Yet they feel woefully underprepared to manage these tender conversations. (Read the rest of the article.)

 
 

Beyond “Mean Girl” Typecasting: Power, Popularity and Potential!

Martha Caldwell and Jennifer Swift

Gossip, back stabbing, ditching friends, madly grasping for popularity…as middle school teachers, we see these things every year. We spend countless hours wiping tears, rehashing incidents where girls have mistreated each other, untangling endless webs of gossip. It comes as no surprise to us that some girls can be mean. For over ten years, literature in education and psychology has addressed

the so-called “mean girl” phenomenon. Articles, books, videos, and websites show the devastating effects of “relational aggression” on the tender psyches of young girls coming of age. !

Yet the most of what we see in the media and in the literature seems somehow too simplistic. Most materials we’ve seen leave out important factors in the world of middle school girls, to ignore what we see as the basic problem.

Read more HERE

 
 

Response: ‘Fear’ Should Not Stop Us From Exploring ‘Controversial’ Topics in School

 

Martha Caldwell and Oman Frame, authors of Let’s Get Real: Exploring Race, Class, and Gender Identities in the Classroom, teach a class their students call “Race, Class and Gender.” They conduct educational programs for teachers and students through iChange Collaborative:

Too often, as teachers, we feel we have to know the answers, but really, it’s about asking the right questions. In our class, we encourage students to share their encounters with racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and religious discrimination, so the classroom has to be safe. We’ve learned how to elicit their stories, protect those who share them, and teach the social skills they need to navigate these conversations. Identifying patterns in their personal stories and immediate social groups, students learn to extrapolate these to broader phenomena of oppression and resistance through history, social science, and literature.

We open each year by talking about how to create a safe learning community. We ask the class, “What would it be like to say what you honestly think and feel without fear of judgment?” After hearing them out, we ask, “What do you need from the people in this room to feel safe?” We give them time to think, allowing for long pauses. Every year, groups of students generate similar lists: acceptance, respect, honesty, courage, confidentiality, and trust. We ask if they can commit to upholding these qualities for each other, and they always say yes. This activity sets the tone for the rest of the year, fostering a community where empathy is more powerful than rules, and commitment trumps compliance.

Read more of the article HERE

 
 

If only the E in STEM stood for empathy

There’s no denying that STEM education advances opportunities for students of color and young women, but without a corresponding movement to cultivate empathy for diverse identity experience, we risk reproducing the very inequities we’re trying to correct. STEM subjects foster analytical thinking skills, and empathy fosters social emotional skills. Students need both to negotiate terrain of 21st century learning. (Read the rest of the article.)

Are you color blind or race conscious?

  Race is a social construct, an illusion, albeit a persistent one, and one that has profound psychological and material effects on people of color. False notions of white supremacy were institutionalized through Jim Crow laws, unfair housing practices, inequities in the justice system, lack of access to healthcare, voting rights, education and citizenship. These policies resulted in the wealth gap, a persistent reality that continues to plague our society. The consequences of race are as real as gravity. (Read the rest of the article.)

 
 
 

Dynamic Dialogues: Real Conversations About Identity

Oman Frame and Martha Caldwell

… In our “Inquiry into Identity” class, students explore personal experiences with race, class, gender and other socially constructed identities. They learn about themselves, and in the process, learn about each other. They begin to see the bigger picture of how social oppression operates in institutions like government, economics, politics, religion and schooling. Along the way, many of them commit to each other as advocates, allies and activists.

In a nation divided by demographics, conversations about race, class and gender are almost always emotionally charged. Yet, understanding powerful feelings can mean the beginning of insight. We ask our students to delve into their personal identities and invite their emotional lives to the forefront. Before they can understand social theory, histories, politics and current events, they must first learn to honor, accept and support their own and each other’s feelings. They tell us year after year that the connections they make with each other are the most meaningful work they do in school. As teachers, we certainly see that learning about each other produces their most profound insights…

Read the rest of the article!

 
 

Transforming Self, Transforming Learning Martha Caldwell

On Racial, Class and Identity Development in School

Martha Caldwell

The girls in our eighth grade “Inquiry to Identity” course sit in a circle in the middle of the classroom. Each girl takes a turn reading aloud from the open letter they have written to the boys. The boys, sitting around the outside of the circle, listen quietly as the girls list their grievances…

Read More HERE

 
 
 
 

 

This has been a wonderful experience for me-positive, well facilitated-a huge learning curve for me and for what I can bring back to my school and share.

 
iChange Institute attendee
 
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