Module 5: Trust & Racial Awareness

Module 5 Video

Building a Community of Trust through Racial Awareness Facilitator Preparation

Printable version 

We recognize discussions of race are rare in most preparation experiences for educational leaders and you may not have had many opportunities to engage in this work. As you explore this module, we want to offer some guidance to facilitate the process. Here are some lessons we learned along the way as we led discussions about race with educational leaders. 

  1. Begin with Your Self. If you are serious about doing this – complete your own racial autobiography (PLE 4.1). There are at least 2 reasons to do this:
    1. It is good practice to lead by example, because this is an experience that increases participant vulnerability and your sharing your racial autobiography helps to build trust
    2. You need to understand your own journey before you can begin helping people unpack their journey and experiences with race
  2. Work with a Partner. If possible, co-facilitate this module with another presenter. If that is not possible, locate a critical friend to support your planning and reflection – preferably someone who has a different racial and/or ethnic identity than your own. We found co-teaching to be beneficial for our participants as well as for ourselves. As a black male and white female, we approached this work from different racial and ethnic identities.  We found having discussions with a trusted colleague deepened critical reflection as these conversations pushed our thinking and helped us refine our practice. Other facilitators of this module have brought in colleagues or graduate students to co-lead with them – or have worked with a colleague outside of class to plan the experiences and reflect on outcomes.
  3. Show your Human Side. Discussions on race can be challenging.
    1. Authenticity- it has been important to focus on being authentic
    2. Transparency – admit that this a new experience for you and ask for student feedback along the way
    3. Demonstrate public learning. Be willing to lead by example through public learning. Be less concerned about mistakes and being perfect – focus instead on creating an honest space where mistakes can be discussed openly.
  4. Embrace New Habits of Practice. Creating a more democratic learning environment that engages deeply in student/participant voice may offer a new way of facilitating learning. Inviting critical reflection with colleagues who serve as critical friends – and publicly co-constructing learning with participants is a powerful experience that but one that you might want think through as you prepare to teach this kind of content.
  5. Prepare for the Emotions: Griffin and Ouellett (2007) note that participants in social justice education courses often report the following responses and they manifest these responses in a variety of ways. We believe these responses necessarily incorporate emotions. Please see their chapter for a complete discussion if you are uncomfortable or feel unprepared to respond appropriately to displays of emotions in the classroom. These authors offer suggestions on how to recognize these emotional responses and how to support students in the process and sustain the learning.  Following are some summarized descriptions.
    • Resistance: Dissonance-raising issues around race will surely unsettle unconscious and deeply held beliefs thereby causing disequilibrium and possible initial resistance in participants.  Both advantaged and targeted groups can express this.
    • Anger: advantaged group members sometimes feel angry or deceived that no one has revealed privilege before now, and at how privilege operates or that they have been duped into buying into one reality over another. Targeted groups may feel empowered and then angry that no has one articulated this truth before now.
    • Immobilization: if they agree with the content, individuals from either advantaged or traditionally marginized groups may feel overwhelmed and powerless that privilege and oppression are so prevalent in American society. Participants may have fear of being called a bigot (advantaged) or sellout or afraid of how they will be perceived when speaking their truth about race (targeted).
    • Conversion: may occur when participants passionately embrace content and perspectives and become highly critical of others. For example, they may actually call other advantaged members bigots (advantaged) or sellouts (targeted) if they don’t meet some standard. This zeal is without critical self-examination.

For a deeper exploration of potential reactions of participants and suggested ways to facilitate emotionally charged discussions on race, prejudice and bias, read Clark, P., (2010) I don’t think I am biased. Downloaded from the Teaching Tolerance website, Volume 37, [provided as PDF and linked here]  
We invite you to join us on this journey to Build a Community of Trust through Racial Awareness with the hopes that this experience will lead you and your participants to a greater understanding of race, a deeper need for advocacy, and eventually to a passionate drive to take action to improve school experiences to provide equity and excellence for each and every student.