Coaching for Equity – with family

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I believe that:

~To be a successful leader & educator, every choice you make needs to be aligned with your values

~To be a successful coach, you need to listen with your full heart.

~Love & Grace sometimes require hard, honest conversations.

My father in law recently posted an article about the ban on suspensions for Willful Defiance. Now, information about that bill and all the research around discriminatory school practices, trauma-informed response to students exhibiting these behaviors, and healing-centered instruction, not to mention adequate staffing of school psychologists and social workers could easily occupy a lengthy blog post. But today, I want to talk about something much more important.

Why is Coaching for Equity so much harder with family than it is at work?

Disclaimer: I love, deeply respect, and care for my family whom are referenced. I can’t say that enough. And simultaneously, I feel inauthentic to work towards racial, gender, and economic, etc. equity during the work day and then just let that go over dinner. My place of privilege allows me to let go. Which makes it more important to keep it at the center at all times.
I hope this post does not hurt anyone but rather opens communication.

This article from ASCD popped up in my feed today. They delieate 5 steps towards Leading for Equity. Having participated in National Equity Project’s Leading for Equity Institute 3 times (including serving as faculty once, which I’m quite proud of), I was very curious about their 5 steps. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with them. But this caught my interest:

Leading for equity requires us to focus on daily impact and long-term outcomes. As leaders, we have to examine our setting, whether it’s our classrooms, office environments, community events, or other location, and create an environment where we are not simply “accommodating” (for example, hiring a woman of color, but expecting her to maintain the status quo); rather, we are transforming how we operate and acknowledging everyone’s voices. We call this being an “equicentric” leader—a leader with equity at the core of their work. Equicentric leaders continually cultivate a deep understanding of their own biases and construct counternarratives so that they can create sustainable, equity-based practices that measurably and culturally transform their communities.

Being an equicentric leader is to be what UCLA professor of education Pedro Noguera calls a “guardian of equity“: asking tough questions, challenging models that aren’t working, and calling out inequities, even when it’s uncomfortable. If we can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, even when that discomfort is the awareness of our own biases, we can begin to challenge and change long-standing systemic inequities.

My work days are filled with coaching moves: active listening, relationship building, goal setting, knowing when to lean in and when it’s not the right time. 5 years in, I feel pretty competent at coaching. When to ask just the right question. How to push a teacher’s thinking. All of this is made exponentially harder when the client is not a teacher but a loved one.


In this moment, I believe this is truly the key distinction between coaching at work versus talking with a family member. At work, we have a goal, and we’re all in agreement that we are working towards that goal. But when you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table talking about “that new math,” or an article gets shared on Facebook, these are emotion-laden experiences which have formed opinions. We do not have a shared goal. No one is seeking a discussion on how to support students. Ego gets involved. Their ego over their schema, their experience, and my ego about being a professional in this field and not feeling respected. This is no one’s fault. It just, IS.

There is much more nuance.

I have failed more times than I have succeeded in coaching for equity with my family. But I WILL NOT STOP. Because to be in this work, to believe in ALL children, to work in service of those who have been systemically oppressed for DECADES… I must use my place of privilege and maintain that equicentric stance in all of my worlds. My students don’t just disappear over family dinner. My work is who I am. That’s not true for everyone, but to be a courageous leader it must be true.

Some things I am trying on to increase my success:

  • Being brave enough to share my successes and failures. This journey is scary, people will judge, people will get annoyed. But my heart is in the right place. So I will share.
  • Gaining Enrollment. I don’t know what this will look like, yet. Perhaps it starts with this post. Perhaps it means a disclaimer when “that new math” is brought up. “I hear your frustration. I have some expertise. Are you interested in hearing?” Offering a conversation, rather than possibly being seen as trying to “impart some wisdom.”
  • Shared Goals: Perhaps when I see that Facebook article, I begin by posing the question, “What do we want our school system to produce? Compliance? Or education?”
  • Removing my Ego. My family may never truly understand what I do. And that’s totally ok! I don’t really understand what they do, although I’m trying to learn. Why am I desperate for acceptance, approval, and respect? I need to let that go. This is not about me. True confidence is born of knowing that they will hear when they’re ready. I just need to keep the messages coming.

Let’s call this, Part 1. Today, this was my #BoldBraveMathMove.

Multiplying Decimals with Area Model Lesson

I recently participated in a 5th grade lesson on multiplying decimals. The team had wanted to inquire about dividing fractions and decided this was the prior learning students were lacking to build a solid foundation. So a team of 6 of us spent a day researching standards, discussing the learning sequence, then collaboratively planning the lesson. With an expectation that we would all team teach, one brave teacher offered to lead the lesson in her classroom. She did the bulk of the hard work and we jumped in when we saw an opportunity for the perfect question. I was lucky that our support provider – a woman with wisdom and experience beyond my comprehension – was with us for this lesson since I’m still developing my proficiency in intermediate content. She pushed my thinking and what resulted from this 6 hour planning session was a lesson that blew all of our minds. Continue reading

What’s In a Name

Who can ever remember which is the minuend and which is the subtrahend? Why couldn’t they be called something easy, like “addends,” where both have the same name!? So simple. It makes sense that they have different names since commutative property doesn’t apply to subtraction. The two numbers at play have different roles. Sure. I can be convinced of this. But still, why couldn’t we have agreed upon slightly less foreign terms? Terms that fit within my vernacular. I was curious about the etymology of these words, hoping upon hopes that knowing the background might help me remember which one is which. Here’s what I’ve found, hopefully it will help you, too… Continue reading

“Well, when I wrote it myself I thought about it more.”


The most recent blog by Exit 10A references Dan Meyers’ suggestion that we all “be less helpful.” Tracy Zager talks about her frustration with homework in a way that struck a chord with me. This is all related, I swear…

So often I meet with teachers. We cover topics such as formative assessment, standards-based lessons, academic discourse, high quality tasks. We read Hess’ Matrix, Dylan Wiliam, Jeff Zwiers, Smith & Stein, and so much more. We watch TED Talks and YouTube videos. Teachers get excited as we talk about inquiry lessons, incorporating engineering and science. We plan gorgeous lessons that are matched to students’ ZPD and challenge them in new ways finding inspiration from Marilyn Burns, Kathy Richardson, Van de Walle and so many like them. And then the ball drops… Continue reading

It’s not about Common Core…

After yet another Common Core diatribe on Facebook yesterday, I invited a friend to a conversation to discuss the new curriculum. I offered to send articles, if that would be helpful. The response I got back was, “Sure! I am not well read in that area so any articles that have been peer reviewed would be appreciated.” My first response was to be offended. Was he assuming I’d send him a blog full of propaganda? Am I viewed as yet another bandwagoner, here to spread the gospel of Common Core as if the debate were about Planned Parenthood and abortion or gay marriage? I came to the conclusion that he clearly doesn’t understand what I do for a living (to be honest, we’re not close enough friends that I couldn’t tell you what he does on a daily basis either, so… touche). And that his only experience with Common Core is in the world of propaganda. In other words, maybe it’s not all about me.

But then I reflected: Am I a Common Core bandwagoner? Well, some background information first… Continue reading