As the Director of the Equity Alliance at ASU, JoEtta designs and delivers individualized, comprehensive, and systemic support for school districts in the form of leadership training, collaboration, coaching and capacity building. With a blend of humor, sensitivity, and professional insight, she uses her passion and first-hand experience to help individuals develop and use an equity lens for decision-making related to student achievement. A talented speaker and workshop leader, she has worked with school systems across the United States in addressing issues of equity.
Dear School District,
Sending my daughter off to school for the first time will be a bittersweet experience. I should be good at this by now, right? I’ve seen her off to kindergarten, middle school, high school – heck, I’ve even had the opportunity to walk her to her first class when she started her studies at the university. Each time she started school she came home more intelligent, spirited, and slightly saucier.
And yet, sending her off to work in your district as a teacher leaves me compelled to share a few things with you. I want you to know who she is and understand the kind of teacher she wants to be.
That intensity she has? You know, the desire to do the right things for people whether or not others know about it? She gets that from her Dad. She comes by her love of helping others in an honest way. From him she has learned to approach her work with energy and focus. He has also taught her the importance of truly knowing the cultural backgrounds of each of her students, and consistently beginning her lessons with what students already know from their home, community and school. Living vicariously through her Dad’s experiences with formal education, she has also learned to set high expectations for all of her students in order to ensure they each get a first class education full of rigor and opportunity.
As for her tendency to be dramatic, creative and somewhat goofy? Those traits are from me. By spending time with me she has learned to ‘facilitate’ learning rather than become a dispenser of information; she has also learned to use culturally connected instructional approaches such as storytelling, song, rhythm, imagery, and movement to reach her students. Her ability to cultivate a sense of community within the classroom comes from me as well. As the oldest of our daughters, she has learned to foster a sense of belonging and elicit the opinions of others in decision-making. In her future classroom, which will represent a new type of family unit, she will no doubt be successful in building connectedness and understanding among her students.
My daughter is deeply compassionate and wears her emotions on her sleeve. That’s all her. Her heart, her kindness, her love for children (especially those that others find tough to teach), and her wonderful exuberance have all developed over time. These qualities will serve her students and your school district well as she strives to engage all students in meaningful learning opportunities throughout each lesson she teaches. She will work to create a warm, inviting, and inclusive classroom climate that supports the development of every child she teaches because that represents exactly who she is.
I want you to know, in sending my daughter off to work in your district; I am both excited and apprehensive. I am delighted she has found her calling, and can now call your district home. But I am nervous about her getting the support she needs as a first year teacher. I believe she has the capacity to be a leader, but I know she will need consistent mentoring and coaching in order to reach her potential. I see her desire to help you embed the principles of equity – access, participation and outcomes – into your policies and practices, but recognize she will need strong leadership to set the tone for establishing a vision of collaboration and inquiry. I see her limitless potential, but want you to make smart choices about the ongoing, job-embedded professional learning opportunities you offer her.
I know you have good intentions, and on the surface, the choice to support my daughter is an easy one. After all, who would not prefer to embolden a first year teacher rather than allow her to flounder? But at the end of the day, your actions will provide the truest answers. I believe my daughter has a gift for working with and teaching young children that will one day represent a greatness that is worthy of attention and praise. My greatest hope is that you will expect her to dream big and to dust herself off when she falls – just like she will do for her students.
My trust is in you to inspire, empower, and support her. For this I will be eternally grateful.
Editor’s Note: Emilia is graduating from ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in May of 2012.