Teaching and Learning Spotlight Blog

FSSD Hosts Ongoing Professional Learning Series on Equity

As part of ongoing efforts to maximize the crucial and compelling message brought by our 2022 opening day keynote speaker, Ken Williams, several members of the Teaching and Learning (T&L) team developed and co-facilitate an after-school professional learning series consisting of three one-hour sessions open to teachers and administrators. Inspired in part by the content in Williams’ recently-published book as well as his presentation and collectively titled “Ruthless Equity: A District’s Pursuit,” these opportunities offer the chance to delve more deeply into the discussion around, and continue to make progress in, ensuring that all students and employees in the FSSD feel a sense of belonging and have become a key piece of our dedicated work around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

For the first conversation that took place in late October, Mr. Williams joined the group via Zoom and emphasized as well as answered questions about the imperative for all students to receive high-quality, on-grade-level instruction.  When it comes to ensuring equity, it would be difficult to find a more effective strategy. “Life does not level down.”  This quote from Williams illustrates the rationale at the heart of providing instruction at grade level or better for every pupil in the district. 

The ultimate goal for our students is that they leave the FSSD ready and able to take on the challenges of high school and then whichever path they choose, be it the workforce, postsecondary education, technical certification, military service, etc.  As educators and supporters, we want them to be productive and contributory citizens who are adaptable, collaborative, and self-sufficient; the world will demand nothing less.  If we adjust our instruction to a lower level out of concern, compassion, worry, or doubt (with caring and the best of intentions), their preparedness for a competitive and ever-changing local/global landscape will be less than they need – and deserve.  After this autumn session, several attendees took what they gleaned back to their schools, and the hope is that this will happen continuously.

In the second meeting of the series at the end of January, five T&L members presented a closer look at an excerpt from Williams’ book; it focused on the importance of overcoming roadblock, to include complacency, in the ruthless pursuit of equity for every student.  Educators are of course not immune to obstacles, concerns, and distractions, both professional and personal, as they strive for what is best for their pupils.  Furthermore, even with excellent, research-based instructional strategies and materials in place, it can take time for measurable results to be evident.  Stay the course, Williams suggests – it is worthwhile. He states, “You have to stay outcome-focused.  While you cannot always control circumstances around you, ruthlessness is understanding that you are always in control of your response, behavior, and choices.  When you’re ruthless about creating an environment that makes students feel welcomed, valued, and seen…you must ascend to a higher plateau, driven by purpose.” Through the reading of a portion of the text, the use of a protocol to structure meaningful discussion around it, and the viewing of a brief yet impactful video created by Williams, the group of educators in attendance had a very dynamic collaboration. 

The final installment of “Ruthless Equity, A District’s Pursuit” for the 2022-23 school year is on the calendar for April 10.  Planning is underway, and T&L has invited Ken Williams to join us virtually once again. Though the agenda is under development, one thing is certain: the dialogue will be targeted to applying knowledge and professional practice in the FSSD to optimal learning for every one of our students.