Opinion
Education Opinion

Equalizing Professional Development: Creating a Community of Leaders of Color

By Contributing Blogger — August 31, 2018 4 min read

This post is by Carlos Moreno, the Co-Executive Director of Big Picture Learning, and Randy Moore, Vice President for Postsecondary Partnerships & Innovation at HERE to HERE.

Leaders of color often devote ourselves to working to dismantle the systems of oppression that block young people who follow in our footsteps from achieving success. Yet though we work in environments that actively challenge the historic and systemic structures that continue to impact society today, we are rarely afforded the space to discuss how these same complex issues affect our lives, our professional development, and our goals. To better serve our colleagues and communities, leaders of color must find opportunities to come together to focus on our own development.

One of the most unique and transformative leadership experiences of our careers was the Executive Men’s Leadership Summit held by New York University Steinhardt in Florence, Italy. The summit brought together an intimate group of 10 senior male leaders of color from philanthropic, non-profit, education, real estate, media, and financial services backgrounds to discuss leadership, management, diversity, and new ways to think about creating opportunities for all individuals to succeed. The retreat was specifically for men of color, but there was a refreshing range of diversity in the group, from professional title and work history to sexual orientation, geographic location, age, religion, and personal backgrounds and experiences.

Each participant shared a strong commitment to service, social justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, which was a common thread uniting the group’s focus on leadership. The summit was an opportunity to escape our normal environment, add context to our perspectives, and reflect deeply on our leadership and service to the community.

During the summit, we engaged in rigorous self-reflection and assessment intended to highlight how we could develop our leadership skills and support the strengths of those around us. We took part in conversations with industry leaders of color about the values and tensions that exist in leadership. In a discussion with Kaya Henderson, the former Chancellor of DC Public Schools, we spoke about the unique challenges and successes men and women of color face as leaders. She emphasized that when we accept the role of representing young people in our work, we must also authentically involve the entire community. This, and all, of the workshops led to the same conclusion: by coming together as a community, we can better address the oppressive conditions and policies that exist in the industries in which we work.

In our own careers working to enhance work-based learning opportunities and career pathways exploration for young people in the Bronx and elsewhere at Big Picture Learning and HERE to HERE, we often speak about the importance of building a professional network that can provide the support needed to succeed in both education and career. We emphasize that mentorship and personal and professional development are crucial to that success. However, as leaders, we are often focused solely on our team members’ success, because we are taught that is what good managers do. Since returning from Florence, we have focused on incorporating self-reflection and the professional development tools we learned during the convening into our work back home. Committing time and effort to our own growth ultimately enhances the way we manage and serve our team members.

The convening also spurred our renewed focus on providing space and time to build community within our own teams, organizations, and initiatives. The convening showed us that, as leaders of color, we have an opportunity to create spaces to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplaces. While we have been conducting programs with this intention, like the Deeper Learning Equity Fellows, the summit provided a focused purpose and toolkit for holding these conversations in our work every day. In doing so, we improve how our teams function and build the trust needed to tackle challenges collaboratively.

What’s more, the summit has given us a model to build upon for our own convenings. At this year’s International Conference on Student-Centered Learning, held annually by Big Picture Learning, we established a track specifically for men of color, allowing them to engage in the work of building their own relationships and networks of support moving forward.

At the culmination of the convening, our group was given the moniker “The Florence 10.” Members took pride in this name, as it resembled other groups in American history uniting to build camaraderie and collaborate to resolve challenges--and it kickstarted a professional network of our own. Setting aside time to come together as leaders provides the opportunity to step back, reflect, explore culture and history in real-world ways and build rich, authentic communities with our peers. These communities are critical to supporting leaders of color and catalyzing the systemic change we pursue in our work. In order to lead effectively, we must seize opportunities to connect with other leaders to learn, grow, and develop a multifaceted network to tackle the challenges we all face.

The opinions expressed in Learning Deeply are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read