I’m looking to start a new conversation at SHAPE America.
We’ve started and had different versions of this conversation over the years, but as a community, I think we’re ready for a new version of it. One that may make some of us uncomfortable. One that is going to push all of us to think differently. One that will actively move each of us toward taking different actions and breaking away from many traditions. One that is going to push us to be stronger as an educator community, and one that will allow us to serve our student community more effectively.
And no…it’s not about dodgeball…
The conversation I want to start in a more intentional, focused manner is about equity, diversity and inclusion.
Helping All Students
This topic is incredibly important to me as the leader of this national education organization, and to our community of health and physical educators. Based on my experience in having connected with so many amazing health and physical education teachers across the country this past year, I honestly believe that no other particular group of educators feels more strongly about the importance of meeting the unique needs of every one of their students.
The SHAPE America community is very focused on ensuring our students feel heard and respected, and that they are encouraged as individuals to find their own path to a lifetime of health and fitness. Many health and physical education teachers are also highly aware of the dangers of implicit bias, the need to educate their students about these issues, and the overall need for more conversation and action.
That said – there is more we can and need to do to educate and activate our community if we are to achieve greater equity within our schools and the profession.
Meeting Members’ Needs
Our renewed focus on this area as an organization involves taking a hard look internally at several key areas across SHAPE America. We are currently working on the following:
- Reviewing and evolving our process for electing members to our national Board of Directors;
- Having critical conversations as a board to ensure we are using common language — and that we have mutual goals;
- Reflecting upon when and how we honor community members with awards.
- Assessing the paths to leadership that many teachers take as they seek to advance their career, seeking to better understand the barriers involved for some, and considering how we can provide tools and resources to overcome those barriers;
- Looking at our content pipeline and considering how it can be improved or changed to ensure written content, presentations, trainings, social media and more can better incorporate and reflect a diverse range of views and perspectives.
Finally, we are taking time now to ask ourselves, what are the steps that need to be taken to be a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization?
What are the “low-hanging fruit” or strategies easiest to implement and what are the “stretch” strategies that will be more challenging to implement but which need to happen? And most importantly, what is the ultimate impact we are trying to achieve?
Strengthening Our Community
There is a lot of work to be done and we are the first to admit that we are overdue to take on this work, but it’s where we need to go and we’re here now. From a management perspective, there are so many benefits to ensuring SHAPE America as an organization is equitable, diverse and inclusive. Gender-diverse organizations are 15% more likely to outperform competitors. Ethnically -diverse organizations are 35% more likely to outperform.
But it goes way beyond statistics focused on organizational performance. It’s also about strengthening our community.
In the words of one of our leaders member-advocates, Mike Doyle (@mikedoylempls), this is about *us.* We should not be having these conversations and focusing on intentional change *because* we’re teachers, because we have responsibilities, because we’re administrators. There is no “justification beyond ‘because’ because no ‘because’ is needed. It’s simply what we need to do to be a stronger community, to advance our shared mission, and because it’s the right thing to do.”
Join the Conversation
So, what do you have to contribute to this conversation? How do you think SHAPE America leadership (including me) can make progress towards these goals? And most importantly, what are you willing to bring to this effort to help us get there?
I am certain this will be an ongoing conversation and I look forward to working with many of you on making real progress toward achieving these goals. It will be an evolving process and we’ll stay open to feedback along the way. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.