So, we said we want to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion within this organization. We said these things are important to us. We said we need to be more intentional, more proactive, more thoughtful — and to push ourselves beyond our own comfort zone.
Now the question is: Where are we at? What are we doing to make this meaningful and not just a box that gets checked?
I’ve given this a lot of thought over the past several months as I’ve also gotten the question from many members of our community, both via email and social media and as I traveled to conferences in Utah, Arizona, Wisconsin, Missouri and Texas. And in my travels, I had the great opportunity to attend sessions and really listen — to absorb the conversations underway and consider what’s happening (or not happening) at state and local levels and how it relates to what’s happening (or not) at the national level.
The biggest thing I keep coming back to is a quote that our awesome and fearless Southern District Past-President Brian Devore said to me during last year’s national convention in Nashville: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
The work we are doing will take dedicated time and effort and we won’t see the kinds of real, tangible results that we so often crave for many years to come.
That is the reality of changing and evolving our community in the way that we know needs to happen to ensure more diversity, equity and inclusion, to ensure a stronger teacher workforce in the future, and to ensure that workforce better reflects student demographics and the communities in which we live.
But in the meantime, are there at least a few glimmers of progress along these lines? Yes. Yes, there are, and I am happy to share with you where I see them.
SHAPE America Big Feats Virtual Race!
I could not be prouder of the effort that is being so clearly put behind this new program we launched in October. We’re giving 80% of the money raised in this program to 10 Title I schools in desperate need of support for professional development, materials and equipment, safe spaces for play and activity, and more.
States and individual members of our community across the country have signed up and worked hard to raise money for this program, not because the money would impact their own school or district, but because they believe in the power and importance of supporting schools in need — even when those schools are not in their own districts or states.
To me, that is powerful, and I am deeply grateful. This year was just the beginning for this program and we will learn and adjust as we continue it, but we came out strong and are incredibly proud about the impact we, as a community, made.
Health. Moves. Minds.
This is the new school-based signature program that SHAPE America will introduce as a pilot in spring 2019. And yes, this is the program that will replace Jump Rope For Heart — a program we were proud to have created and jointly owned and run for the past 40 years.
One of the most important things we know we can do with Health. Moves. Minds. is to get it right — on all levels, in every way. So, we’re starting by building this program from the ground up, with heavy input and direction from a diverse array of members.
We can’t afford to stay within our own comfort zone where this program is concerned. It needs to be inclusive, multicultural and relevant to teachers in diverse communities, facing diverse challenges, and who are in various situations in terms of equipment available, safe facilities present, and time required. In essence, the program will be built on a strong foundation of equity, diversity and inclusion.
And while the pilot will be limited this spring to just a handful of teachers throughout the country, we will be ready to launch it on a national scale in fall 2019. It will be a program that ensures money goes back to participating schools and local charities identified by those schools, as well as to support critical programmatic and advocacy efforts for health and PE programs at state and national levels.
Looking Ahead to #SHAPETampa …
It probably goes without saying that we are always incredibly proud of the SHAPE America National Convention & Expo. It draws more than 4,000 attendees from across the country for the highest quality professional development and the opportunity to feel rewarded and celebrated as a health and PE teacher.
This year, we are especially proud of our effort to ensure greater diversity and equity on several fronts:
- To start, our keynote is Darryl DMC McDaniels of Run DMC, the hip hop group that broke massive barriers in the music industry in the 1980s. I can’t think of a better opening keynote to inspire all of us to be thinking about how we can do the same within our classrooms, schools and communities.
- Additionally, our closing keynote will be Hillary and Jeff Whittington, creators of a powerful, moving video documenting their five-year-old son Ryland’s transition from girl to boy. Hillary is also the author of Raising Ryland: Our Story of Parenting a Transgender Child With No Strings Attached. I hope you will have the opportunity to hear their story for yourself, to learn about the incredible journey they have been on as the parents of a transgender seven-year-old son and why your role as a health and PE teacher is so important to them and to other parents like them.
- Finally, the Hall of Fame Celebration. Let’s talk about this for a minute — this event has long been considered the true highlight of the national convention. But at $80 a ticket, it’s impossible for so many teachers, and their family members, to attend. That’s the very definition of inequity. So, this year, tickets to the Hall of Fame Celebration & Give Back Event will be $45, which will include a drink ticket and incredible appetizers. And, a portion of the proceeds will go to fund SPEAK Out! Day scholarships. We want these celebrations to be as accessible as possible to every teacher and their family members to attend! (And for the record, I dream of the day when it might be possible to not have to charge for tickets at all…)
So yes — there is much, much more work to be done. I see that so clearly and I know you do, too. But are we making small amounts of real progress? I hope so — I think so.
But tell me what you think — I want to hear from you and welcome any and all ideas you have for us.
Stephanie Morris is a passionate advocate for effective PE and skills-based health programs in schools. She is CEO of SHAPE America and is also a mom to three kids, an enthusiastic runner and weight lifter, and a consummate chef. Her preferred pronouns are she/her/hers. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @SHAPEAmericaCEO or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.