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  • Jillian Lenae

Reform?! Nah. Dismantle and Reconstruct!

Let me tell you something. I’m special. I’m not being cocky or boastful, but I know what I know. I also know what I don’t know and realize there’s way more stuff that I don’t even know that I don’t know. I’m something special. This, I know!

I walked into the school, passed a classroom, and into the staff lounge. The teacher saw me and followed me here. The moment she crossed the threshold, she began to weep. She shared some of the internal battles she's fighting. And in the midst, she said “I can’t be like this...our kids need our strength.”

My reply was simple: “Says who?” Here’s the thing(s)... we allow society to dictate how we should show up in spaces, so we don’t give ourselves the space to be human. Who does that serve? How can we teach our students how to deal with life if we, ourselves, are pretending like it’s not happening?

Side note: if your mind keeps telling you to focus on whether or not the kids were left unattended, you might consider exploring the ideals of conventional leadership and where you stand.

We talked for about 3 minutes before she peeped her head out of the door. In her moment of crisis, she never took her mind off those babies. Yes, they were left unattended since you’re likely dying to know. And so was she. Her emotions were unattended. She needed some TLC.

A young man peeped outside of the classroom (I’m sure wanting to make sure his teacher was okay). He cracked a smile and so did the two of us. She concluded by saying “These babies give me hope. In spite of everything going on, when I show up here, I get to escape life for a moment.”

My reply: “Do they know that? Imagine how powerful it would be for you to go in there and tell them that. Just like that!” She smiled, told me she loved me, and returned to class. No one got hurt and one got some space to heal.

Conventional Leadership says, “You better suck it up and check your problems at the door; how dare you leave those kids unattended?”

Culturally Responsive Leadership says, “Trust God even when you can’t trace Him. He hears you. It’s totally okay to not be okay. AND for your kids to know that.”

The system, as is, is not working. It's not working for (at least some of) the students and families it's seeking to serve, teachers doing the work, or the leaders leading the work. It's not something that any type of "reform" can fix. We must dismantle it completely and reconstruct - FOR US BY US!

In recognizing this can't happen overnight, my brain is working overtime on how we can nurture and support the humanity of not only the students we serve, but that of the adults on the ground doing the work in the current system that exists. It’s time to innovate not around instructional programming, but the programming of the human beings we claim to serve.

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