Leadership in the Face of Inequities

When I first became an administrator, I was overrun with new experiences and challenges each day. Everything was new, and I had just not lived through enough past experiences to assist myself with basing future decisions. This was a challenge, but as time went on, and about ten years of administrative experience passed by, I had reached a point of comfort with the various issues that also arise at any other given district. In other words, nothing surprised anymore. I had lived through enough various human resource, financial, and professional development related issues, that although very challenging at times, were aspects of educational leadership that I had come to expect.

Unprecedented. This is a term with a definition that accounts for an extreme assessment of a situation. It has now become a term that has also lost some of its emphasis and impact because it is a term that has been used so much to describe the reality of our world and education system right now. This is a truly unprecedented situation.

The best educational leaders, and the ones I look up to and try to learn from the most, are the ones that take on any situation with confidence and a plan. Confidence and a plan are the most important thing a leader can offer right now. This does not mean you need to predict the future, or hide that you are also scared. Rather, confidence and a plan show that you are willing to lead in a crisis because you understand that you are far from perfect yet know also that you must help others.

In light of our current situation, virtually all school districts in our nation are navigating to online learning for students. While it is inspiring to see educators embrace this, despite their different levels of readiness and varying degrees of preparedness, it has also put a spotlight on an issue that we as a collective educational society need to address. The discrepancy between technology and internet access for students equates to nothing less than unequal access to educational opportunities. In places where school buildings are closed, as in Illinois, there is not a single teacher that does not miss and want to help their students. The difference for so many students on whether learning is occurring, or the quality of engagement and instruction, is not based upon desire, but a lack of access.

Technological resources and internet access needs to be ubiquitous for all, and this need has come to the forefront right now. If all schools are being tasked to prepare students for 21st century skills, then 21st century access for all is a must. I am not going to pretend that I have the universal answer and solution on how to make this happen, but I do know this: the first step to solving any problem is identifying that the problem exists.

I have seen firsthand lately that being a leader has nothing to do with a title. Being a leader has everything to do with action. I am witnessing kitchen workers, bus drivers, and educators working tirelessly to positively impact students in the face of severe challenges. These are the true leaders in a crisis, and they deserve our recognition. Leadership is about actually doing something. Based upon this realization, I would now task our society to lead through action, as well. We need to ensure no student lacks access to learning due to a lack of resources. We need to do better, and the unequal technological state of our education system right now proves it.