PLEASE take the time to
learn how you can help and follow the guidelines under the
COVID-19 blasted a spotlight on the inequities that exist
within our education system.
School administrators and educators have been working
tirelessly to figure out how to provide online curriculums
to help students complete the year, while, at the same time,
they are also trying to find a way to provide breakfast and
lunch to students who would otherwise go hungry if it were
not for free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school.
Hourly-wage working parents are devastated, trying to figure
out how to take time off of work to provide care for their
kids, while also trying to figure out the right
environmental balance for their kids to take advantage of
the online learning that the schools offer. In many cases,
these parents do not even have WIFI and often rely upon the
libraries that are now, sadly, closed.
These inequities existed way before COVID-19, as evidenced
by the Ohio Department of Education’s discovery of a 15-year
achievement gap that states that “Ohio’s education system is
not effectively meeting the needs of students, such as
African-American, Hispanic, English learners (EL),
economically disadvantaged students, and students with
To solve this issue, the ODE states that the “path to equity
begins with a deep understanding of the history of
discrimination and bias and how it has come to impact
current society.” The ODE is asking schools to look at the
whole child and seek to understand their specific needs.
The only way to clearly understand where these needs exists
for each child is for each school, each educator, each
person to take time for a bit of introspection to understand
the rights or benefits that they have been given either at
birth or from someone, or that were earned over time, due to
ACCESS to various opportunities.
Not everyone has been born into or given the same rights or
benefits, nor have they been able to earn these benefits, in
most cases, due to the lack of
ACCESS to the same opportunities.
These rights or benefits are called privilege, and they
afford us a certain amount of status and power. Some of us
aren’t aware of the privileges we hold and the positive
opportunities they have the potential to bring to us and to
others. Sadly, in some cases, folks have felt alienation,
separation, offense, and resentment when the word
“privilege” is brought up.
Let’s localize this a bit:
Why do certain
public schools get more money to educate a child than others?
doesn’t everyone have FREE WIFI to take advantage
of online learning?
Why isn’t every classroom equipped with the right amount of
resources to assist children who have special learning
Why aren’t ALL educators required to undergo intensive
social and emotional learning,
unconscious bias, and
learning, that have been proven to equip educators with the
tools to effectively meet the needs of the whole child?
Why do we continuously administer
standardized tests that are inherently known to be biased
against certain groups of people?
African-American students nearly four times as likely to be
suspended from school as Caucasians,
oftentimes for the same offense?
certain communities afforded clean drinking water and others
The list goes on.
With the onset of COVID-19, let’s all do our best to
recognize and embrace the privileges that we hold, seek to
understand others who do not have the same privileges, and
become what I call “empathy archeologists,” and find ways to
gift our privilege forward in a respectable,
kind, dignified, and compassionate manner.
Here are steps for you to consider:
Recognize your privilege.
Take this quick
if you are unclear as to the privileges that you hold.
Check your sphere of influence.
This does not need to be a detailed assessment. This is just
a high-level review, especially in light of COVID-19. The
point of this exercise is to see others and recognize that
some of us may have different starting points and privileges
that we hold. Start by checking your colleagues, those you
lead, your students, their parents, your neighbors, your
immediate and extended family, especially the elderly, your
interest or service groups, your church, synagogue, or
spiritual place of worship, and other areas of your life.
Learn of their needs.
Call, text, or video chat those in your sphere of influence
and discover ways that you can learn and meet people, right
where they are. Ask what they need. This will take intention
and effort - to learn and meet people where they are, who
may not be the same as you.
Gift your privilege forward - with respect, dignity, and
Now that you’ve learned from someone, do you see ways that
you can gift your privilege forward? No? Not to worry. This
takes time. Don’t rush this. The only way you know what type
of gift to give to someone is to learn and empathize with
their pain points.
Being an empathy archeologist is essential if a person or
family is quarantined or in social isolation due to
COVID-19. We can all consider offering to drop food/drinks
at the door of those who are quarantined, offer to help with
yard work, run errands, or send books and games.
The bottom line is that when we ALL RISE and learn about our
own privilege and what it affords us, when we seek to
understand and become empathy archaeologists, we are able to
see when a person is underprivileged - we can see the
seemingly insurmountable number of closed doors and limited
opportunities that they have to endure. And to someone who
is underprivileged, it can feel exceedingly difficult to
I pray that we all do our very best to shift our privilege
to become empathy archeologists and be the change that we
all should be.
Are you a middle school or high school woman educator
interested in creating community and learning how to be the
difference for the whole child? Sign up
to be notified of the SOON to be announced workshops/courses
and masterminds that will help you have unstoppable
confidence, energy, and passion.
Diana Patton’s organization, RISE, is an
advocacy program that
implements social-emotional learning and inclusive
and caring practices in
school systems. With the recent upheaval of our
school programs, RISE is on
the front lines, doing everything we can to
provide support and tangible
tools to our educators.