Weaving ECLC Days 1 & 2
by John Sarrouf
These are the weavings of two incredible days listening to presenters and educators in
conversation about the important work of dialogue, equity, and educating the whole
We were welcomed so wonderfully by our hosts at ECLC and again by our hosts at Endicott
with the kind of care that allows us to lean into the day together.
From the very beginning we were attended to - our need for Status, Certainty, Autonomy,
Relatedness, and Fairness - even our nametags gave us a sense of autonomy and self
expression, breaking down the status that might divide us - no hierarchies - no titles telling us who is a superintendent and who the para?
We talked about moving from transactional to encountering
From “I - It” to “I - Thou”.
We shared our stories of the wise people who shaped the values that bring us here - heard
people finding connection, curiosity, gratitude and humor.
We asked: What kind of space are you trying to create in your schools, classrooms,
communities? How do you create spaces where the whole of a person is welcomed?
We talked about ”Threat” and its impact on us, conflict and our history with it. What did we learn from those early experiences? Which lessons from our youth may no longer serve us to have these difficult conversations in our lives now?
What do you want to promote? What do you want to prevent?
Transformational structures for transformational conversations for transformational relationships.
You had a dialogue about how you share yourself as an educator and the values and
experiences that inform what and how much you share. Behind every belief is a person with a story.
Your colleagues shared the wisdom of an enormous amount of work they have done over the
You are finding ways to make space for the whole person - the human being before the content.
Equity means understanding the whole person and what they need to succeed.
Debbie gives us the permission to “be here without all the answers” and we are not here
because we are perfect, but because we are obsessed with doing this better. How do we live
into the best version of ourselves that we can imagine?
The first on the list is Getting ourselves to slow down!
Replay and Pre-play. Reflecting and preparing. Practicing how to be our best selves when we
need it most. Replay and Pre-play: getting good at being our best selves.
Take a 90 seconds
What is one thing you are taking from this day?
What is one question that you are holding?
Personalizing a system
Think of a conversation that did not go well:
Were any of those dominant culture
What is one thing you could change about that conversation
I want you to replay that conversation in your mind (take 1 min)
How long have you felt this way
Is there something that caused you to feel this way?
Can you imagine ...something different?
A joy to be among teachers generously learning from and teaching one another.
When we teach college professors - these lessons about teaching are a revelation -
when we do these workshops with teachers like yourselves these lessons are a
recognition of what you are already doing intuitively or through your hard work and
training - we learn more than we teach and then we pass that on to others - you refine our
thinking and understand.
Your questions and challenges are gifts.
The moments when we don’t have a good answer for you are the moments we feel most
curious with you.
We started the day Doing Diversity - not Done diversity
Craig and Hong share some assumptions about where we are: Educators want to do right by
students - All situations are intersectional - we will not be perfect.
We have heard again and again - Practice here - in this space - with your trusted colleagues -
Prepare and practice for the moments when we know we will need to have the language and
the frameworks to support our students, teachers, administrators, parents and community.
We explored Agency - how do we do our best job within the constraints - we are given. Later
Gary and Carrisa invited us to dangerously challenge those constraints.
Good questions: Show concern, invite details and emotions beyond the words, are genuine and open-ended, and let me talk about things that I care and am wise about, let me focuses on relationship and “human-ness”. Curiosity is contagious. Good questions beget good
Can we design the questions that invite the conversations we want to have?
What do we do when confronted with difficult people - or the difficult parts of people?
Do you have an Obligation to engage? No! You do not have an obligation on a personal level
to engage with someone who feels toxic to you. So - the lesson/question here is “Do you have agency, choices, and tools to engage if you want to or when it will serve your purposes of doing your job well? Do you feel empowered? And when you do not have a choice to disengage - when you cannot withdraw from the relationship, how can you do it better?”
Christina invited us to Center educator well-being - modeling for our students - creating spaces where there is so much well being that we create the possibility of learning rather than the just protecting ourselves from as sense of threat.
Well being - We have to make time for this. The costs are too high not to!
Emotional Well-being: Excited and Content vs. Anxious and Depressed - What can I do?
Social Well-being: Connectedness, social inclusion, concern for others, being yourself -
bringing yourself - what can we do?
Workplace well being: Accomplishment and Purpose - what resources do we need to
We returned to the need for knowing the individual human - getting granular - paying attention to jaggedness - because we have diversity among us and different people need different things.
I wondered if we can dialogue not just across two differences, but to reveal all the wonderful differences that exist.
If equity in well being demands understanding the particular of things- because different
districts, different roles, different learners, different students, different teachers need different things, Then well-being and engagement demands a deeper knowing and perhaps dialogue allows us a deeper knowing.
And we hear: “But I have so much to do?” So then Allyson reminds us to use make this a part
of what we are already doing? Start small and work up. Dr. Christina reminds us that we are
more effective at doing what we have to do when we do it with well-being in mind.
There are dangerous conversations that need to be had. Why are they dangerous and
dangerous for whom? How do we make space for those conversations? There are so many
ways to step in it.
Can we make them less dangerous? But just as meaningful? With a good question, perhaps
dialogue makes this possible.
There were layers upon layers through these 2-3 days, circles coming around to meet at the
beginning - more questions and every answer inviting a new and deeper question.
I am reminded of a poem by Wendell Berry
Wendel Berry - Our real work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Being Seen, Feeling Seen
Hong Ly, Ed.D.
Dr. Hong Ly is first-generation, American-born, daughter of Chinese refugees. She is the youngest of six children and grew up in Newton, MA. She has been an educator since 2009 in various forms, including Americorps service member, special education teaching fellow, student support coach, school psychologist, professor, and academic advisor. Most of her career has been spent as a school psychologist in urban and suburban public schools, serving diverse racial, linguistic, cultural, socioeconomic, ability, and gender populations. She recently earned her doctorate in educational leadership from Endicott College. Her dissertation research focused on racialized discipline practices, critical race theory, and teacher agency.
This past August, my colleague, ECLC member Craig Harris, and I had the opportunity to lead a short session called “Doing Diversity”. It was a powerful experience for me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated, but that I deeply treasured.
Throughout the first decade of my career, I was fueled by helping students survive their educational experiences. Survival is a recurring theme in my life for several reasons, but especially that my parents’ sole purpose of emigrating to the United States was for me and my siblings to receive a better education than we would have been afforded in our home country. My entry level workhorse identity was built on the assumption that I need to “catch up” to non-first generation, White peers through hard work and closely following the rules. As I progressed through my career, I began to question the systems around me and why all my hard work wasn’t paying off in the way that it did for my White colleagues. I didn’t fully fit in. I was constantly proving myself to others. Above all else, I kept hearing the haunting voice of my first-year college advisor, “You know why you’re here right?”, implying that the only reason a poor, Asian American, daughter of refugees was at a private predominantly White institution was not because of merit, but because of my racial identity.
My vision became clearer as my desire to prove myself beyond my racial identity stopped having the same impact as it used to– I realized that my passion and work were rich and valid on their own, not because I am a Chinese-American woman. Mid-career educators have proven themselves to be equipped to handle the job, but racial identity will always add a question mark or asterisk to my accomplishments. Am I getting the role (or not) because I’m an Asian American woman? Am I a value-added hire because of my competence or my visible identities? Finding a mentorship program for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) educators was crucial to my journey away from imposter syndrome to representation that matters. All my peers felt and experienced on some level the same normalized racism, internalized racism, and oppression that I had living my whole life. I had previously been operating in a lonely silo of processing my identities when I could have been processing and learning about myself with others who had shared experiences. Why was I in my 30s and only learning this now?! The painful and exhausting work found its reward when I had the opportunity to present at the ECLC 2022 Summer Institute.
My dear graduate school colleague, Craig Harris, who serves as the Director of SEL for Swampscott Public Schools, and I set out to help shift perspectives on how educators understand their roles within racialized systems, especially related to discipline. For 20 minutes, we were able to describe how disciplinary actions are often shaped by an individual’s role within a system. I was able to incorporate a video clip from an episode of the long-running television series, “Fresh Off the Boat,” about an AAPI student being called a racial slur by a Black student. In this clip, Eddie (AAPI) punched the Black student in response to being called a racial slur and only Eddie received disciplinary action from the principal. This clip highlights (in a palatable way) that every person involved in a situation is trying to prioritize or avoid actions based on their role and that individuals have agency over what they prioritize. Eddie’s parents accepted that their son should not have punched the other student, but believed the other student should have also received a consequence for using a racial slur. I was able to express that I’m not better able to handle instances of racism just because I am AAPI. I was able to tell a largely White presenting audience that, for people of Color, addressing racism carries a different type of emotional labor than for White people. I was able to reach one of my own Asian sisters and make her feel seen. After showing the video clip, this audience member felt comfortable enough and moved to share that the clip hit home and began to question how she could show up for her children in the same way.
My immediate reaction after the presentation was panic that I had triggered this participant in the Summer Institute, and I asked others to check in with her during a break since I had to leave. The last thing I wanted to do was single her out because she was AAPI the way I had been so many times before, not because she was a human who was simply expressing emotions. What made this moment truly magical is that she shared that the feelings were generally positive, that she felt seen in a way that she hasn’t felt frequently enough. This in turn made me tear up as I felt like I, too, felt seen in a new way and had made an impact. I have found what drives me to continue to help educators be better able to show up for students and colleagues like myself. I’m under no illusion that every speaking or teaching moment will lead me to this unique, whole body, whole person feeling, but I am devoted to chasing this feeling in my future work with ECLC and other educational organizations.