On Monday, November 6th, CPBN hosted an education webinar gathering thirteen educators and administrators from around Connecticut to share their insights in an hour-long group discussion. Organized and facilitated by CPBN Education Fellow Rose Pierre-Louis, the topic of the webinar was “Recognizing Bias in the Classroom: An Open Discussion on Educational Equity.” Participants were given the platform to listen to the experiences of their colleagues, reflect on their own implicit biases, and offer suggestions as to how to address this issue in their classrooms moving forward.
The discussion was led by in tandem by three educators from different sectors of Connecticut’s public education system. Furahi Achebe, 2017 PBS Digital Innovator for Connecticut and a fourth-year technology education teacher in New Haven, began the conversation by stating her opinion. “The classroom is the cornerstone of American equity” she said. Achebe stressed the importance of continual efforts to combat unacknowledged bias in educational settings; “…when there is equity in schools, we can develop citizens that can create equity everywhere because they will be able to navigate their way through just about any societal obstacle.”
Presenting alongside Achebe was Meg Greene, M.B.A, a former Connecticut teacher and freelance writer. Greene, a white woman who is the mother of three African American young adults, offered a unique perspective, documenting the difference in her children’s obstacles to success and her own. She attributed part of her success as being a beneficiary of white privilege.
Also leading the discussion was Dr. Wendy Simmons, Director of Development, Community Affairs, and Equity at the State Education Resource Center (SERC). Dr. Simmons, a former elementary school teacher in Barbados, has worked in education for her entire professional career through teaching, direct clinical service, consultation, program development, and various fields of research. Dr. Simmons encouraged her fellow participants in her introduction to “critically examine the beliefs and world views that they always believed to be true”.
The presentation incorporated graduation rates in Connecticut, highlighting how students of color, specifically black and Hispanic students, have continually graduated at lower rates than their peers. Dr. Simmons and her fellow presenters used these statistics to emphasize what equity means, and how equity impacts students of color. Simmons pointed out that the aim of her work at SERC was not to focus on individual acts of unkindness or racism, but rather to “understand how implicit bias occurs through social and systemic racism”.
The context of the conversation broadened, emphasizing microaggressions that students of color experience in classrooms on a daily basis. Greene attested that in order to make positive progress in the realm of educational equity, people must be willing to explore the differences that create polarizing experiences and reach out to people in their community who do not look like them. Greene encouraged participants to hold themselves accountable after discovering their own biases.
Achebe emphasized the need for a change in teachers’ mindsets to make progress towards equity and to create classrooms that are “a place of healing and a place of infinite possibility.” Achebe offered 5 Tips to Help Urban Students Succeed – urging educators to focus on communication, relationship building, and understanding the ramifications of systemic racism on their students’ lives.
Achebe ended the discussion on an optimistic note, reinforcing the importance of cooperation between students and educators. “The number one commitment I have, and you all know this, is lets commit to teaching all students rigorously and having high expectations for all students.” she said, “…and back up those expectations with whatever scaffolding is necessary and whatever support is necessary. Let’s meet them where they are, and let’s bring them to where they need to be.”
About the CPBN Learning Lab
As part of a partnership with Hartford Public Schools, CPBN offers a satellite campus and afterschool internships – focused on video production, editing and digital arts – for high school students from Hartford’s Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School. For adults interested in pursuing a media career or simply interested in gaining technical skills to advance in their already established fields, CPBN’s Institute for Advanced Media provides classes in the basics of video production, from pre-production to post-production, as well as equipment and technical skills. CPBN also offers a range of opportunities to college students through the CPBN Media Lab, with classes focusing on storyboarding, video production, web content creation and social media.
For more on Furahi Achebe, visit:
For more on Dr. Wendy Simmons, visit:
For more information on this webinar, please contact Rose Pierre-Louis at: