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Association of California School Administrators
Keynotes deliver poignant messages at ECC
February 15, 2021
ACSA’s Every Child Counts Symposium was a huge success, with close to 1,200 educators logging on to the virtual event platform to experience the latest professional development from the world of student services and special education. Attendees heard from three inspiring keynote speakers. Here are just a few of the thoughts they shared during the conference.
Sal Khan
Attendees watched a live keynote presentation from Sal Khan, sponsored by PresenceLearning. Khan is the founder of the popular free online education platform Khan Academy. He spoke to attendees about how the platform has helped fill the gap during distance learning.
On the COVID school shutdown in March 2020: “It was one of those moments, where when we saw it coming, we kind of looked left and looked right and said, I think this is us, because people are going to need things that are accessible and as close to free as possible.”
On building back better post-COVID: “If we take advantage of the energy around making classes more interactive — which will have positive follow-on effects even when we get back to physical classrooms — closing the digital divide — which there have been heroic efforts around the country to do that — there is a world where the tragedy of the school closures that has happened over the last year might catalyze some positive change that we can benefit from in the decades to come.”
On the symbiosis of technology and teaching: “I’ll be the first to say, I never view online as somehow in competition with the physical environment. I’ve always said this, if I had to pick between amazing technology and an amazing teacher — for myself, for my children, for anyone’s children — I would actually pick an amazing teacher … It should always be technology in service to empowering the teacher, empowering the students even more.”
On advancement: “I’m a fan of advancement if the student is ready for it. … It actually destresses the student because what happens is there’s so much content that ends up getting jammed into high school. And because of that kids don’t learn it well, they feel like they’re on a treadmill … We see in the numbers the stress, the anxiety, the depression levels of high school students and college students, it’s going through the roof, and I think part of it … is just how much content is crammed into those high school years. And so if a student is ready earlier on, it gives the opportunity for them to spread out a little bit, have a breather, to think about it a little bit, for it to marinate in their mind.”
Tovi Scruggs-Hussein
The visionary educator, author and emotional intelligence expert’s keynote, sponsored by Capturing Kids’ Hearts, addressed overcoming white fragility, which keeps educators from doing race-based work to improve schools.
On white fragility getting the way of school improvement: “The ever-present pushback on the mere mention of the fact that systemic whiteness and practices are contributing to the achievement gap creates so much white fragility and turbulence ... that leadership succumbs to the pushback from teachers who are just afraid. And we have to really ask ourselves the question: Why are we keeping adults comfortable at the expense of the well-being and achievement of those we are set up to serve?”
On creating space for students to have conversations on race: “It’s critical to bring the students in, but it’s more critical that the adults get ready to bring the students in. … What’s really happening is that the kids are more ready and more seasoned to have these conversations. ... See, kids of color, we talk about race all the time. We have to talk about race all the time, it’s part of a survival mechanism for living in this nation.”
On mindfulness and racial healing: “It gets us still enough to be aware of the inner landscape of [biases]. ... The biases are not what’s hurting things. It’s acting on the bias that actually hurts us. And when we can mitigate the bias and interrupt the bias, then we don’t act on it and we don’t create harm.”
On accountability with empathy: “Empathy is anchored to non-judgment. Empathy is anchored to walking in another person’s shoes. … When we hold people accountable with empathy, we have to normalize pain, we have to normalize difficult and uncomfortable emotions. We have to not allow people to feel shamed. … Shaming makes people hide, shaming makes people not ask for the help they need, shaming makes people say, ‘I don’t know what to do with my Black boys in my classroom. I’m just going to fail them and make it look like it’s their fault.’”
Coach Rob Mendez
A high school football coach who was born without arms or legs, Mendez shared his story in a keynote sponsored by SPG. He spoke on the power of inclusion and believing in the potential of all people, which is epitomized in his hashtag, #WhoSaysICant.
On inclusion’s impact on his life: “Love and inclusion are probably the two things that have been my foundation of who I am. I was going to say successful, but it actually made me happy more than successful. I believe in happiness leading to success. Whether it playing in the sandbox in kindergarten or being integrated to a Playstation tournament in middle school, it felt good. It felt good for people to really include me. I think it just built my confidence. And with confidence, a lot of people can do a lot of things.”
On appreciation: “When I talk a lot about appreciation, when they hear it at first, I don’t know if it really resonates with them … I definitely will never forget what I have in life — my freedom and my wheelchair. When I bring that up to them, I think I’m a great example for the students to realize what they have — just being able to walk, breathe, go play football with their friends. I definitely want to bring up appreciation for what we have when I see them again.”
On giving someone the opportunity to show their abilities: “When you are open to differences, you’ll be so surprised on what people are really capable of. … Be enablers and not disablers.”
On successful teams (on and off the field): “It takes the leaders identifying what the real goal is ... For a football team in high school, the goal in my opinion ... it’s developing character in our young student athletes. … As a leader in football I always try to focus on the people at first, whether it’s the towel boy, the water boy or the starting quarterback. I love just getting to know them … not always being a football coach 110 percent of the time. Being a person shows a lot. … Getting to know people no matter what position they are on the team has carried us a long ways.”
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