One of the first units Kailyn Gilliam teaches her class is bias and persuasion. They explore how these two tactics spill into their everyday life, from newscasts to advertisements. She connects for the students how lessons you learn in the classroom affect how you see the world.
This is also how she introduces lessons on equity to her students as the Diversity Resource Teacher at Jack Jouett Middle School. She brings real life examples into the classroom. Most recently, she and her students discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted different students in different ways. And Kailyn does this by creating a culture of respect in her classroom.
“Every student has a place in my classroom, and every student has a voice,” she says. That’s what it means to be culturally responsive to Kailyn.
Since becoming the school’s DRT last year, she created a group of student equity ambassadors called the Diversity Alliance. Most recently the group planned a program for Black History Month over zoom, which was attended by about 60 people. Driven by their success, the group is now planning an International Day at Jouett to celebrate the different cultures of their fellow students.
But she also includes her colleagues in the fun. She created an equity team for teachers and staff, which started with 5 other teachers but has now grown to a group of 14. They look at various data from the school to identify disparities and strive to answer the question of “How can we resolve them in the most equitable way possible?”
At the end of the day, Kailyn’s goal is to ensure that her students are ready to enter the world as a well-rounded and informed person. “The kids are the future,” she says, “and if we want to create a better future, we have to empower the kids to see what’s real.”