The Collective’s 2018 School Leaders of Color (SLOC) Conference brings together school and school system leaders of color for community-building and professional development. Hear from alumni school leader Tim Tran about his experience.
February 26, 2018
I am a 2010 Houston Corps Members and am currently a Dean of Students at YES Prep Southwest, my placement school. This past weekend, I attended TFA’s 6th Annual School Leaders of Color (SLOC) Conference in Denver, Colorado. It was an incredible weekend of inspiring speakers, sessions, school visits and networking. I left the weekend feeling re-invigorated and re-connected to the mission of TFA. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conference.
Building Strong Coalitions is Critical to our Work: One of the key themes of the conference was coalition building and the notion that strong, intentional coalitions are necessary to get us to One Day. This was highlighted by one of the weekend’s keynote speakers, Carmen Perez, co-founder of the Women’s March. Perez shared how a lot of the successes of the Women’s March have come from understanding the intersectionality of the plights of different oppressed groups and using common ground amongst those groups to make the movement stronger. This made me think of how my school could be more intentional about building coalitions with outside organizations that could provide more resources for our students. Additionally, it made me think of how I could help foster more understanding and ally-ship between the Black and Latinx students at my school.
The TFA Alumni Network is Powerful: Having been out of the corps for several years now, it’s easy for me to forget that there are so many brilliant people outside of my school and district, who are also doing great work for students in underserved communities. I met so many awesome leaders of color this past weekend, who operate in various spaces (school campuses, district level leadership, non-profits etc.) and got connected to lots of resources that I can bring back to my school to better serve my students. The conference has definitely motivated to become more connected to the TFA alumni network.
School Visits are Pivotal to Gaining a New Perspective: One of my favorite parts of the conference was participating in a school visit at Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS) at Fairmont, an Denver Public Schools elementary school. On paper, this school had little in common with the school I work at. They serve K-5, my school is 6-12. They have an explicit focus on international studies, mine does not. Yet despite these differences, I was still able to witness and appreciate all the great things they are doing for their students, and it was invaluable for me get a fresh perspective on how other schools are doing right by students. As someone who has been at the same school for the last eight years, this reminded me of the importance of looking outward for new ideas and best practices.
Community Input Matters: One of the most powerful sound bites from the conference came from Duta Flying Earth Anpao, Head of School for Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When asked the question, “How do you define excellence in a school?” he reminded us that we need to start by asking the community, rather than forcing our definition of excellence onto the community. This really resonated with me and pushed me to think about how I have been guilty of imposing my definition of school excellence on my school community, without seeking to truly understand their perspective on school excellence.
If you are an alumni school leader of color, and have not been to this conference, I highly encourage you to check it out next year. I’m so glad I was a part of it.