By: Irfan Toor  •  November 11, 2022  •  (4 min read)

Throughout the fall, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to speak to groups of administrators about finding themselves in the work of equity leadership – what I phrase as ‘Becoming an Equity Champion.’ 

The importance of principals and vice-principals in leading the work cannot be understated. The Wallace report reminds us that “the effectiveness of the principal is more important than the effectiveness of a single teacher” (Wallace Foundation, 2021) and other research shows that “to enhance staff capacity, principals must directly address issues of race, provide ongoing training that focuses on equity, empower staff members with greater professional freedom, and hire specifically with social justice in mind”(Ross, J. A., & Berger, M. J. (2009).​ 

How can you move your well-intentioned allyship into strong advocacy and collaboration? Your voice and your leadership in this work is essential, regardless of your own personal identity. In fact, I often remind people that anti-oppression work needs the voice of those who are part of the dominant identities. Members of dominant identities can use their privilege to further the work and model for others.

I know there are many times as administrators where we feel that decisions are imposed upon us and that our autonomy is removed. But as school leaders, we also have agency and power. What you do and how you model your approach to anti-oppression and equity work is one of those areas. There are many points of entry and many opportunities to further your own learning, practice doing the work and supporting your staff in engaging. 

Consider how you focus on Indigenous Rights and Truth and Reconciliation by engaging in the Calls to Action. How do you engage with the Land Acknowledgement and interrupt conversations and patterns that reinforce deficit mindsets regarding Indigenous students and families? 

How do you combat transphobia and interrupt cis-heteronormativity by modelling the use of pronouns and honouring diverse lived gender identities? How do you support student affinity groups such as GSAs? How do you ensure staff are embedding 2SLGBTQ+ identities into their curricular conversations? Some of these are low risk and low cost actions that have large impacts on school communities. 

How do your spending decisions centre the needs of the most under-served and under-represented groups? People will always challenge spending decisions that go against what has always been done or that focus on smaller groups of individuals – but isn’t that the point of ‘equity’? That we focus on those who need it the most? It’s important to challenge the notions that somehow the majorities are losing out when we focus on those who are most in need of support. Most often, we find that everyone benefits, and the groups that have the most aren’t generally negatively impacted.

I encourage you to engage in the work in the way that you can at this point, but as always, to keep yourself moving along that journey. As I have been saying to many people – there are many ways to do anti-oppressive work…but doing nothing isn’t one of them.