As an educator, I believe that every conversation we have in education, especially computer science education, is ultimately a conversation about equity. This focus on equity is especially important within computer science education, an area that has continuously excluded so many groups of people, specifically those who identify as African American, Latinx, Indigenous, female, non-binary, and/or a person with a disability (ECEP Alliance).
In this blog post, I’ll share my perspective on the importance of grounding equity work first within ourselves and discuss the steps we can take to embark on a personal equity journey.
Equity, to me, means ensuring that each individual receives what they need to reach their full academic, social, and emotional potential. Within my role as a computer science educator, equity in my classroom means equitable access, success, identity/belonging, and power for each learner (“Context Matters: How Should We Conceptualize Equity in Mathematics Education?” by Rochelle Gutiérrez). In my work as a computer science education leader and coach, equity is the lens I use to design, support, examine, interrupt and refine educational systems by considering Capacity for, Access to, Participation in, and Experiences of CS education (CAPE Framework, Dr. Carol Fletcher and Dr. Jayce Warner). In my role as an individual, who identifies as a white, non-disabled, cisgender female, I am aware that my demographics align with those overrepresented within the pool of US public educators. Therefore equity for myself as an individual requires work that starts with self-awareness, introspection, and examination.
The Role of Educators
Educators are change agents. We have the power to shape the culture, content, and community within classrooms and programs. And, as humans, we tend to teach who we are. However, in order to effectively center equity in our work, we must first turn our focus inward. It requires intentionality, time, energy, ongoing learning, and reflection. For educators like me, whose identity markers align with the dominant culture, it is essential to recognize that educational content and equity cannot be viewed as separate topics.
Every conversation in computer science is a conversation about equity.
(adapted from Elena Aguilar in Coaching for Equity).
In order to truly align ourselves as equity-focused educators and bring our full selves to our roles, I believe we need to put in work on our own personal equity journeys.
Embarking on a Personal Equity Journey
To begin a personal equity journey, I propose four key ideas: reflection, examination of mindsets, ongoing learning, and commitment to change.
Start by reflecting on your personal identity. Consider the factors that shape who you are, whether they are biological or socially constructed. Our identity markers influence our thoughts, words, actions, power dynamics, and privileges. Understanding our own identities allows us to navigate the complexities of equity more effectively.
Examination of Mindsets
Take the time to notice and reflect on your beliefs, attitudes, and biases. Identify any assumptions and patterns in your thoughts and actions that may indicate biases. By consciously interrupting these associations, we can confront and dismantle our beliefs and systems of bias, especially within our workplace, toward our students, colleagues, and community.
Commit to ongoing learning about computing equity and inclusion. Stay informed about the systemic and structural inequities and injustices that impact our lives daily. By delving deeper into these issues, we can understand how they affect ourselves, our students, and our communities. Continuous learning empowers us to advocate for change.
Commitment to Change
Use your reflections and newfound knowledge to drive action and change. Start by advocating for transformational change within yourself, and then extend it to your classroom space, content, and programs. Explore ways to leverage your privilege and voice to promote more equitable computer science education, starting at the local level and gradually expanding to a broader scale.
Remember that embarking on a personal equity journey is a process that takes time and ongoing effort. As James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” I invite you to join me in committing to ongoing equity-focused personal reflection, examination, learning, and change. Equity begins with each of us, and by collectively working towards it, we can create a more inclusive and equitable future for computer science education and beyond.
About the Author
Andrea Wilson Vazquez is the Director of Educator Training and School Partnerships with non-profit Code Savvy, a Minnesota-based non-profit working to expand equitable and engaging K-12 computer science education. She is also a teacher and most recently worked as an innovative instructional coach at an alternative high school, partnering with teachers to engage students with unique learning needs in creative problem solving through maker and computer science education. She also previously served as a Maker and Computer Science educator, as well as a Teacher for English Learners. Andrea holds a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies, and her K-12 teaching license and M.A. in English as a Second Language Education. She is a CSTA CSforELs Teacher Leader and Facilitator, a Co-PI on the Coaching for Equity in Computer Science initiative, and is passionate about the important role of educators in building equitable CS ed learning experiences.