World Trust

Making Deep Institutional Change

Posted by World Trust Team on May 30, 2019

Facilitator: Tammy JohnsonFor the past 8 months, World Trust facilitator Tammy Johnson has been working with the faculty and staff of two schools in Northern California. One is K-5, the other K-12. The student population is racially mixed. The faculty is also mixed, but mostly white. When asked about why she wanted to work with World Trust, what she wanted to change, the head of the schools

  • Fewer discipline referrals for students of color
  • More engagement in the classroom
  • Better understanding of how power plays out in the classroom
  • Bringing unconscious biases into consciousness
  • Deeper self-reflection and self-knowledge, especially in understanding how teachers/staff carry their own history, culture, identity into the school and classroom.

Tammy began her work with a showing and facilitated discussion of Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. We often find this is a great place to start. Usually the people we work with are at all different levels of experience with racial equity training, ranging from some to none. Cracking the Codes creates a shared understanding, gives people a common language, a frame for understanding that there is a system of inequity and how it works. It also provides practice in having explicit conversations about race—conversations that don’t come out of a crisis moment or incident. This format invites people to experience the film and then engage their colleagues about what they just saw. Even if some people have already seen the film, they will have a different experience based on seeing it in a context with their colleagues.

In the second session, Tammy teaches the technique of Strategic Questioning, a powerful tool that teaches folks how to ask a different kind of question in order to encourage conversations that produce fresh ideas and new and better solutions that can transform institutions. She also introduces and explains Equity, Privilege, Intersectionality, and Cultural Humility (as opposed to cultural competence)—the importance of looking at what you don’t know about someone else’s culture. Again, this is an interactive session, with lots of work in pairs and small groups—folks are given scenarios to work through using Strategic Questioning and the other concepts that have been brought up. Session three focuses on white dominant cultural norms and how they show up in organizations. In small groups, people discuss where they see these norms showing up in the school and recommend remedies, drawing on the tools they have learned already. Tammy employs somatic exercises because as she says, “Everyone gets triggered and stuff lands on their bodies before they can intellectualize it. I invite people to use this as a process, to take note when something jarring happens and to know how to deal with that energy before they speak.”

In the final session, Tammy leads participants through Clinics. Taking all the learning that has come before, she has them grapple with real scenarios that they have faced or will face, understanding where these “issues” fit in the context of structural racism. The results so far? The teachers have told Tammy, “This is exactly what I needed. I can use
this.” There is growing enthusiasm about the training and they want it to continue.

This is how Tammy Johnson works. This is how World Trust works.