A Beginner’s Guide to Creating an Equitable Classroom 

by Jessie Cordova, Senior Associate, Bright Morning

Defining Equity, For A Start

To explore creating equitable classrooms, let’s start by establishing a working definition of equity. ‘Equity’ can be complex and nuanced and yet simple all at once. To prevent myself from drowning in a sea of confusion and complication I have boiled it down to this:

Equity = Unblocked Access and Unblocked Practice

By access I mean literally being able to reach, touch and own the following:

  • Materials and resources: the tangible and intangible supplies that help us accomplish the below.
  • Learning: the knowledge, beliefs, skills, and understandings (both internal and external to an individual) that are most conducive to growth and development. 
  • Connections and opportunities: the key relationships and pivotal experiences that tend to be ‘door openers’ for new life paths (i.e. a mentor from the same career sector a student is in; access to Algebra 1 in middle school, etc.).
  • Self: the safe access to self as one authentically is, not as others expect them to be.

By practice, I mean that once a person gets access, they can exist freely by engaging, exploring, testing, questioning, testing, trying, failing, learning, practicing – and doing so safely and with support. 

  • What’s the point of getting into an AP class if a student is not psychologically safe in that space to learn and take risks? 
  • What would be the purpose of moving up to the next reading level if there aren’t any books to continue to engage and nurture deeper reading skill? 
  • What’s the point of having a state of the art science lab, if children are not allowed near the lab tables? 
  • What’s the point of showing students how to build the most aerodynamic paper airplane, if they never get to touch the paper?

Access in and of itself is helpful but insufficient. Equitable learning spaces allow students to acquire and practice. Get and play. Learn and try. Hypothesize and test. Access and be with it. 

If access or the ability to practice freely is ever blocked because of an identity marker (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), then that would be an example of inequity. 

How does this match up with your own definition of equity? 

Check out Elena’s definition of equity here.