It took me 16 years to navigate towards the courage to embark on the journey of pursuing a master’s degree in progressive leadership at Bank Street Graduate School of Education. To be crystal clear, I earned my master’s degree in teaching from Brown University at the age of 23. I also went to Hofstra University law school after teaching history at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. This is my second master’s in education. I also kept myself busy being a mother and a wife.) However, Bank Street is the first time I can honestly say I have found my place.
At Bank Street, through strategically crafted lessons and classes on development (both adult and organizational), students attain the knowledge, theory, and practical tips to lead in this unique era. A charge has been laid bare—We need to work together to lead our schools into the future. Together, we collaborate in this beautiful dance of learning about leadership with our classmates and our professors in our virtual classes.
At the September 2021 convocation, for example, I was blown away and, more honestly, moved to tears when we were called to action by the brilliant Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz. She asked us to remember to stay connected to love and at the same time be brave, courageous, and steadfast in our fight for demanding long-overdue changes in the racial status quo. At Bank Street, we are learning to become iconic cheerleaders of racial justice and equity.
“If not now, then when,” was a repeated refrain by Dr. Sealey Ruiz. Bank Street addresses the refrain simply by assembling a new generation of educational leaders. Bank Street equips students with research on how to be a “listening leader.” (Shane Safir). Students are given the opportunity to widen their lens to consider how best to “keep schools.” (Ted Sizer). And our own notions of adult development are examined, challenged, and stretched to allow for an ever-evolving philosophy of adulting. After our readings of Leading Adult Development Supporting Adult Development in Our Schools by Eleanor Drago-Severson, we know now more than ever that teachers must also be allowed to grow and develop in order for schools to become “true learning centers.” (p. 22) It is also crucial that room is made for “transformational learning” to happen. This “transformational learning” comes from “self-examination.” (p. 35).
Furthermore, at Bank Street, we are taught to examine our own biases and how we make meaning. Where else has one ever been encouraged to examine “structural racism and to reject the myth of colorblindness?” (Shane Safir) (p. 59). Have you ever wondered about unconscious bias and the impact that it has on us all? (Safir) (p. 66). These are topics that Bank Street enables students to reflect upon, discuss, and annotate.
I am privileged to have found my place at Bank Street—and thankful. For Bank Street’s courage to identify the elephant in the room, the ugly vestiges of racism, and its adept skill at dissecting said elephant. For the incredible holding of space and aligning of lessons and context so that all students can consider their privileges and the need for increased compassion and empathy for others as they fight for true social justice. In case you also feel as if the “reckoning” is not over as yet and there is so much work yet to be done, we welcome you here. Finally, I’m grateful to have landed at Bank Street because I have never had professors who model so expertly the principles of caring deeply about and for the well-being of each student. I have found my community and I never want to leave.