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Shifting Self and System

Shifting Self and System
How Educational Leaders Propel Excellence for Achieving Equity

May 2024 | 168 pages | Corwin

The pathway to equity begins with YOU.

Good intentions are not enough. To dismantle the structural inequities that continue to plague our schools, dedicated leaders must move beyond buzzword rhetoric to a place of action, where concrete steps trace a path to strategic action and sustainable impact.

The authors of this book have made that shift. Drawing from their experiences leading the educational-equity agenda for the nation’s largest school district, they present their model for practical, outcome-oriented antiracist leadership. Features include

  • An original framework built on five interdependent pillars: Self Mastery, Adaptive Leadership, Racial Literacy, Emergence, and Whole-Body Healing
  • Real-life vignettes providing insights into the pillars and how they work together
  • Structured opportunities and tools that support processes at the individual and collective development levels

Disrupting and dismantling inequities is a complex, yet urgent, process. If you’re ready to meet this moral leadership challenge, Shifting Self and System will equip you with the knowledge, disposition, and capacity to create equitable schools and systems for all the students you serve.

Pillar One: The Journey
Pillar Two: Adaptive Leadership
Pillar Three: The Training Chase - Pitfalls and Possibilities of Equity Work
Pillar Four: Emergence
Pillar Five: Mastering Healing for a Better Humanity

"Shifting Self and System is a must-read for those who are serious in doing equity work. More importantly it provides the courage needed so that you stay focused because this type of leadership is on-going and can be contagious when done correctly."

Elizabeth Alvarez
Superintendent, Forest Park District 91

"I have never experienced a book with so many tangible suggestions for improvement of practice, such effective reflection prompts, so many real examples of the theory in practice, and such insightful analysis of the actions taken in each case study. If you are a leader committed to transforming education into a liberating, revolutionary, and humanizing institution - why haven’t you bought this book yet?"

Mari Ann Banks
District Equity Director, City Schools of Decatur

"[Ababio-Fernandez and Winkfield] shared insight into decades-old limitations of equity work--the inertia that forces the system to remain in homeostasis--and they explain how and why this happens in uniquely insightful and sound ways. I recommend this text to anyone who has been wondering why we have not yet made the systemic changes students and families so deserve."

Virginia E. Kelsen
Assistant Superintendent, Glendora Unified School District

"Working toward equity is a journey not a destination. The authors of Shifting Self and System paint a picture of just what that journey entails. Through personal story and deep analysis, the authors illustrate what it can look like to uproot educational injustice through a shift in the system and ourselves. The authors acknowledge historical truths, bring an honest assessment of the pitfalls related to leading for equity and provide a path forward rooted in possibility, humanity, sustainability, and justice. For those looking for ways to make change in comprehensive ways, I recommend taking a deep dive into this text."

Jamila Dugan
Street Data: A Next Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation

"Shifting Self and Systems is a must-read book that offers actionable tools for transformative leadership that center racial equity, healing, and the power of the collective so that our nation's students, especially the most marginalized, receive a quality education that honors their full, authentic selves."

Dena Simmons

“The journey of school and district leadership requires a multitude of skills and capacities. Ababio-Fernandez and Winkfield take us into a depth of skills and capacities that are reminiscent of abolitionist education. The focus of abolitionists was to end the practice of physical slavery as a means of impacting cognitive slavery that presumed superiority or inferiority based on race and ethnicity. Ababio-Fernandez and Winkfield highlight the five pillars of leadership that require an abolitionist orientation necessary for an equity leader to build a free person's education. They center the realities of self-discovery, inside-outside approach, and healing as the endeavor of what schools can do in this abolitionist movement.”

Edward Fergus Arcia, Ph.D.
Author of Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity, Professor, Department of Urban Education School of Arts and Sciences- Rutgers University

“The authors mention that there are many examples and guideposts in the history and evolution of this country’s search for its soul. I count this book amongst them. Shifting Self and System: How Educational Leaders Propel Excellence for Achieving Equity offers clarity, truth, and will equip school leaders with the necessary tools to move beyond the performative to developing and sustaining the will and skill to persist in this work courageously, even, and especially in the face of resistance. 

This book is an absolute gift! Through their shared experiences as school leaders, core considerations, case studies, discussion questions, as well as independent and collaborative practices, the authors invite readers on a journey that includes fearlessly honest introspection, vulnerability, and humility leading to holistic, sustained transformation with a focus on healing and wholeness. I give this book my highest recommendation!”

Afrika Afeni-Mills
Author of Open Windows, Open Minds

“There are a lot of books out there that purport to give you answers, but this one really does. Not the answers that make the hard stuff seem easy, but the kind of answers that make you face hard truths, look at yourself in the mirror, and commit to persevere. This is the book we need, at the exact time we need it, by the people we need to hear from, for the people who need it most. It is a must read for any educator or education leader who is dissatisfied with the status quo.”

Sasha Rabkin, Ed.D
President, Equal Opportunity Schools

"If you genuinely care about equity this book is for you. Infused with real-life stories, research, and solutions, "Shifting Self and System: How educational leaders propel excellence to achieve equity" will challenge you to reflect on how one shows up in our own lives and the lives we've been charged to impact. It is refreshingly honest and unapologetic. Ultimately, there will never be equality without equity- Dr. Ruby Ababio-Fernandez and Courtney Winkfield get it!"

Shanell Dunns
National Children and Community Advocacy Expert and CEO of Roots & Bridges

“The authors offer windows into a collective human experience that unites our histories and futures.  A refreshing perspective at the intersection of identity, spirituality and the developing leader. Bold, poignant and nuanced in its call for self-mastery as a pathway to transformative leadership in contemporary times. 

Systems are made of people. When systems have mission aligned, healed humans they function well. There isn’t a single stand of racial awareness or strategy ~ one must fully understand herself, her place in the world and what she is meant to uniquely contribute within systems. Only then can systems provide quality and efficacy. 

Some of the best leaders of our time ask us to consider our relationship to ambiguity. Throughout the text, this theme shines. How does leadership manage/lead dynamically?

Shame and Hope can coexist. They can both be true at the same time”

Dia Bryant
Executive Director EdTrust, New York

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ISBN: 9781071858141