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JEDI: Lincoln’s knight for the future of education
As Lincoln’s learning coach, Kennis Look bets on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI). Invited by the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, he spoke at the SHARE conference about the new shape of English teaching.
In a galaxy far, far away in the United States there was Kennis Look: a man waiting for his destiny to become an international educator. Now, as a learning coach at Lincoln, Kennis aims higher. Recently he was invited by the Office of Language and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Embassy of Buenos Aires to be a speaker at the SHARE conference, a national congress for the professional development of English teachers.
During the event, with the theme The New Shape of ELT (English Language Teaching), he shared his view of the future of education. How does it look? Like JEDI. Not the Star Wars type, though.
What is JEDI?
“My talk is entitled: JEDI is the New Shape of ELT (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion)", explains Kennis. This is the way to an inclusion journey. In the book One Without the Other, Shelley Moore, an expert on special education, explains that inclusive education has to “thrive on the learning and interaction of each person in the community.” She adds:
We are diverse, all of us. We all have strengths, we all have stretches, and we all need to get better at something. The difference in teaching to diversity, however, is that we don’t start with our deficits; we start with our strengths, and this includes students, teachers, support staff, custodians, bus drivers, and parents…. ‘the ecology of learning communities.’
To better understand the JEDI way, we interviewed Kennis. It’s been eight years since he left the U. S. public schools to be selected by the U.S. Embassy and participate in a teacher-training project here in Argentina. After lots of experience as an international educator, he came back to share his JEDI force at the conference and with all of us.
DT: How was it for you to be part of the SHARE teachers conference?
KL: Giving a keynote at the SHARE conference on behalf of the U.S. Embassy was a huge honor for me, and it also brought my international journey full circle in some ways. You see, when I first decided to leave U.S. public schools and work abroad several years ago, Argentina was my first "home away from home."
When I arrived, I was training English teachers all over Argentina in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy. And now that I'm working here at Lincoln all these years later, it felt so incredible to connect these two parts of my professional life. I got to represent my school and the work and learning I've undergone here with JEDI. That was a great feeling. A lot of pride, some nostalgia, and just the perspective of looking back and seeing how far I've come since I first moved to Latin America.
Our student population is so ethnically and culturally diverse, I believe that we all have a responsibility to be more conscious and to teach for peace, justice, and equality
DT: How has it been for you to be a teacher at Lincoln in Argentina?
KL: As a learning coach at Lincoln, I feel like I get to collaborate with everybody - teachers, students, administrators, and learning assistants. So I love that I get such a hawk-eye view of what's going on at school, and I really love being able to impact the work that's going on at that scale.
DT: Lincoln has a diverse environment with different cultures, languages, and nationalities. In which way does that impact our learners' education?
KL: I've been utterly impressed by our students here at Lincoln. Because they come from everywhere in the world and they know what it's like to be new somewhere, they just have so much more empathy and perspective. There's also a culture of learning here that I really really love - the kids enjoy learning, and they want to work hard and discover the world and figure things out. That's really a dream come true for any educator.
Lincoln learners are very empathetic and compassionate, they're kind, and they just genuinely love to learn
DT: How does JEDI fit here at Lincoln?
KL: I think JEDI is integral to the work we do at Lincoln for several reasons. It's one facet of the Inclusion goal in our strategic plan, for instance. But it's also embedded in our goal of Curriculum Development. I know we have staff members in all different comfort levels of embracing and teaching through a JEDI lens, but the ones we have leading these efforts and conversations really inspire me.
Our student population is so ethnically and culturally diverse, I believe that we all have a responsibility to be more conscious and to teach for peace, justice, and equality, and when these topics come up with the kids...look out! They are really on fire for this work and demonstrate a true commitment to making the world a more fair and just place for all people in society. I think that's beautiful.
DT: How would you describe a Lincoln learner?
KL: We aspire for our students to embody the ALLs: thinker and researcher, communicator, self-navigator, and agent of change. Every minute of every day, we're living and embodying at least one of them at all times.
The teachers are doing a tremendous job of providing kids with the language and guidance they need to be cognizant of how they're being a Lincoln Learner, to be metacognitive and reflective of their learning experiences and processes. And on top of all of that, as I mentioned earlier, I would say that Lincoln learners are very empathetic and compassionate, they're kind, and they just genuinely love to learn.
DT: What does Lincoln mean to you?
KL: Lincoln for me is a community. It's where we all spend most of our time, and so we rely and depend on one another for so many things. As a coach, I want to be a member of that community that people feel like they can count on and trust. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it's that we all need connection, and a school should be a place to experience that.
Like all families, we share our moments of joy and moments of struggle, too. But looking around me, I'm grateful that this is the place I can call "my school," and I'm quite proud of the work we've done over the past few years, especially amidst such trying global circumstances, and I can't wait to see what this new year brings for all of us.