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Co-design systems to sustain equity


You’re here to begin the journey of co-designing systems to sustain equity. The first step? Create the time and space for building an equity practice.

Across this journey, you will be prompted to record your answers during some activities. You can record them or type them on your own device and save the files so you can come back to them later. If you see the option to take notes within the text boxes, you can print and/or email them to yourself at the end of the activity for your personal use. You can also access a digital download of this Experience Journey if you prefer.

If this is your first Experience Journey with The Elephant in the (Class)room, make sure you Pack for Your Journey before you depart.


Think of an experience as a learner in which you were subject to a rule, process, practice, or policy that either a) supported you or made things easier for you, or b) did NOT support you or make things easier for you. The learning experience and associated rule or process may have occurred outside of a K-12 classroom setting, so don’t limit your thinking to that context.

Tell a story about that experience. Do your best to put yourself in that particular space and time and describe what precisely was happening that contributed to your experience.

Record your answers

Record your answers on your own device. You can refer back to them later.

Next up: Listen to Learn

Let’s listen to Atyani Howard, Chief Program Officer at New Teacher Center and former Chief Academic Officer, principal, and teacher, speak about the difference between equality and equity in education settings.

Listen twice to what Atyani has to say: once to reflect on how it connects with you as an individual who is inside of a system and subject to its rules, processes, practices, or policies, and a second time as an individual who is “above” the system — that is, as someone who may have agency or authority over how rules, processes, practices, or policies are enacted or developed. These repeated listens are essential to deepen your understanding, as we will be prompting you to listen with different “ears”, or orientations.

First listen:
from inside the system
  • Think about the example Atyani offers about the two children who need different things but in the name of equality get the same thing. What is a rule, policy, and/or practice in your school or district that is applied equally to all students? To all teachers? To all parents? To you, in your role?
  • Now think about the purpose of this rule, policy, and/or practice. Why does it exist? Who benefits, and what may be some unintended consequences?
Don’t forget to record your answers!
Second listen:
from above the system

Think about your role as someone with agency or authority to create or enact rules, policies, and/or practices that affect young people, parents, educators, and/or people in your community. Here, remember the commitment to think of a system not only as a school or a district, but also as a classroom or small-group instruction.

  • Think about a rule, policy, and/or practice that you created and/or enacted. What is the purpose of the rule? Who does it affect?
  • Have you received any feedback about the rule, policy, and/or practice? Do you know who benefits from it and/or who is helped by it? If so, how do you know? If not, why not?
Don’t forget to record your answers!

Now that you have reflected, told a bit of your own story, and learned from a system leader and educator, use this template to capture your learnings and the implications for your role as an individual with power and agency to co-design with others.

Using a rule, policy, and/or practice that you created and/or enacted from the Listen to Learn segment of the guide, explore how you can redesign it in collaboration with those most impacted by it to move towards true equity — everyone getting what they need.

Remember that the goal here is to get some of what you need so you can have the kind of both/and that Atyani describes: a setting where the rule/policy/practice is happening AND the individuals most impacted by it get what they need.

Small shifts can be profound, and by inviting those most impacted into the process, you are taking a key step towards co-designing systems to sustain equity. See disclaimer on privacy and protection of info.

Use this template to record this information:

    Last step: Commit and Connect

    Now that you’ve woven it all together, where do you go from here?

    Connect with others on this journey so that we as educators can learn and grow together in community rather than in isolation. Commit to equity as an ongoing practice and explore more content on The Elephant in the Classroom.

    Engage others in your system

    You might start with engaging others in your system – for example, your colleagues, a grade-level team, a professional learning community structure already established – and invite them to join you in this experience. The power of additional stories, reflections, and learning in community can be harnessed at your school and/or district.

    Connect with us

    Connect with the Elephant team to join a cohort of like-minded educators from across the country to redesign systems for equity. Send us a message at .

    Explore more on The Elephant in the (Class)room

    Continue to explore other ways to understand and experience our anchors for equity:


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