“Where You Are”

John Robbins, Ph.D.
John Robbins

A reflection on education and equity from a LeadBoston class member.

This month’s session – on charter schools and equity – was in some ways the most emotionally charged program day so far.  In our preliminary identification and airing of our latent biases around these issues, it emerged that nearly everyone already held deep convictions based on family histories, life-long employment experiences, protracted battles with school administrators, or simply by virtue of being a parent.  However, the conversations that ensued about the role of the state in promoting equity, how schools can be more transparent about their best practices, whether charter school administrations can truly be effective in the present climate, and the future of education as a whole in Massachusetts, were some of the most meaningful and personally challenging that we’ve yet had – in large part, I believe, due to the deeply personal nature of the subject matter.

At the end of the day, we were asked to reflect on a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  The quote was in the context of a discussion surrounding our Leadership Commitments, plans to engage in sustained contributions to the impact area of our choice in the coming year – a way of extending the lessons learned in the program out into the future, and giving them real legs, hands, and a heart.  But for me it also encapsulated an overarching lesson from all of our program days so far: that there is no one simple solution, no broad-stroke pattern that will easily resolve all elements of the problems before us.  Instead, any solution that we come up with must be individualistic, multi-faceted, taking into genuine consideration the local needs of the people and environments involved at a given moment.  This might be the most profound lesson that I’ve learned from being a part of the program so far, and one that I’m excited to see brought to bear on the host of challenges we’re sure to encounter in the six months to come.

John Robbins, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Massachusetts and a member of the LeadBoston Class of 2017