This month, we’re featuring the work of Black leaders at BES to shine a spotlight on what drives them to do this important work on behalf of leaders, children, and communities.
The pursuit of equity has been at the center of Jabari Peddie’s career. As Senior Director of LENS, Jabari designs programming, leads training, and coaches leaders to take on heightened leadership roles in their schools. Prior to joining BES, he served as a school administrator and founding principal of one of the largest turnaround initiatives in Boston, MA, and was a teacher in Atlanta, GA for five years.
Why did you become an educator, and what drives you to support school leaders to find purpose and sustainability in their work?
Why education? My answer is always the same—divine intervention. My first job out of college was corporate sales for Cox Communications. The job was filling my pockets, but not my heart, which created a moral tension for me. So with this, I left the role and went on to pursue what I had not yet known would be my life’s purpose and greatest passion.
Despite the fact that I had a background in tutoring and mentoring, I did not see myself as a teacher. However, knowing very little about Teach For America but also knowing that I had to keep the lights on, I joined and fell in love with teaching. From my first day walking the building, I saw what injustice and inequity looked like in schools. I knew something wasn’t right and that I needed to be the person who wouldn’t turn a blind eye to a very visible problem. I resolved to be a part of making education more just, and that resolution has followed me throughout my career.
After spending six years as a school principal, I considered how I could scale what I am good at. The answer was to become a leader of leaders.
Leading LENS is really where my heart is. I am doing the work I was designed to do—helping leaders imagine the best version of their leadership selves, leverage their strengths, and find solutions through strategy. This is what I love to do. I firmly believe that if you drop a pebble in a pond, the ripples are endless. That is to say, you never know how far your influence goes. This idea keeps me connected to the work.
How do you help all leaders interrupt the injustice and inequity present in education?
Whatever has life in the school building is because of the leader. If there is harm happening, regardless of the identity of the leader, it is because the leader has allowed that to happen.
When coaching leaders, I make it a point to help them confront their own biases and power so that they are more aware of different permutations of prejudice and what that could look like in every corner of the building even down to the trash on the floor. I ask them to consider what that communicates to students and staff about what they collectively allow in the building.
Coaching leaders who coach other adults is a big part of LENS. I go on equity walks with my leaders, discussing biases they are and are not aware of and helping them extinguish moments of bias towards others that may keep staff, students, or families from thriving.
What is your advice for school leaders in February and beyond?
- Give yourself permission. Be compassionate with yourself and others.
- Interrogate all content, curriculum, policies, and protocols to make sure they are equitable in practice and not harmful to any group of people. The work of disrupting injustice in education starts within yourself—your own predisposition—so that you can eliminate inequity and create the conditions of belonging at your school.
- I’ll end with this quote, “Listen to your students’ words and examine the school through their eyes.”