Worthy Convos: Elisabeth Ivy on Family, Work, and Doing the Heart Work
Educator, wife, and mother of three, Elisabeth Ivy shares her passion for social and racial justice with her students, family, and community. As an involved member of Heart Work, Ivy is inspiring change using two powerful instruments: her mouth and her ears.
You are involved with a local group called Heart Work. Explain the mission of this organization.
Heart Work is a group of Fort Worth women that are working together to highlight and uncover how racial injustice impacts our local community. In addition to sharing perspectives, we commit to seeking understanding through self-reflection and inquiry. It is a collective commitment as well as a singular one. The “heart” in heart work requires us to look within- to find our own biases and perhaps the ways in which we contribute (voluntarily or involuntarily) to systems of inequality.
What inspired your involvement with Heart Work and what have you learned?
As soon as I learned about the group, I was ready to participate. After the George Floyd protests when the global lens was focused on racial justice, I wanted to be a part of the dialogue. I was pleased that Heart Work had a local focus as I was convinced that smaller more immediate circles would produce more meaningful change.
I have learned that there is so much about race in America that we just don’t know. That means people are negotiating issues of racial justice and systemic inequality without foundational understanding. Yet, that is not an excuse. It is up to us, ALL of us to educate ourselves so that we don’t repeat past mistakes; so that we can move forward and not backwards.
How can others get involved?
Others can get involved by joining the Heart Work community and being willing to listen and learn and then speak. We value your voice, but your ears are just as important. I am always surprised by the number of participants who listen without saying a word. My belief is that they are reflecting, and that reflection is a vital part of the work we have to do.
You are also an adjunct professor at a local community college. What do you teach your students?
I teach them that their opinions matter. I teach them how to make their ideas understood. I take great joy in helping them master the art of critical thinking and harness the power of their individual voices. As a writing instructor, I think that’s the most important thing. Once you can communicate effectively, you sparkle and shine differently.
You’re passionate about literacy as a civil right. What improvements could the education system make to achieve equitable learning opportunities for kids of all ages?
If we want to get education right for all kids, we are going to have to do a better job of actually teaching foundational skills. That means better teacher preparation and more responsive, reflective instruction. The teacher is actually the most important factor in the educational equation. The teacher must be trained to do the job; and the more vulnerable the student, the better prepared the teacher needs to be. We aren’t getting that part right. It’s easy to get caught up in the “achievement gap.” Yet, if our current educational practices were stronger, the gap wouldn’t matter as much. If the majority of students (Black, Brown or White) were headed for the moon, the ones that didn’t make it would still be among the stars. Currently, many aren’t getting off the ground. If we think of literacy as a civil right, then it becomes our duty to make sure everyone is successful.
You have three kids of your own. How do you balance work, community involvement and family life?
I always laugh and say that if I actually wrote my full schedule out on paper, I would insist that I couldn’t possibly do it all. But I do! And then I remember that I’m able to “do it all” because I’m not alone. I have an amazing husband who is an equally amazing father. As a team, we just seem to always make it work. It’s kind of like magic.
Originally from Ohio, you found yourself in Fort Worth. What do you love about our city?
I love that Fort Worth is a big city with a small-town feel. There is a real sense of community in Fort Worth, and I think that’s what keeps me here. I can truly say, “I love where I live.”
Although she prefers burnt orange to purple, Hannah Bush is happy to call Fort Worth her new home. She began freelance writing a few years ago to break up the monotony of her 9 to 5 and to prove to her parents that she’s making good use of her journalism degree. When she’s not hanging out with her cat, Hannah can likely be found on a patio with her fiancé, talking about her cat.