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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Unpacking Powerful Words: Teaching Children Well

To help us prepare for an upcoming professional learning event, the superintendent shared the words below from Gloria Ladson-Billngs' book, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African America Children. It is a passage that captures what culturally proficient teaching is about, and as the superintendent points out, it is a passage that depicts "what good teaching of any kind is about."


I wanted to dissect the passage to identify current and potential practice that match the words.
  • "They see their teaching as an art rather than as a technical skill." 
    • Embrace teaching as an art and science.
    • Use research and artful design to choreography and deliver teaching/learning programs that matter. 
    • Understand that context matters, and that the research is likely to look different in different contexts as educators apply this knowledge to sensitively teach students
  • "They believe that all of their students can succeed." 
    • Believe this and continually say it aloud to children:"We can all succeed!"
    • Show and tell students the main ingredients of success: time, focus, apt strategy(s) and making the choice to learn. 
    • Use a "strengths based" model of teaching/learning so that children experience learning success often.
    • Scaffold and coach challenging learning goals so that children have the support they need to reach success. 
  • "They see themselves as part of the community and they see teaching as giving back to the community." 
    • Promote open, timely systems of share, and support those systems within and outside the learning community.
    • Make space for idea systems that welcome voices of all members of the teaching/learning community: students, families, educators, leaders, and citizens.
  • "They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities." 
    • Curate content with and for students that is meaningful, truthful, and relevant.
    • Integrate meaningful statistics and problems into math curriculum.
    • Make sure that your curriculum mirrors your learners' cultures and interests.
    • Create learning experiences with the whole team: students, families, educators, leaders, and citizens.
    • Revisit and revise curriculum choices, protocols, and limitations often.
  • "Their relationships with students are fluid and equitable and extend beyond the classroom." 
    • Analyze students' "social power" and look for ways to build social equity and share.
    • Support meaningful outside-of-school learning such as the upcoming SCRATCH Day at MIT.
    • Give students' meaningful roles in school affairs, efforts, and endeavor. An effort facilitated by Tony Sinanis is a good example. Our school assemblies' process and student leadership are also good examples. 
    • Participate and foster school-wide events that support strong, fluid, equitable relationships.
    • Advocate for lead time planning and scheduling which makes educator involvement possible. 
  • "They demonstrate a connectedness with all of their students and encourage that same connectedness between the students." 
    • Model positive relationships with actions and language. 
    • Be cognizant of every social interaction we have in the classroom, school, and community.
    • Foster positive connectedness amongst students with signage, language, and action. 
    • Explicitly teach the behaviors and mindsets of positive, proactive connectedness. 
    • Work with colleagues and students to establish protocols in this regard. Revisit and update protocols regularly.
  • "They encourage a community of learners; they encourage their students to learn collaboratively." 
    • Teach students the tools, processes, and language of positive collaboration.
    • Mix up the groups often so that everyone gets a chance to work with everyone else as one effort to develop a stronger class community. 
    • Develop the "Learning to Learn" curriculum and make time to fit in valuable lessons and practice like these often.
  • "They believe that knowledge is continuously re-created, recycled, and shared by teachers and students alike." 
    • Provide the rationale, background story, learning objectives/actions at the start of a learning experience.
    • Invite student voice, choice, and participation in all aspects of the learning process.
    • Create worthy, responsive learning experiences with students and colleagues. 
  • "They view the content of the curriculum critically and are passionate about it." 
    • Welcome greater teacher/student/family voice and participation. 
    • Continue to design and revise worthy learning experiences together as a learning community. 
    • Analyze curriculum efforts and replace learning that is not deep and effective with new, rich learning experiences. 
  • "Rather than expecting students to demonstrate prior knowledge and skills, they help students develop that knowledge by building bridges and scaffolding learning." 
    • Know students well including their current skills, interests, passions, and needs.
    • Use the PLC/RTI approach to support student learning with creative, "strengths based" supports and programs.
    • Look at our service delivery as an equation, and collectively adapt and shift  times, numbers, roles, and content to better serve students. 
I'm so glad that the superintendent shared this power-packed passage of words to lead us towards better service and care for all students. This analysis is a beginning look at the words and related practice. I know there's more work to do in this regard and I look forward to this week's related learning event and future collegial work related to the points above.