Yesterday I posed a number of big ideas related to the achievement gap. Today, I'm thinking more about what I can do in the days ahead to bridge the gap.
If families and students are interested, it's great to get to know students' neighborhoods and homes as that will be a point of reference for the year. This knowledge also helps with relationship building. One colleague plans bowling events in students' neighborhoods to learn about children's homes and environment.
Small, relaxed lunch meetings work to build student-teacher relationships in positive ways.
Students See Themselves in the Curriculum
Use problems, stories, news articles, and information that relate to students' interests, experiences, and needs regularly. Survey students before the year starts or early in the year so that you can collect/create related materials.
Access to Resources
Make sure that all students have access to the best materials for learning.
It's easy to give up on students and/or families that don't complete homework, respond to newsletters, attend parent conferences, volunteer to help out, or ask questions. Yet, it's vital that you don't give up. Instead be proactive. Make the time early in the year to meet with families to describe the curriculum program, provide access to learning materials, and learn about families' needs for contact, communication, and support.
Make sure that signage in the room responds to students' interests/needs and also promotes the best of what we can do in school.
Many students come to school with myths about learning potential and ability. Replace myths that lead to a lack of confidence with information about learning-to-learn behaviors and mindsets in order to empower students.
Share the story of success often through stories, videos, expert visitors, and live performances. Give students models and mentors to follow and lean on as they learn.
Answer Questions and Ask for Advice
Listen carefully to students' questions and respond with honesty. Ask students for advice as to how you can teach them better. Students often know exactly what they need.
Watch students carefully. Notice when they are successful and when they are not. See what empowers a child and what defeats a child. Use your observations to inform better structure, effort, and endeavor.
Give all students the chance to lead. Find opportunities where they can be in charge and positively affect the school environment. Often working with younger students serves to uplift and empower older children. School and classroom jobs can empower too. When students are given positions of leadership and power, their classmates begin to see these students differently.
Teach well so that students learn a lot. When students have essential skills they are empowered. Make sure the constructs are in place for positive, uplifting learning.
This is a starting list of what I can do to bridge the achievement gap in the year ahead, what else would you add to the list?