Editor’s Note: Teachers have a special leadership role to play with their students, with their colleagues and with the communities they serve. As a new school year begins in the wake of the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Teacher Katy Reedy of Educurious offers a powerful call to action in this guest blog. Pass it on!
While no consolation, the tragic events in Ferguson have brought a national conversation about racial inequality to the forefront. Prominent politicians from both sides of the aisle are talking about everything from inequities in the judicial system to root causes such as the educational opportunity gap that exist for students of color.
In light of the current events, let’s take time to reflect on this important aspect of our practice.
To start, consider this simple but powerful framework from Mica Pollock from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in her book Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School.
“Educators need to keep asking a basic question: which of our everyday acts move specific students or student populations toward educational opportunity, and which acts move them farther away from it? When considering any given action (e.g., a particular disciplinary practice), educators can draw a simple number line and literally ask one another: do we think this act is moving the students in question closer to educational opportunity, or farther away from it? Why? What is our evidence?” (Pollock, p. 24).
Think how much of a difference it might make if this was the first question on everyone’s lips in our schools!
Here are The Cultural Competence 9 compiled and combined from various definitions, by no means a complete or definitive list, but intended to be a starting point for your own thinking and planning. Read it, be refreshed, and thanks for all you do in your classroom to work towards closing the achievement gap.
- Have high academic standards and expectations for each and all students. Exude publicly, positively, and enthusiastically the belief that each student can achieve those standards. (I am who I think, you think, I am).
- Get to know your students well: academically, socially and emotionally. Visibly demonstrate a connectedness with each one of them.
- Welcome students into your room as a place that is also theirs by including representations of students and their cultures in the classroom.
- Vehemently promote and protect psychological safety for everyone.
- Scaffold, make room for, develop and champion the intellectual leadership of students who have been disenfranchised.
- Apprentice your students into the learning community. Don’t assume they come to you knowing how to be successful in your class. Teach the skills and routines they’ll need to be successful even if you think they already know. (Some won’t!)
- Deeply know the cultures represented in your classroom. Intentionally build connections between in and out of school experiences.
- Demonstrate to students that you value their home culture and language. Help them understand code switching, as well as when and why.
- See all students as developing experts. Remember that lexile level does not correlate with a student’s ability to engage with challenging ideas. Provide scaffolding into cognitive skills to allow opportunity for students to think deeply about content. Actively coach students on the road to developing the skills to participate fully in the construction of knowledge.
List gleaned in large part from materials from the National Equity Project.
This post originally appeared in the Educurious Hot Topics e-newsletter. Reprinted with permission.
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