5 Ways to Provide Meaningful Experiences in the Classroom

Providing effective instruction is the key to supporting a student’s education. An important component of such instruction is the facilitation of engaging activities that will promote questioning and diverse conversations around subjects that are relatable to your students. The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4, which encourages quality education for all, promotes innovation and creativity. This goal can be advanced through your classrooms in five ways.

1. Collaboration

Organize collaborations amongst teachers and students on a weekly basis to foster a positive school environment. Grade team teachers can plan periods that are centered around whole group and small group instruction across the grade level. For example, dedicate a social studies period to joining three classes together for small group projects.

2. Peer-to-Peer Intervisitations

Following the path of collaboration, create differentiation of instruction through peer-to-peer intervisitations. The purpose of having students from one class visit students in another would be to pair students who have similar interests or strengths together and challenge them to develop their critical thinking skills. Guided reading groups would be a great channel for this because they can move at their own pace and be challenged through essential questions and inferring techniques.

3. Authentic Conversations

Commit to the SDG #4, quality education, by developing real connections to the students you teach and invest in. Individual conferences are valuable because the teacher becomes the learner. Students can teach the teacher about their culture through the labels that they add in their writing, their word choice, and the narratives that they share through the process of storytelling.

4. Professional Development

Work with other teachers during professional development to try out a new protocol that you are interested in using in your classroom or school. Fellow teachers can assist you in trying out a protocol prior to introducing it to your students. By sharing your ideas with colleagues, you can demonstrate your ideas and receive insightful feedback to make it better before presenting it to your students.

5. Social Media!

AAs members of Kappa Delta Pi, an organization that prides itself in promoting educational resources and successes, feel free to share your classroom activities on social media and celebrate your progress on meeting educational goals. This would support the SDGs, particularly within quality education, by sharing successful teaching experiences with educators across the world. If you are doing amazing work in the field of education, please share it with the UN using the twitter handle @GlobalGoalsUN and the hashtag #GlobalGoals. Have you found ways to reach out to friends, family, or colleagues about the success you have had with projects surrounding education? Please share below!

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a graduate student in the Literacy Specialist program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She chose to become a UN Youth Representative to be able to offer a unique approach to education.

Intersectional Thinking as a Tool for Educational Equity

(L-R) Roderick L. Carey, Laura S. Yee, David DeMatthews

Today’s bloggers are Roderick L. Carey, University of Delaware; Laura S. Yee, Georgetown Day School; and David DeMatthews, University of Texas at El Paso, whose essay on intersectionality appears in The Educational Forum.

Anthony is an 11-year-old Black boy in Ms. Johnson’s fifth-grade classroom. Although he’s a contributing classroom citizen, well liked by his peers and eager to excel, Ms. Johnson struggles to sustain his interest in reading. She restructures reading groups, attempts to draw connections between popular television shows and the content of books, and even purchases titles portraying racially diverse children and topics that other Black boys in his class seem to find interesting: cars, machinery, sports. Shunning even books that portray Black boys, Anthony retreats further. “I still don’t see myself in these books!” he exclaims.

Mr. Richardson, the principal at a racially and ethnically diverse U.S. high school, noted that toward the end of the year, more boys than girls enrolled in advanced math and science courses for the following year. To remedy this disparity, he used a grant to create a summer enrichment STEM program geared toward girls. However, very few Latina girls enrolled. Yesenia, an enthusiastic Latina sophomore, declined to enroll in the program because of the overnight travel required. She noted, “I can’t take that time away from my job and family this summer.”

What similarities do Anthony and Yesenia’s school and social experiences reflect? What similar yet unsuccessful thinking did Ms. Johnson and Mr. Richardson use to engage their students?

Perhaps intersectionality, a concept more regularly taken up in women’s studies, political science, and sociology, can provide some insights into these school-based challenges. Intersectionality describes the co-relational forces of how oppressions such as (but not limited to) racism, sexism, and classism interlock and intersect simultaneously within the lives of individuals. Intersectionality has been adapted as a way to understand that forces like race, class, and gender (as well as ethnicity, sexuality, age, and nation of origin) may not stand alone in their impact on individuals’ lives.

Schools are not free from such dynamics; they mirror and perpetuate them. So, intersectionality pushes educators to view the complexity inherent in students’ lives, drawing attention to the sometimes hidden yet critical domains of oppression that overlap in the experiences of students who most often struggle to secure success in schools.

Why didn’t the interventions put in place by Ms. Johnson and Mr. Richardson work for Anthony and Yesenia? Both students are marginalized for multiple facets of their identities.

A closer look reveals that Anthony faced marginalization not only for his race, but also in the way his race intersected with gendered expectations for Black boys. Anthony, a young Black boy from low-income circumstances, was also questioning his gender expression, and so the reading interventions missed the mark by not considering this crucial nuance. Mr. Richardson’s STEM program for girls considered gender but did not take into account intersections of gender with ethnicity, class, and cultural norms. Removing Yesenia from her home, even for supplemental educational, could prove difficult for her recently arrived immigrant family without significant supports in place.

In our article “Power, Penalty, and Critical Praxis: Employing Intersectionality in Educator Practices to Achieve School Equity,” we argue that intersectionality provides educators deeper insights into the lives of their students. Educators or youth service providers implementing interventions to create equity and address disparities caused by societal oppression must utilize intersectional thinking to more precisely meet the needs of their increasingly diverse student populations. Employing intersectional approaches to PreK–12 policy and practice supports the possibility for better shaping and enacting critically refined curriculum and programs. Intersectionality can prove to be a highly effective tool in deconstructing taken-for-granted notions of our students and how best to serve them.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Carey, Yee, and DeMatthews’ essay with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through February 28, 2018.

A Framework for School Safety and Risk Management

This year’s holiday season marked the fifth anniversary of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Since 2013, there have been at least 272 school shootings in the United States—about one per week, according to Everytown USA, a nonprofit organization that researches and reports on public gun violence. In 2017 alone, there were 64 shootings at schools and universities, with 31 of those resulting in injury or death.

As Everytown USA asks, how many more students will have to die before legislators pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives?

Until that question is settled, teachers and administrators are on the front lines of protecting their schools from targeted shootings. In a new article published this month in The Educational Forum, school violence expert Ann Marie C. Lenhardt, professor of counseling and human services at Canisius College, reports on “A Framework for School Safety and Risk Management: Results from a Study of 18 Targeted School Shooters.”  With coauthors Lemuel W. Graham and Melissa L. Farrell, Lenhardt expands on the long-term study they first reported in the Forum in 2010.

According to the authors, although awareness of targeted school violence has increased in the last decade, school-based mental health services and resources with a framework for threat assessment and prevention are still largely absent. The authors’ current paper builds on their previous study of 15 cases of targeted school shooters between 1996 and 2005, which focused exclusively on school culture, peer/social dynamics, and disclosure of intentions. The new paper focuses on 18 premeditated cases (16 incidents) of targeted secondary school shooters between 1996 and 2012, using publicly available resources to look at the contextual root variables.

In their new paper, Lenhardt and her coauthors examined 22 indicators in three areas—individual factors and behaviors, family dynamics, and triggering events—and found that the higher the number of risk factors present, the greater the potential for violent acts.

According to the authors’ data, environmental factors within the family may play a key role in how an adolescent responds to stress. Results showed that 94% percent of the shooters had demonstrated a lack of resiliency or an inability to rebound from an unsatisfactory experience, hindrance, or insult. This lack of inner resolve or self-confidence, coupled with poor coping skills in 83% of the shooters, was the deadliest combination of indicators measured. In addition, 67% of the shooters felt alienated, had been bullied, or had issued a violent threat. Five indicators were present in 61% of cases: signs of depression, lack of empathy, poor anger management, intent to carry out threats, and a history of previous threats or attempted suicide. Most of the shooters (83%) had access to weapons in their homes.

The authors recommend that teachers and principals use the study’s indicators to identify students at risk of violent behavior, and then take these steps to preclude school shootings: enhance mental health services in schools, include threat-assessment services, and promote family engagement in services. Everytown USA points out that in addition to the heartbreaking losses from targeted homicides, affected schools experience a drop in student enrollment and a nearly 5% decline in surviving students’ standardized test scores.

Lenhardt and her coauthors note that all students who receive counseling support services can become more resilient and, as a result, will be more likely to achieve academic and life goals.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Lenhardt, Graham, and Farrell’s research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through January 31, 2018.

Educators Play an Important Role in Teaching Tolerance

On November 16, 1995, UNESCO’s 50th anniversary, Member States adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. Instead, it is respect and appreciation for the rich tapestry of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression, and our ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse. Only tolerance can ensure the survival of diverse communities in every region of the world.

Along with outright injustice and violence, discrimination, prejudices, and bigotry are common forms of intolerance. Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgment, ethical reasoning, and critical thinking.

The diversity of our world’s many cultures, ethnicities, religions, and languages is not a pretext for conflict, but instead is a treasure that enriches everyone. Every day, let’s build new bridges of tolerance, trust, and understanding.

Fighting Intolerance Requires Education
Laws are necessary but not sufficient for countering intolerance in individual attitudes. Intolerance is often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the other, other cultures, nations, and religions. Intolerance also is closely linked to an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride, whether personal, political, national, or religious. These notions are taught and learned at an early age. Therefore, greater emphasis needs to be placed on education. Greater efforts need to be made to teach children about tolerance, neutrality, human rights, and other ways of life. Encourage children at home and in school to be open-minded and curious. Education is a life-long experience and does not begin or end in school. Endeavors to build tolerance through education will not succeed unless they reach all age groups, and take place everywhere: at home, in school, in the workplace, in law-enforcement and legal training, and not least in entertainment and on the information highways.

Tolerance Education in Schools
A number of school officials recognize the need to teach tolerance and promote appropriate curricula. What students learn in the classroom needs to be reinforced in other aspects of their lives, which requires parent involvement. Students may confront their parents about their bias toward people unlike themselves. We still need to discover effective strategies for teaching students how to peacefully confront their peers, family, and friends. Learning should also focus on the values, attitudes, and behaviors which enable individuals to learn to live together in a world characterized by diversity and pluralism. Today, educators have reaffirmed John Dewey’s ideas with a sense of urgency for the interventions required for schools to address social injustices and to promote values of democracy and tolerance (read Hollingshead, B., Crump, C., Eddy, R., & Rowe, D. (2009). Rachel’s challenge: A moral compass for character education. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(3), 111-115.).

Do we need to organize tolerance workshops to educate parents as well? If yes, what specific topics should be addressed?

Components of the Tolerance Education
Teaching tolerance to young children is important for continuing further educational programs and reinforcing the message over time. To that end, educators have developed age-appropriate materials. For instance, a curriculum might include the exploration of meaningful texts, classroom exercises from newsletters, and newspaper sections directed toward younger audiences. Additional methods might include short theatrical productions and role-playing exercises. Instilling critical thinking skills, creating role-playing, and cooperative learning have proven effective teaching tools. Teachers need to be clear about how and why we make the choices we do, about whose stories matter and why, and about the values we use to make those judgments. What classroom activities do you plan to teach students about tolerance?

Summary
Educating students about other cultures, ethnicities, religions, and genders helps them understand people different from themselves. Students’ ability to recognize and understand diversity leads to greater tolerance. It will also will help them to attain a high level of performance in schools, the workplace, and eventually their career. If you have any great experience or success story from your classroom, please share it with KDP.

Educators play an important role in teaching tolerance. High-quality educators demonstrate neutrality and objectivity, and remain unbiased. They teach their students to truly embrace every human being’s individuality”

Srecko Mavrek is a teacher at KAPPA International High School and adjunct lecturer at CUNY’s Hostos Community College in New York City. He is a Kappa Delta Pi NGO representative to the United Nations.

 

The Researcher’s Responsibility in Communities of Color

Today’s bloggers are professors Gholnecsar E. Muhammad, Georgia State University, and Bettina L. Love, University of Georgia. They describe here the background for their interest in Critical Community Conversations, which they recently wrote about in The Educational Forum.

Throughout history, researchers have come into communities of color to engage families and conduct research in unethical and inhumane ways. In these events, researchers have used our communities for profit or self-gain without working to advance these same communities or without deeply learning from or listening to community members.

Perhaps the most well-known case is the Tuskegee trials, conducted between 1932 and 1972, when U.S. Public Health Service researchers persuaded roughly 600 Black male sharecroppers into a clinical study by telling them that they would be given free medical care, meals, and burial insurance. Two-thirds of the men participating in the study had syphilis, yet were never informed of their disease or given a treatment for their illness, although a cure existed when penicillin was developed in the 1940s. They were lied to and told they were being treated for “bad blood” when, in fact, they were not.

Instead, the treatment was withheld; many of the men, and some of their wives and children, died as a result. It wasn’t until 1997 that President Bill Clinton offered a public apology, calling the experiment shameful and racist.

An earlier example, in 19th-century South Africa, was an enslaved Khoisan woman, Saartjie Baartman, who was taken to Europe so that pseudoscientists could “study” her body and “investigate” her sexuality due to her body shape. They wrongfully concluded that Black women have a greater sexual appetite.

During their research, Baartman was raped, tricked, and forcibly put on display (sometimes in a cage) in a museum for lookers to observe and mock. When she died in 1815, her body was dismembered and displayed in a French museum until 1974. Her remains were not properly buried in her homeland until 2002.

Neglect of and disregard for Black bodies in so-called research does not begin or end with these two cases. Although ethical and more humane research standards have since been put in place, we still question the authenticity and carefulness of researchers as they study communities of color, including their intent, their honesty, and the ways they represent and write about Black and Brown youths and families.

As we continue to engage with communities, conduct research with communities of color, and prepare the next generation of researchers, we are mindful that elements of the unethical research of the past can be and have been repeated today. This charges us to ask:

  • Do educational researchers love the people in communities of color and the participants in their studies?
  • Are researchers going into communities for self-gain or merely to publish in journals from the problems that Black and Brown youths experience?
  • Are researchers receiving substantial funding for their studies while the communities they study get no benefits from those dollars? Are researchers of color employed on these funded projects?
  • Are researchers deeply listening to and being positively changed by people of color?
  • Are researchers treating people of color as positively as they write about them in research articles?
  • Are researchers displaying honesty and integrity in their methods of collecting information? Or again, are researchers merely taking the information they desire and leaving people unhealed? In other words, are we seeing modern-day Tuskegee trials in educational research today?

We have found from our personal experiences that we need to ask these questions and understand who is being given consent to study our people and our communities. We need university researchers to have a keen awareness of the responsibilities and the impact they can have in authentically partnering with community members. We purposely use the word “authentic.”

So often we have found that researchers come in and take from communities of color because those are the sites of the greatest needs used to problematize their research. We have observed researchers talk about social justice in articles but not display the same awareness in day-to-day life.

The responsibility we have to communities of color is also one takeaway from our Critical Community Conversations in the Atlanta area. In this work, we remind others and ourselves that our intentions and actions must be grounded in lessons from history, intersectionality, and anti-colonialism.

There is a history of hypocrisy when it comes to researching and engaging communities of color, and we know that element of history is still present today. We must go beyond good intentions and continue to question our actions as educators and researchers. We purposefully start our questioning with love because, as we remind ourselves each day, love is the first responsibility we have.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Gholdy and Bettina’s research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through December 31, 2017.

Seven Tips for Preparing for the PRAXIS Elementary Education Exam: Multiple Subjects (5001)

The Praxis Education exams must be passed by those who want to become professional educators. Most states require the test for Education students. The exact Praxis tests you will take depends on the grade levels and the content areas you plan to teach. Because the test is computer-based, take time familiarizing yourself with the process of Praxis.

The 5001 Praxis Multiple Content Area Exam includes questions based on all of the major content areas for elementary education, including mathematics, social studies, science, and reading/language arts. . The reading and language arts section represents the majority of the questions with 80. The social studies section has 55 questions, while science and mathematics each include 50 questions.

Since this exam covers all of the major content areas, it is best to be prepared properly. The 240Tutoring PRAXIS Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects 5001 Study Guide has 1000 practice questions to help you prepare.

Education exams are expensive, so the best strategy is to spend as much time as possible preparing. A worst case scenario is having to retake the test in a few months because you failed due to inadequate preparation. You can avoid this scenario by spending some time with the practice questions and reviewing these tips.

  1. On the day of your Praxis exam, arrive early to the test center. If you’re running late, you might not be allowed to take the test, thus wasting the money you spent on the test. To avoid any surprises, view this short video on what to expect on test day
  2. The testing center prohibits all electronic devices. They do not allow drinks or food either. Leave your phone in your vehicle and put it out of your mind for the next four hours.
  3. Eat a good breakfast that will not leave you hungry in an hour, but don’t eat so much food that you’re groggy or running to the bathroom every so often.
  4. The Praxis exam is scored based on your correct answers. If you are unsure about an answer, make your best guess. There is no penalty for missing a question. Remember, you get credit for correct answers, you are not penalized for wrong answers.
  5. Read questions carefully. Missing a question based on a technicality or carelessness is avoidable. Some questions require more than one answer, while others require you to select a sentence, while others might require you to select an entire paragraph in a story. Never assume what the question is asking, read it carefully before answering.
  6. Since your Praxis exam covers all content areas, determine what grade level is implied within the question. For example, you would probably not give the same math advice to a kindergarten student as you would to an eighth grader. Read closely to determine which age group to the question refers to.
  7. Finally, if you are unsure about an answer, you are allowed to mark it and return to it later. The test is long and you can easily become frustrated when you’re stuck on a problem. Simply skip the problematic question and return to it later. The time crunch won’t feel so oppressive if you know you have one remaining question and 30 minutes to solve it.

Follow these tips and keep calm while taking the Praxis 5001 exam. Half of the battle is arriving to the testing center with a positive attitude. Watch the video so you know exactly what to expect. Spend time leading preparing for the exam by doing practice questions. After all, without preparation, you are actually preparing to fail. With proper preparation, you’ll have a great shot at passing the exam the first time you take it!

Scott Rozell is the Director of 240Tutoring, Inc. 240Tutoring is the premiere provider of PRAXIS study guides and has helped over ten thousand teachers pass their certification exam and get into the classroom.

5 Tips for Introducing Your Style in a Mentor Teacher’s Context

After weeks of observing, co-teaching, and getting a feel for the school, my mentor teacher finally hands over the reins of the classroom and says, “Now it’s your turn. What would you like to do?”

It can be tricky to introduce your own teaching style and values into your mentor teacher’s classroom context, especially if your styles are different. Overcome the challenge of establishing your approach while maintaining respect for your mentor teacher with these tips.

  • Be open and honest.

Keep your mentor teacher in the loop with your lesson planning, especially if it deviates from what your mentor teacher normally does. Don’t be secretive or try to surprise them with what you are going to do. If you tell them what you are thinking and planning, they can offer their perspective, suggestions, and additional ideas.

  • Ask for permission.

To respect your mentor teacher and their space, there are certain ideas that you should run past your teacher before implementing. For example, ask them for permission before rearranging the desks in their room or assigning students homework. It is better to ask for your teacher’s permission and support than for their forgiveness.

  • Support your decisions with research.

If your mentor teacher disagrees with your instructional choices, find research to share with them to explain your decisions. You also might provide your mentor teacher with successful examples of other teachers implementing your idea. If your instructional plan is backed by research, you’ll more easily convince your mentor teacher to let you try it in their classroom.

  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

There are times when your mentor teacher will share ideas for your lesson that you do not want to use. For example, my mentor teacher showed me several short stories I could use in a lesson I taught on discrimination, but I chose a different story that I thought the students would like better. It is okay to say no to your mentor teacher’s ideas; just be respectful and polite.

  • Put students’ needs first.

The goal of your instruction should be to do what is best for your students’ learning. Sometimes you will need to be honest with yourself and consider if you want to use a strategy because it sounds fun or because it will help students better understand the material. If you believe you are teaching the content in a way that genuinely puts the students’ needs first, then stand by your choices.

Finding the balance between introducing your teaching style and respecting the authority of your mentor teacher is challenging for all student teachers, but this is the time to establish your identity as a teacher and test some of your own ideas in the classroom. You only get one student teaching experience, so be confident in your values, take risks in your lesson planning, and try something different.

Resources:

Ms. Upah is a student teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is currently in a seventh-grade classroom where she enjoys interacting with her unpredictable yet inspiring students. She is passionate about language arts, reading, and educational technology … and blogging. Find her latest posts at https://www.lightbulbmomentsblog.com/ or on Twitter @upahk.