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.

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.

 

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.

Bridging Social Capital in a Full-Service Community School

Today’s blogger is Xiaoxia A. Newton, an associate professor in the College of Education at UMass Lowell. She reflects here on a research article she and her colleagues recently published in The Educational Forum.

Sofia Vargas (a pseudonym) is a 17-year-old sophomore attending the Advancement Academy, an alternative urban high school in the Northeastern United States. Like her peers at the school, multiple factors place Sofia at risk: poverty, a history of high-level behavioral referrals each year, multiple course failures due to her inability to meet course expectations or refusal to complete course work, and an ongoing mental health condition. Two years ago, the Advancement Academy began the process of transforming itself into a full-service community school (FSCS) with the support of multiple community partners and funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The FSCS initiative is transforming Sofia’s life by providing opportunities for bridging social capital, a scholarly concept that describes the connections or relationships between individuals in various social groups or networks. Prior to receiving any FSCS services, Sofia had an average 20 to 30 behavioral referrals each month. Since her involvement in the FSCS services, Sofia’s behavioral referrals have been drastically reduced, and she has not had any referrals in many months.

Most important, Sofia’s outlook on school has become more positive and self-regulated, as she is often asking teachers for her progress reports and course credits.

Sofia’s teachers commented on how she is like a new student, and they unanimously nominated her for a teacher-student award. Despite still going through periods of behavioral and emotional distress (often related to out-of-school events), Sofia now has a support network of school staff and community partners working together to address her holistic needs.

My colleagues and I showcased Sofia’s story and the Advancement Academy’s FSCS initiative in a peer-reviewed paper in The Educational Forum (Newton et al., 2017). The empowerment evaluation approach we chose allowed us to move beyond focusing solely on numeric indices but instead on engaging key program stakeholders in building our understanding of the problems they try to tackle and prioritizing our evaluative inquiry.

We chose the Empowerment Evaluation (EE) framework to guide our evaluation work because of the fit between the program design and the key features that characterize EE. The program attempts to address a complex social problem and therefore adopts a whole-child approach that engages multiple community members and is at the very beginning stage. On the other hand, EE focuses on improvement and empowerment, emphasizes collaboration between evaluators and stakeholders, and employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. Given the program design, its context, and its stage, EE offers an ideal framework guiding our evaluation effort.

Several lessons emerged from our work that invite more questions than answers. For instance, are numeric indices adequately capturing the richness of individual stories (like Sofia’s) as the school is transforming some if not all of its students’ lives? How do we think of scale in this context? As university researchers, the empowerment evaluation approach has forced us to move out of our own methodological comfort zone and wrestle with conceptual, methodological, and logistical challenges when doing this line of evaluation work.

Meanwhile, Sofia’s story is an example of the opportunities for bridging social capital that full-service community schools can offer students placed at risk.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Xiaoxia and colleagues’ research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through November 30, 2017.

Research from The Educational Forum: Lifting the Smog: Coaching Toward Equity for All

Today’s bloggers are Jacobe Bell and Reshma Ramkellawan, self-employed instructional coaches in New York. They reflect here on what led to their research article recently published in The Educational Forum.

A man stabbed, his fresh blood splattered all over the bodega counter. A crumpled body in the middle of the street, framed by paramedics, police officers, and weeping bystanders. What was supposed to be a rare lunch break with school administrators became a day that shook Jacobe to her core. It’s not every day a teacher wanders onto the scene of a murder. But Jacobe will never forget the incident for another reason: the perceived indifference of the school administrators. She still wonders if their response might have been different if the murder victim had been of a different race or a higher socioeconomic class. Who knows? What we do know is that a person’s lived experiences affect how they interact with and think about others. What causes educators to become desensitized? What causes educators to see some people differently than they see themselves?

We don’t have simple answers to these questions. Our experiences as instructional coaches, however, have allowed us to gain insight into how teachers develop nuanced understandings of the students they serve in the contexts in which they choose to teach. Smog and Discourse (Tatum, 2003; Gee, 2015) are two theoretical concepts that explore how our subconscious is a manifestation of our lived social, economic, racial, and cultural experiences. In the case of Discourse, implicit beliefs around class, economics, and education are articulated in our word choices (e.g, “these kids can’t do this,” or “stuff like this happens everyday—no big deal”).

Teachers engage in these language patterns because they are surrounded by smog that reinforces their beliefs. The administrators’ reaction to the murder scene is an example of this. They likely had been bombarded by media reports and personal experiences that perpetuated the image of the school community as violent, aggressive, and dangerous. This district in particular has several police officers on consistent patrol. As a result of their lived experiences, administrators (and teachers) often subconsciously fail to see the narratives of their school constituents beyond their own psychological constructions of them. No one ever wants to believe they have made their implicit biases explicit, whether they have chosen to work in an urban setting with children of color or in any community where ethnicities and races are different from their own. However, we cannot always control the smog within which our psyche formulates meaning of the world, especially if we do not have a say in our formative experiences. Institutional racism has significant influence on the smog we are surrounded by and its manifestation in Discourse.

As women of color, we are keenly aware of subtle indicators of racism. We want as many allies as possible in the fight for educational equity. In order for urban educators to be true allies, it is imperative that all of us spend time unpacking the reasoning behind the things we say, the topics we choose to teach, and manner in which we enact pedagogy. As instructional coaches, we help teachers unpack belief systems that impact the instructional decisions they make. It can often be uncomfortable having these difficult conversations with teachers. The approach we ultimately utilized, outlined in our article in The Educational Forum, relied on the foundation of trust and good intention that we established with our teachers. In order for us to ask difficult inquiry questions (e.g., “Why do you believe your students are incapable of learning?” or “Did you notice your tendency to make deficit-oriented statements?”), the teachers we coached needed to understand that we were not judging them for the Discourse and smog that shaped who they are. Rather, we wanted to support their transition to empathetic teachers who are responsive to the needs of their students, moving toward equity for all.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Reshma and Jacobe’s article free with the education community. Access this article and the whole issue at Taylor and Francis Online, free through October 31, 2017.

How Does Our Garden Grow?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to teach a kindergarten class. I spent days designing the lesson, and I will never forget the look of excitement in the eyes of the students as they participated in the lesson I created. A seed was planted; I wanted to become a teacher!

All teachers are responsible for inspiring students to contemplate and investigate career pathways as well as promoting college and career readiness. Teaching is one of those careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages throughout the nation in all geographical areas, subject areas, and grade levels (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, 2015).

While grow-your-own strategies have included initiatives, such as alternative licensure programs, formal efforts have not included the classroom teacher in the recruitment of future teachers. Teachers of all grade levels have the expertise to grow-their-own through purposeful efforts.

  1. Identify potential educators and plant the idea in their hearts and minds. Ask if they have ever considered becoming a teacher, then follow the question with specific, descriptive feedback on why they think they could be a successful educator. Encourage capable students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Include parents and guardians in the mission. During formal and informal conferences, share why their child would be a successful educator. Collective efforts produce an abundant harvest.
  2. Use “yes . . . but” in conversations to emphasize the positive aspects of the profession. Make it a practice to follow a voice of concern with a statement on the joys of teaching. Be mindful of how encouraging messages about teaching can influence a student who is entertaining the thought of teaching. Consider how your reactions to the challenges of teaching enhance and contribute to the grow-our-own approach. All careers have challenges, yet students in the public schools typically do not regularly interact with other career professionals nor do they hear about their difficult times. Teachers are part of a student’s daily life. Consequently, explicit positive messages are important during difficult times.
  3. Share your story. Reveal the motivation behind becoming a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Describe the events and special people who inspired the decision. Telling one’s own story inspires prospective educators and serves as a reminder as to why you entered the field. Reconnecting to your vision of teaching revitalizes your spirit and strengthens your mission of inspiring others to consider teaching. Share the chapters of your teaching life so that your students might begin writing their own.
  4. Create opportunities to explore teaching. Ask students to serve a mini apprenticeship as a teacher’s helper for a day or a week. During this time, reveal the positive aspects of a career in teaching. At the end of the apprenticeship, recognize the student with a certificate, a tangible reminder of the special event. This guided practice enables students to discover the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference in the lives of others. Students also can be assigned to work with teachers in the younger grades to build confidence in working with others while experiencing education from the teacher’s side of the desk. Student organizations, such as Educator Rising, provide the framework and support to encourage a career in education. Furthermore, Educator Rising promotes interest by allowing high school students to “test-drive” teaching and empowering teachers to act as ambassadors for teaching (Brown, 2016). These ongoing opportunities for practice exposes students to the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference.
  5. Think like a marketing agent and visually promote your profession. Positive messages in the classroom can inspire future educators. Posters that celebrate teaching and the power of learning can motivate students to consider a career as an educator. Highlight successful teachers on a bulletin board or in published news articles. Have students create works about teachers who have influenced them.
  6. Be a role model. Attract students to teaching by simply doing what you love to do: teach. Be the professional your students want to emulate. Welcome your students at the door with a smile. Facial expressions, attitude, and social interaction become your runway moves. Positive actions and reactions serve as fertilizer that encourage students to perceive education as a desirable calling.

The opportunity to teach during my senior year in high school planted the seed for a fruitful career in education. Teachers have the capacity to grow-our-own. Encouraging students to consider a teaching career begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Teachers hold the solution to cultivate and mentor the next harvest of teachers to make our garden grow.

Dr. Kathleen Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Secondary Education at Eastern New Mexico University. She teaches courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supervises teacher candidates during student teaching, and serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the College of Education and Technology. She is also the counselor of the Omicron Upsilon chapter at ENMU.