Beginning Teacher Resilience: Considerations for Formal and Informal Mentoring

Today’s blogger is Dr. Brie Morettini, who authored “Building Beginning Teacher Resilience: Exploring the Relationship Between Mentoring and Contextual Acceptance,” published in The Educational Forum.

Each year, teacher candidates across the country graduate from colleges of education. Many of these recent graduates already have teaching jobs lined up for the following school year, while many more work earnestly and excitedly on applications for positions.

These beginning teachers are enthusiastic and qualified and possess the pedagogical content knowledge needed to effectively reach the diverse learners who will fill their classrooms. Yet, much more remains for them to learn—so much that it is hard to learn it all in a methods course, a clinical practice seminar, or even through a high-stakes assessment.

For those of us who look back fondly on our years spent in classrooms, the gift of time has rendered our daily challenges and struggles into memories. For beginning teachers, however, these struggles are not memories—they are living, breathing, real elements of their everyday lives in the classroom. The ability to thrive despite the daily struggles of teaching are what we have come to understand as resilience.

Scholarly and practical interest in teacher resilience has emerged as a topic of international interest, as the need to develop a stable teaching force has arisen as a global commitment.

To better understand the nuances of beginning teacher resilience, we sought to develop a study that focused on one rather commonplace aspect of beginning teacher resilience development: mentoring. I recently co-authored a piece with Dr. Kathryn Luet and Dr. Lisa Vernon-Dotson about mentoring as an element of building resilience, which is featured in The Educational Forum and is titled “Building Beginning Teacher Resilience: Exploring the Relationship Between Mentoring and Contextual Acceptance.”

Research shows that beginning teachers who receive mentoring from more seasoned, veteran teachers are more likely to return to their high-needs school than teachers who do not receive mentoring. Mentoring, therefore, has become a widely practiced aspect of first-year induction for beginning teachers in an effort to retain talent and diminish the high rates of teacher turnover that plague the profession, particularly in high-needs schools.

Our study is part of a larger grant-funded project aimed at improving mentor quality by drawing on tenets of sociocultural theory. We maintain that individuals learn and grow when educational opportunities attend to environmental factors and teachers’ specific needs, and when such opportunities progress in logical stages promoting incremental learning and growth. Specifically, the context in which beginning teachers work influences their learning about the nature of the profession.

As part of our grant-funded project, cohorts of mentor teachers received 2 years of intensive professional development on culturally responsive pedagogy, anti-racist education, and critical friends’ groups. These topics were identified through a large-scale needs assessment with teachers from Hillside Public Schools. This represents an organic approach to mentoring targeted at the needs articulated directly by beginning teachers.

The study explores whether and to what extent, if at all, this targeted mentoring support contributed to beginning teachers’ resilience.

What we found throughout our study was that resilience is best achieved through a nested approach. More specifically, beginning teachers begin to build resilience when they experience layers of contextual acceptance: acceptance from students, colleagues, and the larger community. And, mentoring offers entrée into feelings of acceptance from colleagues, which consequently prompts some beginning teachers to feel belonging or acceptance from their students and ultimately the larger community in which they teach. The feelings of belonging and acceptance that a range of mentoring experiences creates for beginning teachers enhances resilience, which helps beginning teachers overcome their perceived lack of preparation for the rigors of teaching, particularly in a high-needs setting.

The beginning teachers in this study referenced the support they received from some level of mentoring, whether the support occurred as formal mentoring required by the state for first-year teachers or as more informal, sporadic mentoring from colleagues. The study illuminates the importance of formal and informal mentoring spaces for beginning teachers and of building a community of support and acceptance so that beginning teachers can manage and overcome the chronic and acute stresses that accompany teaching.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2019.

Dr. Brie Morettini

Dr. Brie Morettini is an Associate Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education at Rowan University. She teaches courses on research literature and analysis, working with families and communities, and inclusive early childhood and elementary education. Her research focuses on beginning teacher identity development, beginning teachers’ perspectives on the profession, and the use of self-study methodologies to uncover and acknowledge epistemological frames.

 

 

The Future is STEM: Why We Need to Engage Girls Early

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in STEM will have higher than average projected growth in the next ten years but only a small fraction of girls and women are likely to pursue degrees in STEM.

Despite many initiatives and efforts, women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

In Cracking the Code, a report on STEM education for girls and women put forth by UNESCO, Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General states: “Only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, or medicine since Marie Curie in 1903, compared to 572 men. Today, only 28% of all of the world’s researchers are women. Such huge disparities, such deep inequality, do not happen by chance.”

The reasons behind why girls and women are underrepresented in STEM fields are complex (see Dr. Yvonne Skipper’s recent KDP blog post).

Microsoft recently funded a research project that indicated that a variety of reasons exist why.  For instance, it was found that girls tend to lose interest in STEM subjects around middle school (Tan, E., Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., & O’Neill, T., 2013). Identity and stereotypes related to membership in STEM fields can have a dampening effect on motivation to pursue STEM for many girls (Shapiro, J. R., & Williams, A. M., 2012). Confidence also plays a big role in motivation and orientation towards STEM fields (Heaverlo, C. (2011). STEM development: A study of 6th-12th grade girls’ interest and confidence in mathematics and science.)

Gladly, research into this critical issue has also demonstrated some proven strategies that work:

  • Teacher and parent influences and role modeling help: studies show encouragement from parents and teachers can have a profound effect on STEM engagement among girls and increases motivation for entering into the field (Rabenberg, T. A., 2013).
  • After-school programs and science clubs: Research also indicates that schools and communities need to invest in and provide space and opportunity for girls to engage in STEM.  (Tyler-Wood, T., Ellison, A., Lim, O., & Periathiruvadi, S., 2012 and Vingilis-Jaremko, L., 2010)
  • Inquiry-based STEM curriculum plays a role: Transforming STEM curriculum from learning and memorizing to doing has, time and time again, shown to elicit interest from all students in STEM: (Burns, H.D. & Staus, N, 2016)

Women make up 49.6% of the world population.

It’s crucial that, as STEM careers and industries grow, women continue to be a strong part of the progression.

The best practices for involving women comes early in their lives through schools, teachers, parents, and communities.

Dr. Mubina Schroeder

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College, where she co-directs the Cognition and Learning Lab.  She is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative and serves on the Board of Directors for the United Nations NGO/DPI.

References

Burns, H. D., Lesseig, K., & Staus, N. (2016, October). Girls’ interest in STEM. In 2016 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) (pp. 1-5). IEEE.

Tyler-Wood, T., Ellison, A., Lim, O., & Periathiruvadi, S. (2012). Bringing up girls in science (BUGS): The effectiveness of an afterschool environmental science program for increasing female students’ interest in science careers. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(1), 46-55.

Vingilis-Jaremko, L. (2010). How Science Clubs Can Support Girls’ Interest in Science. LEARNing Landscapes, 3(2), 155-160.

Rabenberg, T. A. (2013). Middle school girls’ STEM education: Using teacher influences, parent encouragement, peer influences, and self efficacy to predict confidence and interest in math and science

Tan, E., Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., & O’Neill, T. (2013). Desiring a career in STEM‐related fields: How middle school girls articulate and negotiate identities‐in‐practice in science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 50(10), 1143-1179.

Shapiro, J. R., & Williams, A. M. (2012). The role of stereotype threats in undermining girls’ and women’s performance and interest in STEM fields. Sex Roles, 66(3-4), 175-183.

Rabenberg, T. A. (2013). Middle school girls’ STEM education: Using teacher influences, parent encouragement, peer influences, and self efficacy to predict confidence and interest in math and science (Doctoral dissertation, Drake University).

Steinke, J. (2017). Adolescent girls’ STEM identity formation and media images of STEM professionals: Considering the influence of contextual cues. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 716.

LGBTQ+ Families Speak Out

Today’s bloggers are Pamela Baer, Tara Goldstein, and Jenny Salisbury from the University of Toronto. Together, they authored “Pairing Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to Provoke Startling Empathy,” published in The Educational Forum.

Since 2014, our research team at the University of Toronto, led by Professor Tara Goldstein, has been conducting interviews with LGBTQ+ families in four different regions of Ontario about the issues they experience at school and how they work with teachers and principals to create safer and more supportive learning environments for their children.

Our findings indicate that, despite recent safe schools legislation, much work remains in helping LGBTQ+ families feel welcome at school. We have used the transcripts from these interviews to write a verbatim play called Out at School.

It is our hope that these short scenes will provide insight into the ways that participants are living with gender and sexual diversity, while also offering educators, parents, and students strategies for engaging in activism and allyship as they work to create more inclusive schooling spaces for all students. Here are a few excerpts from the play:

Excerpt From Scene 5

You have to start the work at the beginning

KARLEEN PENDLETON JIMÉNEZ

You have to start the work at the beginning. I say, even the earliest, the earliest thing that happened with [my son], was when he was in, maybe preschool or daycare or whatever they call it. You know, he was 4 and they did [this chart]. You’ll see this in the kindergarten curriculum, you know, my, you know, about family, and he had to write my mom’s name is blank, my dad’s name is blank, my siblings name are blank. And up until that time, he didn’t ever think anything was weird about our family. And then, when he had to fill that out, he just started crying, and he fell apart. He was a wreck, probably for a month over that, because the little chart didn’t match. So, [we went] to the teacher, not angry with her, but just, like, “Hey, you know this isn’t just a gay issue, like there are many different kinds of families.” And she started crying. She was really upset that she had hurt his feelings. But [she] just didn’t know, you know?

Excerpt From Scene 7

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

MICHAEL MANCINI 

Mother’s Day and Fathers’ Day were really interesting because early on, the teachers would feel they were supporting us by having our children make Mother’s Day presents for us. But our daughters have birth mothers and they have a relationship with them.

ERNST HUPEL

We are in touch with their birth mothers. So, early on, Milena would go and say, “My teacher said I don’t have a mom, but I do, her name is Heather.” So, you know, the teachers were doing it to actually support us but after our daughters said, “No I actually have a mother” . . . they began to make Mothers’ Day cards for their birth mothers and we send the cards to them and yeah so . . . We get double Father’s Day cards.

MICHAEL MANCINI

It’s a big day.

ERNST HUPEL

It is! It’s like Christmas here.

Excerpt from Scene 7

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

JESS SWANCE-SMITH

[Teachers shouldn’t] assume what a child’s family may look like . . . take their word for it. I mean, if they say they have multiple people in their family, let them make those, you know, 10 Mother’s Day cards that they need to make (Evan and Jess laugh). Or whatever, five Father’s Day cards because maybe there’s, you know, . . . maybe an aunt or an uncle who’s like a father or a mother to them. 

EVAN SMITH

I think one thing I really appreciate is that, for instance, at Mother’s Day, the school wasn’t sure who identified, you know, as a mother, for sure, and so they just sent out like you know a blanket message through our, you know, we have, like, an app we use to communicate with teachers and they sent out a message saying, you know, “We need to know who in your family identifies as a mother and should be getting a Mother’s Day card.”

In addition to the play, which we discuss in more depth in our article “Pairing Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to Provoke Startling Empathy,” we have also published over 300 video clips from these interviews on our website: www.lgbtqfamiliesspeakout.ca. In curating the videos, we had a vision of creating a collection of community stories that can act as a resource for both parents and educators. For examples of two of our video clips, you can listen to parents . . .

…Max & Ryan talk about their hopes for teachers of trans families:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ba7DXaXzmA

…Catherine & Nazbah talk about what they think school should be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpBSp457L24

 

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through December 31, 2019.


​Pamela Baer is a PhD candidate in Pedagogy and Curriculum at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her current research explores the use of applied theatre with young people from LGBTQ+ families to explore their experiences of school through a process of collaborative performance. Pamela is the Research Manager on the LGBTQ+ Families Speak Out project and an Instructor of Applied Theatre at Brock University.

Tara Goldstein is a professor, ethnographer, and playwright in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where she teaches an undergraduate course called Equity, Activism and Education for the Equity Studies program at New College, as well as a graduate course called Gender, Sexuality and Schooling for the Curriculum and Pedagogy program in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Tara also is the Founding and Artistic Director of Gailey Road Productions, a theatre company that produces research-informed theatre on social and political issues that affect us all.

​Jenny Salisbury is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and research interests include contemporary Canadian play creation and devising processes, with a focus on audience, community-engaged theatre, and the role of the artist as researcher. She is a co-founder and Associate Director of The Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research.

Texas Teachers: Obtain CPE credits through KDP’s high-quality professional development

(INDIANAPOLIS)—Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, has been approved as a continuing professional education (CPE) provider for the State of Texas.

KDP offers online professional development to teachers at all stages of their careers through its Educator Learning Network. This innovative space integrates professional development and social networking, making learning fun and engaging. Teachers can access two types of learning experiences through the network for CPE credit:

  • Micro-credential courses: Available on topics like Classroom Management Basics, Social-Emotional Learning, Equity in Data Literacy for Teaching, Principles of Culturally Relevant Teaching, and Student Responsibility for Learning, KDP courses are authored by subject matter experts and delivered in an innovative format. Course length ranges by topic and desired outcomes. Courses are being added regularly. Some courses are free; other courses start at only $49 for members of Kappa Delta Pi and $74 for non-members. To get started with a free account and ePortfolio, visit http://ELN.kdp.org.
  • Webinars: KDP hosts webinars for teachers and administrators on topics such as What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Supporting LGBTQ Students, Data-Driven Decision Making, 8 Strategies for Success in Your First Year as a Principal, Literacy + STEAM = Learning Across All Content Areas!, and more. Live webinars take place approximately twice per month, and all recordings are saved to a catalog that can be accessed free of charge by members and used for CPE credit based on completion.

For teachers who prefer in-person professional development, KDP also hosts an international annual Convocation.

  • Educational Sessions at Convocation 2019: More than 180 breakout sessions will be a part of KDP’s programming at its annual conference, taking place October 24–26, 2019 in Norfolk, VA. Teachers can save by registering before October 3, and you can find the full schedule at https://www.kdp.org/convo2019/schedule/index.php.

With more than 3,600 active members in Texas already, KDP is looking to expand its offerings to improve teacher retention in the state. Teachers can join Kappa Delta Pi for only $50 annually by visiting our website at http://www.kdp.org.

School districts throughout the State of Texas are encouraged to contact Michelle Melani at michelle@kdp.org or by calling 800-284-3167 for a demonstration and information about using KDP courses for your teachers’ professional needs.

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About Kappa Delta Pi
Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, is a 501 (c) (3) professional membership association established in 1911 to foster excellence in education and promote fellowship among those dedicated to teaching. Today, the organization remains committed to supporting teachers by cultivating growth, leadership, and professional community—while celebrating the impact of the teaching profession. More than 1.2 million women and men have been initiated into KDP, and our diverse membership includes educators at all phases and levels of their careers. Presently, KDP is comprised of more than 700 active chapters and nearly 40,000 members worldwide.

Download the press release by clicking here.

Truth Talk: Conversations About Race

Khasnabis

Dr. Debi Khasnabis

Today’s bloggers are Debi Khasnabis and Simona Goldin, who co-authored with Ebony Perouse-Harvey and Margaret O. Hanna to write “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Race permeates every thread of the fabric of society in the United States, regardless of whether we recognize and speak to it.

Simona Goldin

Dr. Simona Goldin

This truth is stitched throughout all aspects of public schooling, from the gaps in academic learning opportunities that children of color experience relative to their White peers, to the racial marginalization of children at recess. This truth weakens the fabric of the institution of schooling.

As teacher–educators, we support beginning teachers in seeing and responding to the ways that race pervades children’s experiences in classrooms.

In doing so we help them leverage the knowledge that children of color and their families bring to their work in schools as well as repair the rips in the social compact.

Our current research, highlighted in “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice” in this issue of The Educational Forum, is inspired by our awareness that children’s full sets of knowledge are often unseen in schools. Children of color, especially, are unlikely to be seen for their knowledge. This invisibility occurs in instructional moments when that knowledge is related to students’ racial or ethnic identity.

What does it look like when children’s knowledge is made invisible? 

A common refrain heard in schools is “That’s racist!”

Digging into this, we were initially surprised to learn what young children identify as “racist.”

When children are raised to be “colorblind,” they can think that referring to people by their racial identifiers is racist.

What are the effects of this? From Black colleagues, we learned that their race-conscious children who had been raised to recognize, discuss, and analyze race and its associated qualities were silenced by their peers and teachers in discussions of race.

One colleague’s son, after referring to a Black person as “Black,” was hushed by a peer and told “That’s racist!” This also occurs in instructional interactions when children of color speak about race and racism. When they are silenced, what becomes invisible is their racial literacy and fluency, their advanced and sophisticated knowledge.

More than just students blister at direct discussions of race in classrooms. Teachers also frequently steer clear of discussions having to do with race.

A teacher candidate once consulted with Debi after two Black students in her science class critiqued a Bill Nye video as racist.

The students’ critique rested on their judgment that the film featured fewer people of color than White people. The teacher candidate expressed trepidation about how to handle this accusation, especially as she saw nothing “blatantly racist” in the film. She wondered how she could convey to the students that their critique was inappropriate.

These everyday occurrences affect the health and vibrancy of classrooms.

In addition to silencing students, they fail to leverage and mine the racial fluency and expertise that some students, especially students of color, can bring. Further, students whose racial fluency is undeveloped lose out on critical opportunities to speak directly about race and racism, to practice having substantive discussions about inequality, and to construct, together, a pluralistic society.

We argue teachers should model interest and engagement in the child’s thinking. When students use racial identifiers, teachers should perk up, as this is a sign that their students are bringing reservoirs of knowledge about race to this discussion. This knowledge is a rare and precious resource.

When students launch racialized critiques, this shows their teachers that they have reservoirs of knowledge about oppression.

Recognizing students’ reservoirs of racial knowledge for what they are—assets to be built upon for learning—is in the interest of the child and the learning community.

When we silence these discussions, we uphold normative ways of being that support White supremacy.

Simona Goldin teaches courses pertaining to the sociology, history, and policy of schooling in the U.S. She conducts research on ways to transform the preparation of beginning teachers to help them teach in more equitable ways and has elaborated the teaching practices that bridge children’s work in schools on academic content with their home and community-based experiences. 

Debi Khasnabis is a clinical associate professor of education and the chair of elementary teacher education at the University of Michigan School of Education. She teaches courses focusing on multicultural and multilingual education and conducts research on pedagogies of teacher education that support the development of culturally responsive teaching and understandings of inequality in schools.

We Are Fully Aware That We Are Facing a “Global Learning Crisis”

But What Are We, As Americans, Truly Doing To Solve Our Own Education Crisis?

Shortly before the 2019 International Youth Day, the United Nations General Secretary, Mr. Guterres, stated that the world is currently facing a “learning crisis.” The UN Chief also mentioned how pivotal it is for students to not only learn, “but to learn how to learn.”

One of the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that all students have access to an inclusive and equitable education.

As a first-year teacher and sociology of education graduate student, I believe that before we can solve our “global learning crisis,” we must acknowledge that in our very own backyard, here in the United States, our public education system is failing our students.

In fact, in his book, City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, Dr. Pedro Noguera expresses how as a nation, we are aware that our public education system is failing our children and youth. Yet, very little is being done to ensure that our students receive an inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education.

For that reason, as a first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, I agree with Dr. Noguera, “we can’t wait for permission to do what’s right.”  We simply cannot wait for our elected officials to establish equitable policies, nor can we wait for the “political climate to be right.” Real change happens from below.

With that being said, come September, in my third-grade classroom, my top priority will be to ensure that I provide my students with a high-quality education. An education that will enable them to challenge and enhance not only their thinking, but the thinking of their fellow classmates and teachers as well.

When we provide students with the necessary skills, they are given the opportunity to make a difference in their world.

To end, I urge all teachers, specifically all first-year teachers “to not wait for permission,” as per real change can certainly occur in their very own classrooms.

Kevin Cataldo

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Climate Change: An Opportunity for STEM Education

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College and is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative.

In preparation for the upcoming Climate Change Summit at the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated:

“We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.” 

Climate change and its far-reaching effects on the lives of everyone in the global community represent a unique challenge for society—and a unique opportunity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. STEM educators often contend with ways to promote scientific literacy.

How can we create the next generation of critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and solution engineers?

One pathway is to promote awareness of socioscientific issues (SSI). Zeidler and Nicols (2009) describe SSI:

“Socioscientific issues involve the deliberate use of scientific topics that require students to engage in dialogue, discussion and debate. They are usually controversial in nature but have the added element of requiring a degree of moral reasoning or the evaluation of ethical concerns in the process of arriving at decisions regarding possible resolution of those issues. The intent is that such issues are personally meaningful and engaging to students, require the use of evidence-based reasoning, and provide a context for understanding scientific information.”

Climate change is an issue that affects every corner of the world, and students in every classroom may be witness to some of its effects. 

Several regions in the world have experienced unprecedented heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather events–all because of climate change. The beauty of teaching using an SSI approach is that socioscientific issues often are complicated and multifaceted–allowing STEM pedagogues to be creative in teaching about them.

Some great resources on teaching about climate change can be found here:

References

Zeidler, D. L., & Nichols, B. H. (2009). Socioscientific issues: Theory and practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(2), 49.

How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

Sources

Black & Brown Face: How Representation Combats Eurocentrism in the Classroom

James Baldwin (1960), an American novelist, playwright, and activist, once said that children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

It’s easy to see how this can relate to blatant racism, but how are we as educators contributing to our students of color feeling locked out of the environment we have created?

Our students are absorbing more from what they see and feel than what they are being taught; thus, the materials we choose to use and the scholars of the discourse we share can have a profound impact on our students.

I recall reading all these amazing stories for our required reading textbooks about young White men who go on adventures in the woods, often with their dogs, or I would learn about these brilliant mathematicians and scientists who changed the world with their theories and inventions.

None of them looked like me.

The people that students of color would learn about came from recycled lectures about ancient Chinese dynasties during Lunar New Year, Latinx warriors during colonialism, or oppressed Black Americans during Jim Crow.

Consuming that type of media can be traumatizing for students of color because we see ourselves in those limited stereotypical references.

To Baldwin’s point about imitation, how could children of color imitate their elders if they did not see themselves doing miraculous things in science, music, math, and art?

Before 2008, children of color, especially Black children, were told that they could become anyone they wanted to, even the president of the United States. It was just something parents of color said but never really believed until Barack Obama was elected.

The importance of representation is buttressed in view of the record number of people of color and women candidates running for the 2020 presidency. As educators, we can offer our students a diverse set of heroes by selecting materials that are more inclusive and less Eurocentric.

Having an Inclusive Environment

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is incomplete in my view and should be adjusted to, “It takes a diverse village to raise a child.” As part of this diverse village, keep in mind that every figure you choose to share with your students will become part of their village as well; therefore, choosing solely Eurocentric figures will suggest a White supremacist approach to your teaching that would taint the safe environment you worked so hard to establish. Once you get to know your students and establish an environment that is safe and productive, you can maintain this environment by making MUSIC in classroom.

Make them the experts. As you make room for discourse in your classroom, give your students the room to speak about the topic as it relates to their background or cultural upbringing.

Use your resources. We teach groups with anywhere from 18 to 30+ people, and each one of them have unique experiences, so it might be wise to pull from who you have in your class. Scholars come from every part of this world; bringing that culture into your classroom will make that student feel seen and heard.

Support your students’ unique perspectives. Every student is an important addition to the cohort, and their feelings should be validated. Your students may be speaking from cultural perspectives that might be foreign to you, and it is important not to mischaracterize their zeal.

Involve yourself as the learner. In a student-centered classroom, discovery should be at the forefront of your lessons. Allow space for posing questions to which you do not know the answers and collaborate ideas for solutions with your students.

Combat the overuse of Eurocentrism. Your students are listening and watching very closely to the things you say and choose to share. Even when teaching a predominantly White group of students, we have the capacity as educators to use resources that are not part of the Western canon. Reflect upon the hidden curriculum you might be imposing upon your students.

As we continue to create environments that are inclusive of other cultures, we will simultaneously deconstruct the limitations of the colonial mindset and rewrite more complete narratives.

Resource

Video: “Changing the Stories We Have Inherited From Colonialism,” with Priyamvada Gopal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOnBiHHPLm4&t=13s

Collin Edouard is currently a Gates Cambridge Scholar working on a Master’s of Music in Choral Studies. He earned a BFA in Vocal Performance at The City College of New York, and an MA in Music Education at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Reference

Baldwin, J. A. (1960, July). Fifth Avenue, uptown: A letter from Harlem. Esquire.

Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).