The collective Get Real! Science blog that each of our classmates writes on once this semester inspired me to take a deeper dive into resources on equity in education this week. I loved the video that Sherin recently posted, “The Danger of a Single Story.”, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichi. The way that the Chimananda Ngozi Adichi ends her speech inspires me as a teacher educator to promote the use of stories in all disciplinary classrooms to promote equity.
“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower and humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.“
This Get Real! Science blog project has increased my use of Twitter and encouraged me to follow different researchers, activists, educators around the country that work with issues of equity in math and science education for all learners. This week, I went back to Twitter to read tweets from a new friend that I wrote about in one of my initial posts, Dr. Pedro Noguera, a professor and researcher at UCLA. Dr. Pedro Noguera was a guest on Jennifer’s Gonzalez’s (another new friend of mine on Twitter) podcast, Cult of Pedagogy. I listened to episode 110 on 10 Specific Ways Educators Can Take Action in Pursuit of Equity.
I love the quote that Gonzalez begins within this episode, “Equity work is not a trend. It is not a new thing.” And she goes on to say that equity is becoming what seems like a new thing because the voices are getting louder and stories are getting told. Stories are getting told. Similar to the Chimananda Ngozi Adichi in the Ted Talk, who believes that many stories matter. Here are the 10 ways that Dr. Pedro Noguera and Jennifer Gonzalez state as ways to pursue excellence through equity in the classroom.
- Challenge the normalization of failure
- Speak up for Equity
- Embrace immigrant students and their culture
- Provide students clear guidance on what it takes to succeed
- Build partnerships with parents based on shared interests
- Align discipline practices with educational goals
- Rethink remediation, focus on acceleration
- Implement evidence-based practices and evaluate for effectiveness
- Build partnerships with the community to address student needs
- Teach the ways students learn, rather than expecting them to learn the way we teach
I love all ten of these, but realize they can be overwhelming for new educators and possibly need to be grouped into larger themes. I decided to draw a concept map to put the list of ten into four broader categories. I titled it “Equity that is Scalable”: High Expectations, Consistent Communication, Empathy, and Relationships.
High Expectations (#1,4,7,8): I love the strategy in the book Teach Like a Champion, by Doug Lemov, “No Opt Out.” It is a slogan that can be used in many ways to communicate as a teacher that “I have high expectations.” About five years ago, the school I was the administrator of was moving to a standards-based report card. The first step was a policy for teachers to not give any child below a 50% on an assignment. There was professional development about the determinants of a 0% on a child’s grade, and teachers were understanding the math behind this new policy. However, many teachers were struggling with giving a 50% to a student who had not turned anything in. My response, “no opt out.” I believe that we must find a way for students to do the work because we know that students learn by doing (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). But doing does not equate to knowing (Lederman & Lederman, 2012). We must make sure the work is meaningful and provides opportunities for sense-making. If the student is not completing the work, let’s first find out why. Does the student believe in the benefit the work? Is it an assignment that has meaning? Are we open to throwing out work that does not give meaning? “No opt out” sets the expectations high for a student, but it also sets the bar high for teachers to make sure we are creating and assigning work that promotes sense-making and is meaningful.
Empathy (#3,6,10): In every lesson plan/ unit plan format that seems to be a place provided for teachers to reflect on what went well in the lesson and what might need to be changed. I found that with all my good intentions of wanting to make time to reflect… reflection time was the element of a lesson that did not consistently get completed. But what would happen if we took time to reflect on our lessons and work? Would it promote writing the insights we learned from other teachers, our students, their parents to promote deeper learning? Would taking time to reflect on a child’s poor choices promote consequences that meet their needs to support and change their behavior for positive growth? Would it give us a space to listen, write and reflect on our story, our students’ stories, and their families’ stories? Making time to reflect promotes empathy.
Consistent Communications (#2,9,10): Use your voice confidently and positively! Each educator has a voice and has the power to make the educational journey a positive experience for all learners. No matter your title, years of experience or position we all have a story to tell that can directly impact our youth. Dr. Pedro Noguera speaks to this point about the opportunity to question and challenge structures, practices, and norms that are perpetuating stereotypes and poor academic practices. This is the power of being a new person in a building because it is easy to see and observe from a new vantage point. Use this opportunity to give feedback and promote best practices. All will benefit from this reflection! I also think consistent communication invites more opportunities to bring all the support structures in a child’s life to the table. There are many new and different ways to communicate with parents/families: apps like Remind, emails, websites. Use them consistently and timely. Use these vehicles of communication to share with families specific strategies to support their child, highlight their child’s work and provide strategies to engage in the discipline of science in their home. As an educator, this was how I ended my week. Each Friday morning, I would draft a parent newsletter, edit it during lunch, and send it off on Friday afternoon. Parents loved this consistent communication and it was a pathway for building relationships.
Which takes me to my last category… Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!
Build Relationships (#5,6,9): Dr. Pedro Noguera states, “We cannot expect schools to do everything. Partner with health clinics, churches, community agencies to address the needs. Build relationships with the local community. Be strategic with the community.”
picture source: https://bestofthesouthbay.com/manhattan-beach-pier/
There is a story in the image of a pier overlooking the ocean. The picture above is the Manhatten Beach Pier in Los Angeles, California. I used this image in many parent conversations when I said, “Your child’s life is like the walkway of this pier. Each beam holding up the pier represents a support system in your child’s life. One beam cannot be responsible for holding up the pier. It takes a shared and unified effort. Like your child’s life, they need many support structures: parents, extended family, Church, community, sports teams, peers, etc. The goal is to increase and strengthen the beams in a child’s life.” As teachers, when we build relationships, we are building beams of support for our students. Increasing students networks will open the door to telling their stories and expanding their stories because “stories matter. Many stories matter” (Chimananda Ngozi Adichi).
I highly recommend listening to Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast or reading her blog at www.cultofpedagogy.com.