What does it look like to have a classroom that functions under the paradigms of equity?
Often in trainings, people say, “Build relationships”, “Work on class culture”, “Encourage Autonomy”.
What does that look like practically? What shifts do teachers need to experience in order to walk on a path that leads to equitable classroom culture?
If you recognize that we have real issues in our schools today with access for all students, and you’re interested in having or leading these conversations with colleagues, then you must be a teacher who can T.E.A.C.H.
Talk to your kids.
One of the biggest ways that I have found to share a journey with my students is to talk to them. I tell them all the time how happy I am to have a job where I get to spend my day working with them. I teach both academics and behavior.
When I see things I don’t think will help them achieve their goals, I will support them. You must be generous with encouragement, but also passionate in rebuke. Both are good for kids. Both are necessary.
Don’t discipline when you are angry…and tell them that you will give them a consequence after you have time to cool down. All of these things help students to see the correct way to handle conflict.
Social media is such a prevalent part of our teaching universe. There are so many fantastic resources and ideas available to us at the touch of a button. That said, we’ve got to be so careful about gimmicks that don’t give kids the depth necessary to be life long learners.
This doesn’t mean that there is no room for teachers to try new ideas, but those ideas should reflect your personality and teaching style.
For example flexible seating might seem cool, but if your management isn’t good or your kids are not ready for that type of freedom, you’re in for a long year. Lately there’s a ton of teachers standing on chairs and rapping away. If that’s not your music, or you aren’t interested in re-enacting some version of Dead Poets Society in every lesson, you can still reach kids if you’re organic and interested in growing WITH them.
Share your passions with them, and give them an opportunity to share theirs with you!
Amplify the Marginalized
Students require autonomy and voice. The battle for equity starts with teachers, but our students stories are their own. We should not profit off that as teachers.
With whatever platform you are given, work to see that ALL students can get access to an education that is rich and deeply meaningful to them. If you are about tech, you can also talk about equity for learners. If you are about literacy, you can also be about equity for learners.
Use your voice to make sure your kids get access to what they need to achieve their goals.
Confront Bias, Self Gratification, and Appeasement
This one is huge. There are far too many edu-celebrities out here that are about building their brand on the backs of kids. They use their ample platforms to achieve their own ends.
They put their students out front to bamboozle folks into thinking that they are about black and brown kids or kids living in poverty, or refugee populations…whatever is their flavor of the minute. They have no desire to confront bias in ed. That might ruin their brand.
They only want to throw kindness like confetti and have their large egos stroked with likes, tweets and hearts every time they drop another hashtag to start another trend. They are masters of faux humility while consistently self-promoting. Being likable is a currency. Frankly folks, I’m over all of that. These folks can have a stadium full of seats. If you’re only here for the glitter of teaching and you’re not about removing the grime, you can miss me with that. I’m here for the work.
Hunger for Learning
My students teach me new things about myself and my practice every day. I am so thankful for that. It’s been 20 years and I’m still as excited about going to work every day as I was the first year. Be open to the idea that when things don’t work in the classroom, you can change that through reflection and shifting paradigms to meet the needs of your learners. Be willing to go to PD on things that will help you with your population of learners. Make sure that the PD that you’re going to is also going to infuse ideas for making learning accessible to all of your students. If your conference is not confronting issues of equity, if your PD does not put that front and center, then, it’s probably not truly addressing the real issues of students in the classroom today. It will not help you to root out what is necessary to reach your learners.
These five tips are not exhaustive, but are just a starting point for how you can work on your mindset about equity.
What are elements in your teaching practice that have helped you to open your eyes to issues that are confronting our students today?