Equity and Access Newsletter
Elementary Edition August 2019
Ready, Set Teach
One of the most powerful things we can do this school year is to build positive relationships with our students. All students must feel safe in their learning environment and comfortable enough in that environment to take a risk. Your students may not remember all that you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. As they walk into their classroom, they should feel safe, valued, and ready to learn.
Here are a few tips to help create a safe learning environment:
- Smile to start the day: A smile a day will make all the difference for your students. We have no idea how our students day began or what went on the night before. But we can set a positive tone by greeting them with a smile, by telling them how happy we are to see them or a handshake.
- Praise effort, not correct answers: Praising effort and thinking gives students the courage they need to take a risk, and it increases their ability. Likewise, it gives them a growth mindset, which implies that the brain is a muscle that stretches and grows with hard work. Instead of feedback like you got it right or that is the wrong answer, try, “That’s a thoughtful response" or “You are going to master this in no time.”
- Build relationships over time: Create an environment that lets your Students know you genuinely care for them and want them to succeed. Get to know your students, make time for small conversation with them, and have them write about themselves, listen to them with your heart and find out what their hobbies and interests are.
The days are going to get busy, and lessons must go on, but those moments of relationship building will be the glue that holds this school year together. Remember it’s a marathon, not a race. As you give this school year your best you’re giving spirit will catch on, and your students will replicate it.
What's In Your Tool Box?
How to Bring Diversity Into The Classroom
America is becoming more diverse every day. According to the Census Bureau, by the year 2100, the U.S. minority population will become the majority, with non-Hispanic whites making up about 40% of the U.S. population. And while the school population is changing, the teacher population is projected to remain the same. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2011-2012, over 80% of classroom teachers identified as white.
As we begin a new school year, it is vitally necessary to focus on diversity and inclusion. Teachers must be able to use classroom instruction to support a diverse student population. It is important to remember that diversity is not just about race. Culturally relevant teaching prioritizes the analysis of academic performance that recognizes the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, and being able-bodied.
Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:
- Class Norms: Be explicit about how your class will show respect to each other, and share ideas and values. Challenge negative stereotypes immediately. Create class norms together and be flexible and ready to amend them.
- Culturally Relevant Teaching: Gaining an understanding of cultural differences that impact the lives and learning of students, visiting the neighborhood where students live, and striving to see the strengths of their communities. The value of this experience includes exposure to their cultural backgrounds, family structures, interpersonal relationship styles, and perspectives on discipline, time, traditions, and holidays. Value the students' culture, heritage, and bring this information to life in the classroom. Which helps you to make positive connections with your students, increase their engagement, and self-esteem.
- Purposeful Planning: Conversations about diversity can be uncomfortable for students and teachers. It is essential to plan your lessons careful primarily if your class discusses sensitive topics. Before you plan Consider:
- Text: consider multicultural books that explore history or opinions from different perspectives.
- Discourse: When planning, find ways that you can facilitate, rather than lead, the group discussion. As the facilitator, try to get your students to take the lead and listen actively and respectfully to each other.
- Differentiation: Is an integral part of equity in educational access. When planning, consider how you will differentiate your lessons for various learners and learning styles.
- Participation: When planning your lesson, consider equity in participation. Some students are vocal while others are not. Plan ways to keep all students engaged so that every student’s ideas are shared and represented.
- Community Involvement: Invite parents, family members, and people from the community into your classroom as guest speakers. Allow them to read a book or share information that relates to their culture.
Allowing students to have diverse cultural experiences adds value to the learning experience and prepares them for life outside the classroom.
“Three Tips for a Welcoming Classroom.” NEA Today, neatoday.org/new-educators/three-tips-welcoming-classroom/?_ga=2.250442114.565290382.1564584549-1336078086.1564584549.
Bennett, Nneka A. “5 Ways to Promote Equity & Diversity in the Classroom.” Kickboard for Schools, www.kickboardforschools.com/blog/post/5-ways-to-promote-equity-diversity-in-the-classroom.
The Story Of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
On Ruby Bridges' first day of first grade (November 14, 1960), she was escorted to school by four federal marshals. Ruby spent the entire day in the principal’s office as irate parents marched into the school to remove their children. Over the coming year, Barbara Henry, a young teacher from Boston, began to teach her in a vacant classroom.
Ruby Bridges was an extraordinary little girl that did extraordinary things. She displayed character traits like courage, respect, and persistence; she never gave up. Education was important to Ruby and her family. No matter how difficult, she was at school every day. I want to encourage you to share this incredible story with your students and let them know that they can be a picture of courage too!
The Story Of Ruby Bridges is available in Springfield Public Schools Libraries.