Equity and Access News Letter

Elementary Edition October 2018

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Speaking Up At School by Teaching Tolerance

The work of learning to “Speak Up” starts in preschool and continues through high school. Two important questions to ask yourself are “what climate do I want in my classroom when it comes to bias situations and how can I create that atmosphere? “ These two questions are the first steps towards prevention and intervention. Language and content are also crucial for all grade levels to have as they learn to speak out against biases. Likewise, building a community in your classroom and putting ground rules in place is vital to the success of speaking up.

Teaching Tolerance has created some basic strategies to use inside and outside of your classroom:

1. Interrupt: Teachers from all grade levels can use this strategy: It is critical that you speak up every time it happens. If not it sends the message that you are inconsistent in your approach. Temper your response and ask a question, “Why did you say that?”

2. Question: Asking simple exploratory questions can be helpful, for instance: “tell me what you mean?” or “Tell me more about that?” Your tone is essential in these conversations; you want to be gentle but clear. The goal is to uncover the root of the speakers prejudice and dispel them.

3. Educate: As an educator, we can always find teachable moments. During those moments we can stop what we are doing to model the appropriate behavior. We have the opportunity to share with the class how hurtful their negative comments or bullying is. The educator is in a position to remind the students that words can hurt whether they are said to the person's face or behind their back. Let them know how important it is to be an ally for the person and to speak up on their behalf. Let them know that you intend to create a safe, caring atmosphere for all students.

4. Echo: Be the first powerful voice to interrupt bias. Remember interrupting is essential for all grade levels. Speak Up.” Every time, in every moment, and without exception. "STOP" whatever you are doing and address the bias, prejudice issues with a gentle unbiased tone.

“Speak Up at School.” Teaching Tolerance, www.tolerance.org/magazine/publications/speak-up-at-school
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Did You Know?

Discipline with Dignity: The Power of Prevention

It is extremely rare for teachers to go through an entire school year and not have a student that is late, that gets along with everyone, keeps their impulses in check, does their work, and know how to disagree respectfully. Educators would love to have this perfect classroom with perfect behaviors. But the next best option is how to create an environment that prevents behavior problems. Prevention begins by realizing that many of our students come to school with challenges and many unfilled basic needs. Some of these unfilled needs that are fueling their inappropriate behavior according to Discipline with Dignity are the following:

  • Identity: Relates to how we view and what we feel about ourselves. As an educator, it is important to notice how students think about themselves and try to connect with those feelings. When students learn to accept who they are, a healthy self-attitude can be attained which changes the way they think of themselves.

For example, you can ask the student to think of three things they like about themselves, you can help a student that does not have friends develop friendships and as you move around the room smile and let your students know that you notice them.

  • Control: Is built on the desire to have real choices, and to make a decision that counts. Like adults, the student does not like the feeling of helplessness. It is likely that the more choices you give a student with power issues the fewer problems they will create. As an educator provide them with the opportunity to make decisions both academically and behaviorally without making it sound like a treat.

For example, you might say “You can sit down now or take a few minutes standing in the back of the room where you will not interrupt the lesson. Which makes the most sense to you?”

  • Fun: Is a basic human need. Everyone likes to have fun.

Make it fun, the more fun a class is the least likely you are to have a behavior problem. Some teachers feel that some lessons are just not fun. However, if we focus on how to teach as well as what to teach an element of fun is possible.

Take math as an example; you can lecture the students or make it fun by having the student participate by moving around the room to demonstrate the equation.

As we look at the prevention mindset from the students perspective, appropriate behavior is achieved when; students feel connected, believe success is attainable, feels respected, heard, and thinks that their classes are relevant to something that is of interest to them.

Curwin, Richard L., et al. Discipline with Dignity: New Challenges, New Solutions. Hawker Brownlow Education, 2009.

What's In Your Tool Box?


In a trauma Informed classroom we need to have tools that will help students self-regulation. In the article “Forty Things to put In a Calm Down kit for Kids” there are ideas to help you build your own kit according to the needs of your students. These tools are helpful to calm, promote relaxation and self-regulation.

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Book of the Month

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter

The story of Sonia Sotomayor is one of determination and bravery. Sonia Sotomayor grew up in poverty and prejudice, but against all the odds became the first Latino to be nominated to the United State Supreme Court. She did not have a lot growing up. However, her mother’s love and Sonia's will to learn was more than enough. She worked hard to become the person she desired to be, and with great effort Sonia was successful. With only a modest place in the Bronx to work and grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the entire world to see.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx can be found in Springfield Public Schools Libraries


Coming Events

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