Equity & Access Newsletter

Secondary Edition - August 2017

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Courageous Dialogue about Race - How to Talk to Students

The violence this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, shocked the country with the display of actions by the groups present. As a nation, we struggle to balance our founding father’s belief in freedom of speech for all Americans with civil discourse. Across the country, citizens acknowledged that acts of violence are intolerable. The video footage we witnessed provided a powerful reminder that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done when it comes to issues of race. Have we come as far as we thought we have? Are racial tensions on the rise and with whom? Why does race continue to matter today? Is it relevant to our students today?

Discussions regarding race can feel difficult to navigate. When incidents like Charlottesville happen, how do we discuss them in a meaningful and safe way with students? It begins on the first day of class, and it is reinforced every day by our actions.

Teachers generally feel the greatest success and create safe havens by:

  • Setting ground rules for civility WITH their students. Take time to set the stage on how you and students will listen to and speak to/about with civility.

Example: The Four Agreements when having courageous conversations

  1. Stay Engaged. Even when the topic is difficult, it’s important to continue the conversation.
  2. It’s okay to experience discomfort. Conversations about race can be difficult. Recognize that discomfort but don’t let it dictate your level of engagement.
  3. Speak your truth. Your experiences are your own and they matter; so it’s important not to minimize where you come from..
  4. Expect/Accept non-closure. We all have different viewpoints and experiences and we will not always agree and some discussions won’t come to a finality. As you have conversations, look for understanding as opposed to figuring who is right.

  • Providing students the opportunity to journal to reflect on their feelings about various topics. Free writing can be a great outlet for some students; especially if they’re not concerned about punctuation, grammar, syntax, and spelling.

  • Teaching students to use “I” or “My” statements as they share their viewpoints or beliefs. Model this yourself, and hold students accountable for their own experiences so they have the opportunity to tell their truth.

  • Creating and maintaining safe spaces for your students. Students (and adults) need reminders of the ground rules and to be held accountable for following them to build spaces where students feel emotionally safe to learn.

  • Acknowledging that complex issues can’t be solved in 5, 10 or 30 minutes, but that as we dialogue with civility, we begin to understand each other.

Want to know more strategies to facilitate difficult conversations?

Let's Talk! Discussing Race and Racism with Students

How one teacher in Charlottesville will talk to her students about what happened

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Ready - Set - Go!

Welcome back as SPS celebrates its 150th year educating students. Hopefully, over the summer you've had the opportunity to rest, recuperate, and grow in your learning to support students and families. The Equity & Access Office is excited for the upcoming year to continue sharing various resources and viewpoints. One of our roles is to support students and families navigate the school system. Especially if people have had negative experiences with school (regardless of the district). As our student population continues to shift, it's important to include those multiple voices/perspectives. As educators, we must continue to increase our level of competence in order to make student experiences engaging, relevant, and personal.

Feel free to use the Canvas Equity & Access page which includes additional curriculum resources with diverse perspectives. We will continue to add resources throughout the year. Please let us know if there are certain topics you would like for us to cover.

Equity & Access Canvas Page

What's In your Toolbox?

Building a Growth Mindset

This year, one of the focuses will be on the growth mindset. We will cover various topics that may benefit your growth mindset as an educator and how to transfer that knowledge on to your students. Most of you have heard or read Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. We will be using the Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher's Month by -Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve book as a resource to develop the mindset we want to impart on our personal growth as well as our students.

Annie Brock and Heather Hundley define the two mindsets. Fixed mindset: “Assumes that intelligence and other qualities, abilities, and talents are fixed traits that cannot be significantly developed.” People with a fixed mindset believe the notion that a lot of our abilities are fixed or predetermined and they can’t be developed no matter what we do. Growth mindset: “Assumes that intelligence and other qualities, abilities, and talents can develop with effort, learning, and dedication.” The growth mindset doesn’t worry much about what they can’t do; they focus more on learning opportunities and ways to get better with hard work and perseverance.

The resources below will help guide you through the first chapter.

Brock, Annie, and Heather Hundley. The growth mindset coach: a teacher's month-by-month handbook for empowering students to achieve. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2016. Print.

Welcoming Schools Have Inclusive Classrooms

When students arrive to class on the first day there can be a lot of excitement; and for others, there can be some anxiety. How do we let students know that their classroom is a place where they can feel safe, seen, included, and valued? Here are some ways to help your students feel welcome so they can focus on being accountable for their learning.

Watson, Sue. "10 Simple Ways You Can Create a Non-Threatening Classroom Environment." ThoughtCo. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2017.

Equity Champions at Each Site

For many years the high schools have had diversity club sponsors; engaging diverse students promoting social/diverse issues, various activities and helping with scholarships and the college process. This year, each school will have a "Champion" that will support each site with the equity and access issues specific to their building.

If you're interested, please connect with your principal.

Be Mindful of outside stressors that may affect your students

There can be numerous outside stressors that are happening in the political scene that could affect your student's academic performance and emotional well being. Immigration, travel bans, refugee and sanctuary cities - ANY of these political issues have the potential to affect students in your class. If these issues are on our student's minds, we need to make sure that we provide the support needed. Remember; perception is your reality - regardless if it's true or not.

Upcoming Events

Steps 2 EmPowerment is Coming! Thursday, September 28 - 9 am - 2 pm @ MSU Plaster Student Union (High School students).

This year's Steps 2 EmPowerment (formerly known as STEP) have a slightly different format than previous years. Several workshops will be offered (depending on grade level) to help students get a better grasp of who they are and how can we can with their college aspirations. This program is intended for our Hispanic students. Students and staff will receive additional information soon.

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