Right now our schools are closed and we are facing a national crisis that is exposing inequities in education like never before. Teachers are struggling to maintain relationships and engage students. Students are struggling to find the motivation and the resources to succeed. When this pandemic is over, schools will have to rebuild their communities, their relationships and readjust their expectations. To successfully rebuild authentic relationships, we must recognize the role race plays in our society, in our schools and in ourselves. And we must know how to talk about it.
Leaders from Rumi to Grace Lee Boggs to Whitney Houston have all reminded us that we can’t achieve love, liberation, or transformation externally without first loving, liberating, and transforming ourselves. We have to start by looking in the mirror, loving ourselves, and being the change we wish to see in the world.
When we as teachers teach by example, our students become more engaged and can witness the process at work. This simple assignment, meant to stretch my students, also challenged me. I reflected on my practice, and it helped our school level biases. When students have the agency to problem solve, it also opens the doors for us as teachers to lend to the process. When we think about the many ways to impact change in the daily educational experience, we often forget those voices who are being educated. When asked, my students thought critically about change and learned how to advocate in the process. Their voices were valuable in the conversation to improve education, instructional procedures, and operations.
“What will your students remember in five years?” was a question asked during one of our professional learning sessions with Transforming Education. Usually when you recall a memory, you associate it with a certain emotion - whether that is happiness, sadness, excitement, or anger. When building lessons for our novels this year, I wanted to focus on that question in my 7th grade English class. What will my students remember from this? What could I teach that would build a deeper connection to their own emotions? That is how I came up with this unexpected yet rewarding experience.
Young. Gifted. Black. I remember as a youth hearing others speak of me as an intellectual but completely rough around the edges. The truth was, I was a high risk student by all measures - I grew up in an impoverished one-parent household in a rough inner city neighborhood where some temptations swallowed other boys like me. I survived, but by all measures I probably shouldn’t be where I am today - excelling as a successful father, husband, and educator. How did I do it?
When educators make over 1,500 decisions on a daily basis, how do we ensure that these choices are consistently oriented toward the holistic development of each of our students? This is the question that our team at Detroit Prep and Detroit Achievement Academy sets out to answer each school year as we develop our annual goals.
Supporting our Trans, Non-binary, and Gender Non-Conforming Students through Mindfulness and an Anti-Oppression Framework
Jersey Cosantino, teacher and student of mindfulness studies, explores the ways that educators can offer mindfulness through an anti-oppression lens to our transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students. By integrating mindfulness practice and anti-oppression work, educators can offer students an additional tool to build resilience and foster positive-emotional well being.
I think about growth mindset all the time, almost daily. The first time it reveals itself to me is in the morning when my twelve-year-old daughter asks me to braid her hair before school. You see, I’m not good at it. Usually I am rushing through the process because of the stress of weekday mornings and the fact that I know I’m not very good at it.
As a Black woman who grew up in Hartford, I know all too well the potentially fracturing effects of not teaching the Whole Child. I was mistakenly labeled as a special education student instead of having my social and emotional needs addressed. After discussions about my home life (being separated from my parents and siblings and placed in foster care), being taught social skills, ethics and coping mechanisms, I began to flourish...
This isn’t going to be polished, because the process of thinking through issues of equity is messy. This isn’t going to be definitive, because no one has all the answers, least of all me. And it isn’t going to be confident, because writing about this feels very risky. But it is going to be authentic and, to the degree possible, self-aware.