When I met Jacob Chastain, he was a middle school ELA teacher at a Title 1 school. He was eccentric, and clearly brilliant, and he loved his job. He was a high level thinker all the time. He asked great questions of his students, and expected great things from them. The problem was not all of his students were able to join in the conversation. Because he had a very teacher-led conversational tone and style, where most of the discussions were whole group conversations, some students could just kind of hide in the back.
So here’s what I really admired about Jacob –
He was able to hold the interest of most students through the questions he asked.
He really enjoyed his job – and the students knew it. So they responded to him well.
He had fantastic ideas. He was brilliant, and it showed.
This was the opposite of how I approached my classes. I was very structured and organized, and had lists of tasks for my students to do to keep them busy. I didn’t think at super high levels – in fact, after 10+ years of working with struggling students, I found myself even having a difficult time thinking at higher levels!
It was several years ago that I met Jacob, and he has sense gained more skills and added more tools to his toolbelt and refined his craft to be a really dynamic teacher and leader. I was honored to be a guest recently on his podcast Teach Me, Teacher.
To bridge this story into Culturally Responsive teaching, this is what we were both missing in our classrooms in those earlier days, but for different reasons. Jacob needed to be able to scaffold his strugglers up to his level, and I needed to push mine. We both loved our jobs. We both loved our students. But we both had something missing.
I’m thankful that I got to work with Jacob and other teachers like him, because I learned so much from them. Teaching is all about being life-long learners, and learning from others who are pouring their heart out for kids as well!
Here is Part I of the podcast. This will definitely bring clarity to Culturally Responsive teaching!
We will drop Part II next week (which will be focused more on instruction), and then we’ll jump right back in to talking about our English Learners – specifically our long-term ELs!