Most of us started out 2020 with a lot goals. Having “2020 Vision” seemed to be a very popular theme, and we felt ready to take on the world. And then March hit. And 2020 became a year of reactivity instead of proactivity. Many of you within the education world barely kept your head above water, and that’s totally understandable! Change was the name of the game. Flexibility became the norm. I watched districts move entire campuses and even grade levels from face to face instruction to virtual instruction in a matter of days, and then back to face to face in a week. How do you get ahead of this? As a teacher? As an administrator?
Well – enter 2021. And unfortunately, at this time, it doesn’t look much different than 2020. Uncertainty is definitely the umbrella you are operating under. But I think most can agree that 2021 will be different. Because now we know what do to in uncertainty. We don’t have to get over the shock of kids getting sent home for 10 days on dime. Or instruction jumping from one forum to another. Teachers (and students) are getting more comfortable and fluent in technology, and perhaps most importantly, expectations have been adjusted.
So it’s time to get back being our best for students. Although the instruction will still look different in 2021 than it did in 2019, we are no longer just surviving. It’s time to start filling some of those inevitable academic and social-emotional gaps that have only deepened in 2020, especially for the students who started the year already behind. The second half of the school year doesn’t have to be a waste, and it shouldn’t be! They don’t have time to waste! So what if there are only 9 students sitting in a classroom. Shouldn’t those 9 students get 100% of that teacher? So what if kids aren’t turning in virtual assignments. Shouldn’t the kids who are turning in assignments get 100% of the teacher? So how do we help struggling and marginalized students thrive?
It’s not shock what I know the answer to be – Culturally Responsive Teaching!
I want to talk for just a second about how to be proactive in culturally responsive teaching! How to equip your teachers with the tools they need to move their students into success. Before I jump into this, I want to put somewhat of a definition on cultural responsive teaching, as I feel the meaning may get lost sometimes.
Cultural responsive teaching takes into account the cultural and economic backgrounds of the students to design instruction that moves all students towards academic success. It’s a whole-child approach that is centered on building an alliance with the students and their families, and then building a learning environment and instruction that meets the students where they are and moves them into where they need to be academically. It doesn’t “dumb down” material or expectations, but instead provides the supports and scaffolds needed to move the students into being independent learners – capable of problem solving and thinking at higher levels. How exciting is this?!
I think a good visual of the need for culturally responsive teaching is this – my kid is in 5th grade. He plays baseball, attends church, goes on family vacations, has a set bedtime, is expected to read for 20 minutes on school vacations, and has 3 meals a day. He has a friend in his class. We’ll call him J. J has moved apartments twice this year. He doesn’t live with his mom. He doesn’t know exactly where is his mom is. He stays up late playing video games and doesn’t have any books at home. His only set meals are the ones he gets at school. He is athletic, but doesn’t play organized sports. He helps care for his younger siblings in the evenings. Both boys are 10 years old. Both are sitting in the same reading class. Both have the ability to have opinions, make predictions, recognize inferences and understand imagery. But if you teach them both the same way, one will do well, and the other won’t. Enter culturally responsive teaching.
Why is this so powerful?
1.) Teachers gain a better understanding of their students’ persective when they understand their deep culture (collectivist or individualist), and move into an alliance.
2.) Teachers can design instruction based on the deep culture of students.
3.) Teachers can identify their dependent learners and intentionally move them into being independent learners by providing language supports, environmental supports, scaffolds, systems, and alliances that move the students into independence.
4.) Teachers have high expectations but provide the scaffolds and language instruction needed for students to move to the higher level.
5.) Teachers can create instruction that is relevant to their students.
There are so many more reasons to move your classroom and/or your campus into cultural responsiveness. We are here to help!
1.) Subscribe to our YouTube Channel: Jenn Kleiber. This is not just a shameless plug. We make no money off of this. These short videos are bite-sized strategies and ideas for being culturally responsive in the current climate. Share them with your teachers!
2.) If you are an adminstrator, click here or visit http://www.pressing-onward.org and request your free book, Building a Bridge from “I Can’t” to “I DID!”: Creating Independent Learners through Culturally Responsive Teaching.
3.) Administrators: Join us on January 14th from 8:00 – 9:00 PM for the Grace, Grades and Guidance Administrator Symposium to hear a panelist of adminstrators discuss what worked in 2020, what didnt, and how to be innovative in creating next steps from here! There will be a Q&A afterwards. Visit http://www.pressing-onward.org for more info and to register (it’s free – you just need to reserve your spot)!
4.) Partner with us for virtual and face to face PD! Visit to http://www.pressing-onward.org for more information and to see the New Year’s package we have for your campus!
Ya’ll – it’s time to be proactive again. Let’s start 2021 doing what’s right for students and teachers!
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