DIVERSITY IN THOUGHT: A TEACHER EDUCATION PROBLEM

Horace Mann, the founding father of American public education pitched his premise that public schools should be formed and controlled by the people, non sectarian and embrace children of all religious, social and ethnic backgrounds – in short, I interpret this to mean schools were to be community centered, diverse and culturally responsive.  Though those words were not the words to describe the need at that time the concept could be easily translated.

See when Mr. Mann espoused his humanitarian principles American society did not yet reflect some of the basic needs to make this happen and perhaps some considerations for what was required for this was counteracted.  For example, there were human beings still considered property and even with abolition movements, I would venture to say that there was no real plan for those of African descent, certainly not for Native Indians, whom were consistently shipped off to schools to be retaught – away from their culture – to be integrated in meaningful ways.

Let us also consider that teacher training was a central part of Mann’s plan.  While clearly this would be an integral need for a growing school system we must ask the critical questions as to who was taught to train whom?  Even teachers trained to teach Native Americans on reservations were taught to teach AGAINST them not for their integration, training and uplift.

We know so much about happened to Native Indians as their fight for their recognition persists.  We also know the reality of busing and other “integration” methods to educate groups systematically pushed out of the education system.  What we do not know is how teacher training has or has not caught up with the needs of students who were not fully considered part of the education system and how it effects students currently.  Our information centers on knowing how NOT to refer students to special education due to behavioral issues.  Other educators discuss and  achieve culturally responsive models and multicultural education.  I’m concerned with the deep seated reality of whether or not we can even reteach children who’ve been systematically removed from thought in a systems creation acceptance the curriculum – without us first acknowledging and accepting our own miseducation.  I am concerned with what we are constantly recreating inside the classroom and spirits of our students.  An idea is just that unless it is integrated on every level.

I feel that the composition teachers of today needs significant education in counseling and compassion methods in order to reach the students on a human level while teaching important information.  In fact, their understanding of who they teach are critical for creation of activities that are effective for the needs of our diverse population.  Of course this is only a part of the issue, but a critical piece.  Teachers must be able to confront their miseducation and re-educate themselves in order to teach for social justice – to teach to those who were not even considered in the making of the American education system.  This can not be done within a silo, instead this needs to be a critical piece of teacher education.

REFLECTION:  I recall teaching Multiculturalism in the Social Studies Curriculum at The College of NJ for a semester.  One of the readings was Teaching and Practice: Elementary School Curricula for Urban transformation by Paul Skilton Sylvester.  Students first reaction from reading this was that it was not doable.  Well, my premise is that until we as teachers feel it is doable, social justice will be at a distance.  

 

Cecile Edwards earned her Master’s of Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University in 2010.  She is available for consultation in infusing multiculturalism into curriculum and classroom activities and interaction also known as Diversity and Inclusion training, but for education and human services professionals.

Cecile can be reached at evolvingeducationglobally@gmail.com or if you’d like a copy of the above mentioned article.

 

 

 

Response to Intervention-Dwayne Williams Tier I Education Consultants Founder/CEO

The premise of this blog is to highlight some very important ways that we as teachers, parents, administrators, direct care professionals and any others who have contact with youth can use authentic interactions with young people to build their ability to navigate adulthood. The following is an interview conducted that highlights an important movement in schools called response to intervention. I want to thank Mr. Williams for his time and dedication to this important subject matter.

Tell me a little bit about your organization and what it does?

I am a School Psychologist but also function in the capacity of Founder/CEO of Tier I Educational Coaching and Consulting, where we create culturally relevant Response to Intervention (RTI) models as well as speak to various school leaders, educators, churches, etc about the importance and impact of these types of models to increase performance among students of color. We seek to reduce the rate of students of color who are referred to special education through encouraging classroom interaction and curriculum that accommodates various cultural needs.

Why are Culturally Relevant RTI Models Important?  The majority of instructional models in USA education are consistent with Eurocentric cultural values—values that are often in stark contrast to the experiences of many students of color. We advocate to make instruction more relevant for students of color, which has been shown to enhance engagement and performance in the classroom. We also advocate for school districts to make instructional models more relevant to their students’ lived experiences, to reduce the disproportionate rate of special education referrals among students of color. Students learn best when they are engaged. When they are not engaged, they miss enormous amounts of instruction. Overtime, these students may appear as if they require specialized services due to academic deficits. But again, the question is: Are these deficits due to neurological processing deficits—which we call learning disabilities—or are they due to inappropriate instruction? Most just need to be engaged so as not to seem to be in need of services.

A. Wade Boykin and colleagues have conducted repeated studies that show the value of integrating cultural characteristics with instruction. Boykin and colleagues explain that there are at least 4 core characteristics that are valued within the African-American culture. These include (1) communalism, (2) movement/dance, (3) orality, and (4 )verve.  These differ from the Eurocentric model of education that relies on (1) individualism, (2) competition, and (3) adherence to strict rules in the classroom; when students do not adhere to these strict rules, they are reprimanded and often suspended from school.

 Cultural differences may cause teachers to misinterpret the behaviors of students of color; misinterpretations may influence teachers to incorrectly label a student as emotionally disturbed and learning disabled. These incorrect classifications have known impacts on students who must carry such labels throughout their schooling careers. Research shows that these labels remain with students long after high school in that students doubt their abilities and competencies in the workplace.

The work of Tier I is important to the future of teacher education, which is where the direct impact will flow into the way that students of color are perceived.  With changed perception comes modified interaction and more effective ways of reaching students. As an educator I have learned to interpret students’ behaviors differently as well and consider that they are not abnormal (though abnormal compared to what would be a more prudent question to ask) but instead they are aching to be understood and reached. As professionals, it vital that we understand the students we teach. As the old adage states: We cannot teach who we do not know!

Minfulness as a Life Skill

Mindfulness is the center piece of learning. If one can not focus their mind how can they hope to absorb information, engage with that information and use it to improve their lives? This is an excellent article from an excellent blog about the Mindful Life Project.

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/01/low-income-schools-see-big-benefits-in-teaching-mindfulness/?utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprfacebook&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=facebook

LEARNING LIFE SKILLS THROUGH SERVICE

ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK — SERVICE LEARNING – EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE IN THE FIELD

Service learning is a great way to get youth to expand knowledge, not only of the projects and communities they are being of service to but also of themselves as emerging leaders.  Oftentimes we enter into situations where we are assisting others thinking we are the vessel that is giving and the other receiving, however that is furthest from the truth. Knowledge is like the water cycle, there is a constant flow and when you think it is all over, it comes back around again.  It always seems that whatever you learned through service comes back to remind you and teach you again even after you have moved on, it is a silent force that doesn’t just impact you for the time period you are actively aware and engaged.

I want to highlight Alternative Spring Break – Ghana – Long Beach, a project birthed out of the intention of university students experiencing other countries from a perspective of developing a symbiotic relationship of the host (Ghana) and visiting country.  Dr. Beverly Booker initially started the program on the campus of California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a sister CSU. The innovative aspect of ASB Ghana LB at CSULB came shortly after the 2012 trip with the graduate students and Dr. Booker deciding to form an ASB Ghana LB Executive Team on the campus that would be collaboratively led by the students and faculty facilitator.  Graduate and some undergraduate students take part in every aspect of the trip from tour design with the tour companies, service site collaboration, fundraising, course instruction, and publicity, which ultimately impacts their levels of professional development as leaders and change agents.

The program has a coursework component at CSULB prior to students traveling to Ghana.  In this course, students learn about the Ghanaian economy and adverse impacts of capitalism, issues around White supremacy after being a colonized nation on all aspects of life, Pan-Africanism, diversity of languages and social justice issues within the country that are also experienced in the U.S.. This component allows students to see themselves not just as a group going to help, but also illuminates cultural assets and strengths of Ghana, the similarities and mutual interests and challenges.  

Approaching service learning from a collaborative approach, the ASB Ghana Executive Team sends the service sites information on the majors, talents, and skills of participants coming to Ghana.  The process enables the sites of BASICS International and Wesley Methodist School to request the service activities and workshops that they need.  Additionally, as a part of this mutual working relationship the question is asked of the host country organizations,: “What do YOU need?”

 Wesley Methodist School in Pram Pram knew it was a library and not in the sense that we would conceive it, as an actual structure but as its original intent from the first libraries, which is a resource.   Asking the simple yet integral question, the Collaborative Library Literacy Project was collaboratively created.

The simple asking of what is needed and understanding of the perspective and what the execution of the need looks like is essential, because otherwise you’d be imposing and forcing others to conform to your ideal.  Also for the students and faculty facilitator at CSULB they are expanding their creativity and worldview. Oftentimes we only see a vision in one way instead of allowing creativity to demonstrate diverse possibilities. This project allows creativity to flow for the partners involved and that will forever be instilled and utilized by all involved. This is a life skill with no comparison.

ASB Ghana– Long Beach is now accepting donations of books and other education related items. To learn more, connect and donate with ASB Ghana LB Service learning project, please contact:   at beverly.booker@csulb.edu

Please stay connected about more ways we can teach life skills or send questions/comments:

http://www.evolvingeducationglobally.wordpress.com

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evolvingeducationglobally@gmail.com

 

 

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve taught, worked with youth in many settings, in several parts of the world. I’m actually quite obsessed with what works in education and make a point to learn about education wherever I go and if possible visit schools and programs doing dynamic things. The common ground in all of these programs is that they add something extra, something more than “book” learning that propels students into their own destiny through thought and calculated action.  Teaching myself I always tried to relate what I was teaching to something tangible to the students, using comparisons and visual representation, even music! In the way that TED talks give the general population a glimpse into complex subjects, teaching students tangible, dynamic skills will give youth who may have been considered a difficult case more of a chance to succeed.

Please share any projects, programs, schools, or individuals doing dynamic things to Evolve Education. We want to hear about it.