Culturally Responsive Teaching: It Begins with Responsiveness

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Early last fall, I had the opportunity to sit with a team of sixth grade teachers at a middle school serving a large number of low-income Latino and African American students. Many of those students were at least two grade levels behind in reading. Their low literacy levels were wreaking havoc on their ability to learn content, engage in higher-level thinking, and build background knowledge.

A year earlier, in their PLC, this team decided that the solution was to use culturally responsive teaching (CRT) as a way to improve student learning and increase achievement.

When I visited with them, they were a bit perplexed why things hadn’t changed, because they’d instituted fun “call and response” chants at the beginning of class and created multicultural bulletin boards about music from different cultures and social justice topics. They’d spent time having “courageous conversations” about implicit bias. They’d tried this for a year, but reading scores didn’t improve and they couldn’t understand why.

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Teachers Who Stay Connected Teach Longer

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As a new teacher, the demands of the career can be overwhelming at times. During my first year of teaching, I felt alone and I was unsure about whether I was doing a good job. So I turned to the internet, and I was both surprised and delighted to find that there was a bustling teacher community around every corner.

Building community is essential for teachers to feel connected, supported, and to share their ideas with peers. And when teachers feel heard and supported, they’ll be more satisfied with their career and more likely to stay in the classroom with the kids who need them. If you’re a teacher with a strong support system, online communities and social networks can be a welcome addition. But if you feel a little more like you’ve been making a go of it alone, these spaces can be a much-needed lifeline.

Teacher blogs, Facebook groups, and Twitter are three online resources that have helped me to stay connected, engaged, inspired, and to continue learning with a community of like-minded educators.

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Glowing and Growing Through Self-Assessment

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Forward

by Teaching Channel’s Vice President of Engagement, Paul Teske

Paul TeskeThis summer, I was humbled and energized by the diversity, compassion, and wisdom of the educators that we convened as part of the Fab Five ELL Squad and California District EL Network. The goal in our gathering was to deepen our understanding of how best to serve bi- and multi-literate students. With the generous support of the Helmsley and Stuart Foundations, we came together to share our challenges and collective wisdom.

With the support of Sarah Ottow from Confianza, each member of the ELL Squad had a project with distinct goals for better understanding their puzzles of practice. Our Fab Five ELL Squad will be sharing their useful work in the upcoming months.

Damaris Gutierrez is first up in our Fab Five ELL series of blog posts. Damaris is from Northside ISD in San Antonio, Texas, where she served as the teacher of elementary refugee students in a sheltered instruction environment. In her project, she focused on reading instruction, culturally responsive teaching, and assessment.

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As a newcomer ESL teacher to refugee students in an elementary setting, my classroom was self-contained and I taught language through content in a sheltered instruction environment.

The thought of teaching self-reflection terrified me.

I just didn’t know how to do this with my students.

But self-reflection and assessment is a requirement of the SIOP Model I use with my English Language Learners (ELLs). I remember reading this requirement and thinking — how? How can I get my beginner ELLs, who have limited or no prior schooling experience, to reflect on their language development and content knowledge in English?

Throughout the process of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I’ve had to assess my own teaching practices, plan to improve my instruction and act on those plans, view my own teaching, and reflect on my teacher actions and student learning. But teaching my students to self-assess their own learning really challenged my ideas about what they were capable of doing.

Self-reflection would first challenge me to think beyond my current expectations and then inspire me to explore new teaching practices. Read more

Does the Language You Use Limit Your Learning Environment?

Does the Language You Use Limit Your Learning Environment?

I have long been skeptical of the “One Word” promises made at the turn of the new year.

On one hand, I totally get it; it’s an efficient way to stay focused on personal improvement. And like any goal setting, focus is essential to success; we often try to do too much with our goals — personally and professionally. In that respect, I see the value. However, the scope of one word seems, in some ways, too focused. I’ve struggled to see how a one-word focus would truly help me become a better me, a better teacher. But with this said, I also had no suggestion for a different approach.

So, as 2017 faded into the cold and dreary new year backdrop of 2018, I sat down to do my usual new year reflection and goal setting, resigning myself to this seemingly too-narrow approach for lack of a more effective strategy. It was while I scribbled in my writer’s notebook, jotting down key words and phrases that captured elements of my personal and professional growth that I hope to see improve in 2018, when the music in the background, which is always playing when I write, shuffled to a different song, grabbing my attention in a way it never had before. Having heard this song well over 100 times already, I couldn’t believe the way it was now inspiring my goal setting.

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Project Based Learning: Assessment and Other Dirty Words

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Assessment. Accountability. Benchmarks. Pacing.

These words all carry such negative connotations, yet they’re a driving force in the world we must exist in as educators today. As teachers, we must toe the line every day between progressive ideas tugging at our hearts and external standards with accompanying responsibilities.

Is it possible to move beyond this “either-or” paradigm?

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PodcastPodcastTch Talks 24: Inviting Curiosity and Socratic Questioning Into The Classroom

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What are the questions that your students carry inside of them but rarely ever discuss?

2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples wanted to find out. What started as a small idea or strategy to help students build empathy transformed into nearly 15 years of work helping children — and adults — voice the questions they carry inside them. On this episode of Tch Talks, Shanna talks about why it’s important for both students and teachers to “Think Like Socrates,” to allow students to take ownership of their own learning through authentic questions, and to leverage student questions as learning experiences that develop critical thinking.

For Shanna, curiosity is key, and allowing students to own their learning through creating questions is the most fundamental change a teacher can make in their teaching practice. Listen in to find out more.

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Resources for Resilience and Healing after a School-Based Trauma

Resources for Resilience and Healing After School Based Trauma

It was the 11th school shooting in the United States this year — and it happened on January 23rd.

Pundits and politicians alike suggest that we, as a nation, are becoming numb to school shooting incidents — that we have become desensitized. However, nothing could be further from the truth for educators, their students, and school communities — tragedies like these are personal.

Although this most recent school shooting has been notably overshadowed by continuously breaking news, and it’s not a trending topic on Twitter, the tragic events at Marshall County High School in Kentucky this week are front and center in the minds of teachers, students, and parents across the nation.

Earlier this school year we published a post in the aftermath of the California wildfires that touched upon what teachers can do to support their students in times of tragedy. While the tragedy differs in type and scope, many of the tips for teaching in times of tragedy can help in the aftermath of gun violence — whether it happens in your own school or your community is feeling the anxiety that follows watching an event, like the one that played out in Kentucky, from afar.

But when it comes to something so important, teachers can never have too many resources to help them help students with resilience and, most importantly, healing.

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Building on Young Children’s Mathematical Thinking

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Children, even the very young, engage with the world in mathematically-rich ways. As researchers and professional development facilitators in mathematics education and early childhood education, we have the privilege and joy of spending time in early childhood settings and engaging with those who teach our youngest students.

Through our collaborations with early childhood educators, we get to learn how teachers leverage both formal and informal classroom spaces to spark mathematical engagement, listen to children’s mathematical thinking, and enrich their budding mathematical ideas. Our partnership with Teaching Channel helped us to capture some of the complex work of learning and teaching in early childhood classrooms.

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