I believe that both teaching and learning are creative, collaborative, bi-directional efforts — led, guided, and directed by the teacher with a large, inclusive, and equitable teaching repertoire, and fulfilled by and for every student. The teacher, with a student-centered, academically and emotionally safe classroom environment, must set the stage for every student to succeed.
Key components for ensuring the academic achievement of every student include the student/teacher relationship and the parent/teacher relationship. The student/teacher relationship must be characterized by mutual respect, trust, and the teacher’s comprehensive understanding of the student and their particular needs, as well as the teacher’s unwavering affirmation of and high expectations for each student.
The parent/teacher relationship must be mutually respectful, collaborative, and focused on finding/creating an equitable learning pathway for the student, and ensuring that the teacher has the family knowledge they need to provide effective socio-emotional support for the student.
I believe that the greatest challenge to U.S. education today is the lack of equitable learning pathways and equitable achievement outcomes for every student. This is a challenge that, if not met, will become a greater challenge for society and the world, as far too many U.S. students will be unprepared to effectively deal with the increasing complexity and crises facing our nation and our world.
The Center for Curriculum Redesign/
On a larger scale, I believe that the purpose of U.S. public education should be to equitably prepare all young Americans and U.S. residents to advance themselves through education – in order to also advance society and the global public good. In order to attain this goal, I believe that the principles and roadmap of the Center for Curriculum Redesign is a good place to start. Focusing on the competencies students will need to thrive in the world, CCR suggests nothing less than flipping our outdated 19th-century curriculum framework on its head. See the visual below:
In the traditional curriculum framework on the left, the student’s acquisition of information and data, regardless of its relevance to the student or their world. is deemed most important as seen above. Expertise and the student’s ability to use and transfer their knowledge is less important.
According to CCR, education must focus on four dimensions: Knowledge, Skills, Character, and Meta-Learning. It must speak to the world today’s children live in, as well as the one they will inherit. The ultimate goal/purpose of education for CCR is “A wiser society for a sustainable humanity.” This prioritizing of the global greater good uplifts every student and is far from the current obsession with individual choice and benefit to the detriment of the public good. The visual below reflects the focus and interplay of a ‘flipped’ curriculum framework:
Knowledge represents the student’s higher-order skills, such as the 4C’s of Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.
Skills represent the student’s ability to effectively use what they know.
Character qualities represent the student’s social and emotional skills, agency, attitudes, behavior, and values.
Meta-Learning is how students reflect and adapt the student’s growth mindset, and the interplay between and among the dimensions.
Such a reformation of education is critical in addressing the pressing national and global economic, social justice/equity, and environmental issues/crises.
ELA: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening – The Cornerstones
English Language Arts is the learning foundation for all other disciplines. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening effectively are the cornerstones for academic and professional learning at all levels. As our primary methods of communication, the integration of reading and understanding, writing and visually communicating, speaking and verbally communicating, and thoughtfully listening is key to every student’s academic and socio-emotional success. It facilitates student comprehension in the classroom, fosters the building of social skills, and prepares the student for life beyond the classroom
Social Studies: Multicultural Storytelling and a Call to Action
For me, at its essence, social studies is multicultural storytelling – about peoples, cultures, places, events, and times. It is the stories of larger than life historical figures, big ideas, great power, and transformative events. It is also the stories of the powerless – those who also had big ideas and spawned transformative events, and those that fell victim to the power of others. It is the stories of relationships – one person with another, one culture with another, humanity and its relationship with the environment and all living beings. While the multicultural and relational aspects of social studies is key in today’s crisis-driven world, so too is the U.S. civics/citizenship aspect as our students grow up in an America that is increasingly fractured and at risk of losing its way.
Math: Making Sense of Math
Studying math teaches logical and critical thinking. It fosters analytical thinking, pattern-seeking thinking, and problem-solving, and is critical for basic life skills, as well as learning science, technology, and engineering. At its best, teaching and learning math overcomes traditional fears that math is a fixed competency. It teaches students to think logically and visually; and instills a growth mindset that shows students that they all can learn and excel at math. At its best, teaching mathematical proficiency goes beyond the ability to solve math-related problems. It also means being able to make sense of math: it is the ability to solve the math problem and explain what they did, but to also understand the strategies and reasoning behind their work. It is how students use math to make sense and make meaning of the world around them, just as in other disciplines.
Science: 3 Dimensional Teaching and Learning
Children’s innate curiosity about and intrinsic interest in their world demand that they are engaged in rigorous, inquiry-based, hands-on science studies throughout elementary school. The best science teaching and learning is 3-dimensional. Exploring the world around them by “doing” science, practicing the scientific method, engaging with scientific topics of interest and relevance, and analyzing cross-cutting concepts across scientific domains will broaden and deepen the child’s neural network. They will learn not only the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ of scientific thinking. This will increase and improve their ability to use metacognition, as well as reasoning and critical thinking across disciplines.
The point of assessment in education is, or should be, to advance student learning. According to the authors of the text, Classroom Literacy Assessment, “The word assess derides from the Latin assidere, which means, ‘to sit beside.’ This derivation seems particularly relevant because it situates teachers and students together in the collaborative analysis of writer work.” I believe in this description of assessment with students and teachers, ‘sitting together’ and gathering, interpreting, and using the evidence about what and how the students are learning. Formative assessment is the assessment methodology that best supports differentiated instruction and learning. It is aligned with differentiated instruction given the ongoing feedback and embedded assessments which monitor ongoing student progress and areas of strength and those needing improvement. Importantly, however, it also provides data that can be used to effectively inform instruction so that it can be adjusted as needed for each student.
(Paratore, J.R. and McCormack, R.L. (2007). Classroom Literacy Assessment. The Guilford Press, New York, N.Y.
VI. Meeting Diverse Needs
Teaching Diverse Students: Cultural, Linguistic & Special Needs
The strategies that I will use to meet the specific needs of diverse learners are grounded in the critical difference between equity and equal opportunity. Geneva Gay speaks to this extraordinarily important point: “Every child in the U.S. has the right to an equitable education…Equity involves giving students what they need. It is not the same as equal opportunity. More specifically, equal opportunity does not acknowledge that students have needs that require differentiation.”
I believe that understanding and appropriating the critical difference between equity and equal opportunity is the first and necessary step to meeting the needs of diverse learners. Once equitable learning pathways have been established, the use of the following strategies will set the stage for meeting the needs of all students:
1.) Differentiated instruction to maximize each student’s growth and success by meeting and assisting them based on what they need and where they are in the learning process,
2.) Formative assessment in which the student’s progress, as well as the effectiveness of the instruction, is interpreted and analyzed,
3.) A trust and affirmation-based student/teacher relationship,
4.) Socio-emotional and cultural proficiency,
5.) A respect for the needs of students with special education disabilities, as well as those who are linguistically diverse,
6.) A safe learning environment will set the stage for meeting the diverse needs of all students, and
7.) Flexibility in relation to the student’s options for access and engagement, method of expression, and method of presentation/demonstration.
(Gay, 2000, as cited in Brown-Jeffy, S. & Cooper, J.E. 2011). (Gay, 1994, as cited in Brown-Jeffy and Cooper, 2011). (Brown-Jeffy, S. and Cooper, J.E. (2011) Toward a Conceptual Framework of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: An Overview of the Conceptual and Theoretical Literature. Teacher Education Quarterly 38(1) p.78. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23479642
VII. Classroom Management
The essential purpose of classroom management is to develop, monitor, and adjust the management system “in ways that clear obstacles to student learning and help students develop their identities as capable, respected, and self-reliant high achievers.” This includes establishing classroom routines and procedures – teacher and students collaboratively – that best serve this purpose, having high expectations for student participation and cooperation, and fostering a positive, as opposed to disciplinary, mindset regarding classroom management.
Classroom management is also closely tied to the classroom community. For me, a classroom community means an environment where students feel safe to take academic risks, where diverse backgrounds, strengths, and challenges are respected, where there is learning equity among all students, and where a variety of classroom management and instructional strategies are used effectively, and there is a classroom culture of respect between the teacher and each student, as well as among all the students.
My philosophy of how to build a positive classroom community is based on a strong, mutually respectful relationship between the teacher and each student, among all students, and between teacher and family. It is based on equitable learning and is student-centered. It is a shared endeavor, a collaborative effort between the teacher and students. It is a community in which all students are invested and feel a sense of ownership.
Saphier, J., Haley-Speca, M.A., Gower, R. (2008). The Skillful Teacher. ( 6th ed.). eBook.
VIII. Family Engagement
According to the Global Family Research Project the focus of the parent-teacher partnership/relationship should be how to provide equitable learning pathways for the student because, they argue, “Families are key to ensuring equitable learning pathways for children.”
I believe that a mutually respectful, working relationship is the foundation for both an effective parent/teacher relationship and academic success for every student. Fostering family engagement relationships that are goal-directed, collaborative, ongoing, and culturally responsive is key. Such parent engagement is a shared responsibility with the teacher in which academic skills and classroom experience, in conjunction with family knowledge, culture, goals, and dreams better ensure the academic success and overall well-being of the child. Technology and social media, such as email, text messages, and classroom websites are effective vehicles to facilitate the ongoing parent/teacher relationship.
Global Family Executive Summary. https://globalfrp.org/