Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tilling The Soil


Dr. Anthony Muhammad spoke last week at WMEP in partnership with Dr. Hollie on their book The Will to Lead, The Skill to Teach. Dr. Muhammad made a perfect compliment for Dr. Hollie’s strategy-focused approach by addressing the importance of “tilling the soil” in school culture and classrooms in order for culturally-responsive teaching and polices to be effective.  Muhammad warned that too much attention is spent on strategies and not enough on culture. He asked if we take great strategies and policies plant them in a poor environment, how do we expect those seeds to grow? 

It was a powerful reminder of the importance of continuing to pursue healthy school culture. I saw this pursuit first hand in several coaching conversations this week with educators.

  • Educators talking about their most challenging students with a focus on their strengths
  • Educators purposely exploring how to incorporate and validate student cultures in discussion
  • Educators reflecting on the assets and needs of our student body
  • Educators creating space for and intentionally listening to student voice before making decisions

Did you see someone till the soil this week? Tell them. Encourage them. Creating a healthy school culture takes work so we all can use little reminders we’re in this together.

“Educators have an unwavering belief in the ability of all of their students to achieve success, and they pass that belief on to others in overt and covert ways. Educators create policies and procedures and adopt practices that support their belief in the ability of every student.” —Kent D. Peterson


The book The Skill to Lead, The Will to Lead is available for check out in our Professional Learning library in the staff lounge.

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Students’ Six: Teaching Strategies that Work for Students of Color


Lead by Bonnie Davis and Graig Meyer, a district in Chapel Hill,  North Carolina interviewed a large number of high school students of color to determine what is working for them in the classroom.  From these discussions, a team of adults and students came up with the strategies listed below.   In addition to the strategies, we have bulleted some specific ways to implement them in your classroom or student interactions.



Making every student feel acknowledged and included in the classroom

  • Greet students at the door
  • Use student names often
  • Notice when students return after an absence


Using physical space to engage students and reduce perceived threat

  • Walk around the room
  • Create a learning space that is easy to move through
  • Teach from locations other than the front of the room


Making linkages between classroom content and student experiences

  • Ask students where they see the content in their lives
  • Share stories of your own that connect to the content and that will demonstrate your humanity



Incorporating positive elements of students’ culture into the classroom learning and community building

  • Learn key words or phrases in your students’ home language
  • Continually reflect on whose voices aren’t present


Talking openly about racial dynamics and how they impact the student experience

  • If race is named, take the opportunity to discuss it
  • Engage in professional learning to assist in discussions about race



Helping students identify their future paths and using classroom experiences to guide students toward their personal goals

  • Create space in your scope and sequence for guest speakers to come in
  • Explain why students are learning certain content, so they can see the relevance

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Many thanks to those of you who took the time to fill out the SLP Equity Coach survey. We appreciate your honest feedback as we continue to shape this system to create meaningful reflection. As one of our goals is to facilitate collaboration amongst staff, we wanted to share some of the themes we saw in regards to your answers to two questions.

My thoughts about equity have grown in the following ways:

What do we stand by: Stand by the deadline? Or stand by the student learning?

I’m slower to react to situations because I try harder to see and hear where the students are coming from.

To achieve equity does not mean you need to water down curriculum, does not mean a students’ academic accountability needs to be disregarded.

I am in the boat with the students! I need to learn about each child individually.

My main change has been the belief that I can do something to have an impact on the equity situation.

Fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal. It stems from what individual needs are for each student.

Because of my new learning, I better meet the needs of my students in the following way(s):

I am more thoughtful of what the individual needs of each student might be and more aware of how their non-school life affects their school experience.

I try to give immediate feedback, use many different types of activities to engage all students.

I focus my lesson around my outcomes. They are now written on the board and CENTRAL to my teaching. The question is no longer, “How did that lesson go?” but, “Did they learn the outcomes?”

I am more intentional about a focal student strategy, not just “think about it” occasionally.

Listening to [student] needs, rather than assuming it is already apparent.

I changed the grading format.

I give students multiple and different opportunities to demonstrate learning.

Marcel Proust Quote


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