Category Archives: Teacher Development

Staying Engaged

For those familiar with PEG’s Courageous Conversations About Race Protocol, this first agreement might seem hackneyed and overdone. Personally, I have rattled it off mindlessly more times than I know. In self-evaluation, however, I would check that hypothetical box next to it extra-bold style. “That’s an easy one,” I think. My job is designed to make sure that happens.

There is some truth to that. Working as an Equity Coach, it is my job to show up every day and engage around racial equity. I could give plenty of justification and evidence of how that is true. Yet, in honest reflection, as a white woman socialized to disengage on race, I have plenty of growth still in that category.

Recently, I had to list my triggers and my fears in relation to doing racial equity work. The activity was another way of asking, what gets in the way of me staying engaged? Writing my list was painful. It contained memories of when I have failed, times I have been hurt, and emotional spaces that I sometimes try to avoid at all costs. Yet, it was also powerful because it created space for me to reflect on how do I respond to these fears? What do I do when confronted with triggers?

That is where the growth of engaging fully lies. Allow me to digress slightly. A couple years ago, I experienced a pretty traumatic event. Since then, I have done (and continue to do) intensive work on navigating my triggers and fears. I have realized, living fully is not about how I avoid triggers and fears, but rather, how do I respond? What tools do I have? How do I endure? How do I grow?

Our work in racial equity needs to mirror the same journey. The list of triggers and fears is powerful because it forced me to be honest about what throws me off my purpose of creating a school that fosters the full humanity of all our students and staff, including our students and staff of color. Some days my fear show up as burn-out a long list of “urgent” that needs to get done. Other times it’s particular phrases or mindsets entering conversations that minimize the truth and lived experiences of people of color. Sometimes, painfully, it’s my selfish perfectionism and self-protection. But I know this. Knowing my fears and triggers around disengagement has allowed me to set up personal check-ins around them. I have sought accountability friends. I work to dig into them from a space of compassion and change, rather than judgement and shame.

Over the last few months, I had the beautiful opportunity to chat with several of you about how you wish students and colleagues would see you. Your responses embodied love, humanity, connection, compassion, and fullness. They spoke to the sanctity of our commitment to our students and to our purposes. I was inspired. So, leaning into that, striving, and seeking that, what gets the in way of that for you? What stops you from fully engaging in racial equity work, our work? And how do you respond? 

In solidarity, for our children,
– JE

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Filed under CCAR, Self-reflection, Teacher Development

The F Word

The word itself causes anxiety and apprehension, but can be vital to reflection and growth and ultimately, impact student success.

Feedback

Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement and can offer us the opportunity to enhance the learning experiences we create for our students (Hattie and Timperley 2011). As the semester comes to a close, we want to encourage all educators to create room for this growth by soliciting student feedback.

The Heart Of It:

The most critical tool for self-improvement is an accurate picture of current reality. That’s why every trainer starts with a fitness test and colleges have placement exams. Coupled with a vision, it offers concrete direction for growth. Feedback gives us an opportunity to look at how our beliefs and values correlate to our instruction. For example, I believe every student can learn, but how am I making sure that happens? Do my students feel I believe they can learn in my class? Feedback gives us a gateway into this real conversation.

The Logistics Of It: 

  1. Prep: Processing feedback that we receive  from students is easier if we self reflect first. Take some time to think back on your first semester on your own. What are your strengths? Where do you hope to grow? Then, ask your students. When given the opportunity to be anonymous, students can be brutally honest. However, we can choose to see honesty not as harsh criticism or complaint, but as a gift.  Feedback is necessary to improve instruction which creates the greatest impact.
  2. Do: The opportunities to ask for feedback are endless. It can be at the end of a class period, end of an activity, or end of semester. Let students know why you want their feedback. We encourage you to give all students a survey at the end of the semester. You can adapt one of ours below or create your own.
  3. Process: Within responses, there will be unexpected positives, sincere suggestions for better serving student needs, and some random thoughts. Look at the whole. Focus on themes. Reflect on the praise and what you would change. Meet with a colleague or your Equity Coach to consider what you could use from the survey in your coaching sessions.

The Meat Of It: What should you ask?

Some example questions:

  • When did I successfully encourage you to do your best?
  • What do you want to see more of?
  • What do you want to see less of?
  • How did you feel coming to class?

Want more ideas? Check out some of these posts and sources:

Note: Consider asking for demographic (gender/race) information on anonymous surveys and explaining why. Simply stated: If we want to serve all students, the themes in the replies may help inform us how to better serve underserved groups.

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Filed under Teacher Development