In my search for new learning opportunities to become a better educator for all students, I teamed up with the NWESD Teaching & Learning Coordinators. Over the past year, I attended a series of six sessions called the Culturally Responsive Collaborative (CRC). In each session, I learned from (and with) the CRC presenters, my colleagues, and district staff about designing learning environments and instruction to better respond to the cultural learning styles and needs of our diverse students.
The experience began this past summer. In the first two sessions we focused on increasing our awareness of racism (individual, structural, and institutional) and examining how current paradigms, practices and policies are influenced by historical events.
Zaretta Hammond, the author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, facilitated our learning. True to the subtitle of her book, Hammond focused her time with us on “promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students.” We also began to learn how to assess our current reality of culturally responsive teaching to inform our next steps in the process.
Zaretta defines culturally responsive teaching as: “An educator’s ability to recognize students’ cultural displays of learning and meaning making and respond positively and constructively with teaching moves that use cultural knowledge as a scaffold to connect what the student knows to new concepts and content in order to promote effective information processing. All the while, the educator understands the importance of being in a relationship and having a social-emotional connection to the student in order to create a safe place for learning.” – Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain; pg 15
We learned how to create conditions for culturally responsive teaching through the Ready for Rigor Framework and our understanding of:
- how neuroscience informs how educators can ignite and increase learning
- how mono-cultural practices, learned dependence and microaggressions impact student capacity to learn
- how to develop a learning partnership with our students
- how collectivism develops a learning community
- how culture guides our information processing
Addressed how to turn new learning and awareness into responsive practice. We used a protocol from Hammond’s workshop materials to assess our current reality through a cultural lens. After this gap analysis each team selected one or two small steps that would move the work forward in their district or school. Using an inquiry cycle (plan, do, study, adjust) teams worked together to develop an action plan to determine what changes to implement, what small team would pilot the change, how we would measure impact and how we collaboratively study and adjust the work. One district shared its initial work on this journey to culturally responsive teaching. It was powerful to use our collective skill to build a plan and to hear from our neighbors about the purpose and impact of their work.
We shared with the group as to how we implemented, measured and adjusted our action plan through this small cycle of change (collecting data, setting micro-goals to build action steps). Meeting with my team regularly has provided time to engage in the kind of reflection that informs practice going forward. Session 6 agenda included opportunities to share and learn from other teams and to work with new strategies to enhance our implementation plan. We dove deeper into classroom paradigms and strategies that increase and enhance information processing. My team was able to engage in protocols, processes and learning that will allow us to develop professional learning opportunities to build and sustain this work so all students thrive in our schools.
This work has been a journey in which I’ve learned to reflect, assess, and change my thinking and practices. I feel inspired and determined to be a culturally responsive champion.
Feedback from the Culturally Responsive work in our region has been so positive that the NWESD has scheduled Zaretta Hammond to conduct her “Foundation Workshops” at the NWESD in Anacortes April 14-15, 2020.