What is “Education”? Is it reading, ‘writing and ‘arithmetic? Is it instruction to achieve proficiency on high stakes tests in specific subjects? Is it art, music, physical education, or technology? Historically, education began at home. During thousands of years of an agrarian society throughout most of the world, children learned the family trade from their parents and family members. All the jobs related to maintaining and producing crops, raising animals and creating by products from crops and animals were passed down from generation to generation. During the industrial revolution, apprenticeship and trade schools became the most popular methods for teaching students how to become skilled laborers so they could manage tools and machinery. In the 20th century, public education expanded to instruct students to become skilled laborers who could support our nation’s growing economy. Now, in our technology-driven economy, schools must prepare students for a marketplace that is ever-changing and often unknown. Students must participate in daily experiences that develop critical thinking, problem-solving, computational thinking* and teamwork. This will prepare them to be competitive and successful in our global ecosystem.
(* decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms.)
What is the role of an educator? My philosophy is that teachers must, in one year, provide students with the skills and abilities that will be valuable for a lifetime. The focus should be teaching content and building character so students will be able to make a meaningful contribution to our society now and in the future. Through teaching and learning, students should discover who they are and their talents, skills and abilities should be developed so they will begin to see what they can contribute to the ecosystem-beginning in their community, yet always with a global view in mind.
The Culturally Responsive Classroom:
A place where African American students thrive, soar and triumph….
1 Teachers should be masters in their content field(s) and be prepared to learn and implement all current technologies and resources to maximize their students’ learning experience. Teachers must remember that they are not merely content conveyors. Teachers have the task of teaching so that students can learn, embrace and apply the knowledge.
2 ) Teachers create an asset-based learning environment. A student’s strength should be the springboard for meeting daily objectives. When strengths are elevated, this creates a positive framework for managing challenges. Students will soar instead of feeling defeated.
3 ) The classroom must be a dynamic environment with many moving parts. It should be a laboratory, not a museum.
4 ) Students must learn how to think deeply and critically. Robust conversations are a critical element in a relevant classroom.
5 ) The classroom must be a sanctuary for student dialogue and the free flow of ideas. The student voice should be heard loud and clear. It must be respected,celebrated and cherished.
6 ) Physical and emotional safety must be top priorities in the classroom. The classroom should be framed as a community of thinkers and learners who work together, help each other and support each other’s learning. This will create a barrier to bullying, low expectations and complacency.
7 ) Culture-Students must see themselves in the classroom.
8 They must read about people who look like them. Their culture should be visible in the classroom and in the daily learning experiences.
9 ) Critical thinking/computational thinking, problem solving,
risk-taking and perseverance must be the foundation of an interactive classroom. Students must feel that they can participate without being ridiculed. The teacher must model and the students must support the practice of supporting and rescuing their classmates as they share the knowledge that they are processing
9 ) Celebration must be a cornerstone of a successful classroom. Words of affirmation must be spoken. There must be strategic, systemic plans for celebrating progress moment by moment, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
10 Teachers must receive professional development in implicit bias, stereotype threat, microaggression, white privilege, the gender bias, and the adultification of black youth.
11 Our students must be empowered by the hallmarks of our historical context of success:
-African American people must be twice as good
-African American students must know the language and nuances of code switching
-Though African American students thrive when there are strong relationships and communal environments, they must learn to persevere in spite of the efforts to dismiss them, degrade them or make them invisible.
-Students and families must learn how to advocate in productive ways in order to create successful learning experiences.
12 Teachers must analyze the underlying motives fueling unproductive behaviors and create holistic strategies that promote transformation.
13) Teachers must respect family function and not judge family structure. They must respect family members and cultivate the teacher/family partnership.
14) Students must understand why they are in school. They must understand that they are training to be competitive and successful in the ever-changing global marketplace. They must understand the connection between learning and pursuing opportunities now and their future opportunities and success.
15) Teachers must have high expectations. They must believe that their students can be successful. They must take responsibility for not giving up on their students.
16) Students must take ownership for setting realistic goals, tracking their progress and analyzing their achievement.
Our students must be creators of knowledge, solutions and products, not merely consumers. They must walk in victory and not function as victims. They must know who they are and operate in excellence while always knowing that white privilege is not a benefit available to them.
What a true educator does every day:
I facilitate thinking….I engage minds… I design learning experiences…I listen to questions…I encourage risk….I support struggle….I cultivate dreams….I model perseverance…I foster grit…I celebrate voice…I promote critical thinking…..I activate problem solving….I appreciate diversity
I Learn Everyday…..I TEACH!!!
Michelle D. Walton, NABSE “Teacher of the Year” – 2003 (Retired*)
Consultant; and President – Chalkdust Education Foundation
(*Middle Grades Teacher specializing in Writing, Math, Inclusion Education, Classroom Management and Culturally Responsive Teaching)
Miss Michelle D. Walton – NABSE “Teacher of the Year”- 2003; retired teacher and President-Chalkdust Education Foundation)