We welcomed over 40 teachers and other educators, including teams from nine bay area K-12 schools, to our most recent Teaching with a Cultural Eye (TCE) Institute last week (March 15-16) to learn, discuss, and reflect on relationships with students in the context of learning theory, social and cultural difference, and equity.
One high school special education teacher shared this week how the work in the two-day institute, particularly the emphasis on listening, has contributed to some breakthrough moments with students that had been percolating for some time.
Here are excerpts from her email, in her energetic day-to-day voice, where her deep empathy with her students and her investment in connecting with them personally while keeping learning and success central (aka, learning partnership) shine through:
Monday I decided to take the listening thing out for a drive with my students. We sat on our yoga mats on the floor and I mentioned how we’ve been at school for 6+ months, worked hard, and come far. I posed two questions for them to ponder without talking; 1) what’s been working/successful and 2) what’s not working/needs improvement. Then I asked everyone to take a turn to share their responses, to focus on listening to one another’s words, free of criticism or judgment, no responding (verbally/nonverbally).
1st question responses: Each student, in one way or another said that in the past they had never felt like they had belonged anywhere. They said they never had positive social experiences at school as they have had this year. One student said he loved how there are enough “weird people” in high school to find his own “weird group” of like-minded friends. (YAY!)
2nd question responses: No matter how hard they worked, they felt that their grades stunk. They said they wanted this to change though they worried that it would impact their social successes.
Wrap up: We talked about the dilemma/balance of socializing and feeling successful with school work and whether the both could happen at the same time. I asked what we could do differently. They got quiet…for a while. I talked a bit about having an open mind-set vs. closed mind-set. Two responded, “What if we let you help us more?” (YESSS!)
Results: Both yesterday and today, three students, self-initiated, have asked me to come into their classes and help them with specific assigments. (YES squared). I am super busy going from room to room now. I love it! One reached out to his math teacher on his own asked whether she would be okay with him taking tests orally (YES cubed). She agreed and seemed impressed that he took it upon himself to ask her.
This is huge…they have resisted help for soooooo long.
This teacher notes that we need to share celebrations more with one another (and we thank her for sharing this with us), since so much of the work educators and the people who support them do goes unseen. We agree, and we will be sharing more stories of change going forward. (YES cubed!)