This is my first foray into #cyberPD, and I am happy to be part of this community. This year we are diving into Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sarah. K. Ahmed:
As I wrap up what has been a challenging year, I am glad to have this chance to take a step back and think about how to tackle the tricky topics that come up. As I read and thought about the introduction, I know that I can definitely be more open and build more loving and compassionate relationships with teachers and students. This book gives excellent concrete tools to model an open and curious mindset in order to better understand and respond to those tricky topics.
So having spent some time reading the first part of the book (between nap schedules, summer visitors and house projects that I put off until the summer) and I have thought about how I can use the ideas in the book in my practice… And there are so many ideas! I will focus on the big ones – the seeds to start this garden:
The quote Ahmed uses when talking about what caring and love actually look like stood out:
“having high expectations and great hopes for all students, believing in their abilities, and respecting their identities (2).”
This, in particular, strikes a chord with me. I know the students – and teachers – I work with are capable of great things. I want them to know this… and I think the best way to communicate my belief to them is to have high expectations of them.
The tools she uses throughout the sample lesson to build relationships and community were another great way to learn about each other. Asking open-ended questions and having students share and identify connections – and being open to responding to questions builds trust that is so necessary for a learning community. And lastly, modeling vulnerability: we need to push past our own comfort zone to set the tone and show that we are part of the learning community.
2. The Power of Identity
From my experience teaching at the high school level, students are struggling to figure out who they are. A big part of that is understanding culture. (Aside: I work with Indigenous students). One of the things I really love about this book is how it makes a strong case for the school-home connection to help in filling in the gaps students may have about their background. One of the things I want to work on in the upcoming year is to make this connection stronger. It is so important to give students the space to explore their identity and culture for themselves, so they are able to speak for themselves as the above quote illustrates.
Some other final thoughts
I like that Sarah Ahmed includes lists of mentor texts that include a variety of culture and backgrounds. One resource I might add to this is Debbie Reese and the American Indian in Children’s Literature site for book lists and articles with a focus on Indigenous perspectives – while the site is American, there are many Canadian resources on the “Best Books” lists.
The seeds have been planted…