I believe educators cannot achieve equity in their classrooms until they meet certain conditions. The first one of them is passion, the second one is respect for the student as a person, and finally, is being aware of their personal bias, prejudices (we all have them) and have them in check.
Why passion? The work a teacher does in the classroom is a labor of love. Is my professional opinion, that no amount of courses in education and classroom management can prepare a teacher for the reality of the classroom.(Do I have a witness?) That’s when the gift of passion kicks in. Passion for the job that you do as a teacher, combined with academic knowledge may prove to be an effective strategy.
Respect for the student as a person with all their talents and flaws it is critical to reach each one of our students’ academic potential. Students seem to have a gift for understanding when teachers respect them and when they do not. Students in my experience, fulfilled their teachers’ expectations.
Educators’ biases, prejudices, shortcomings, attitudes, have a profound effect on students whether we believe or not. We shared with students a good portion of their day, have you noticed how students copy their teachers’ attitudes and approaches? (This will be my next research project, please stay tuned) If you haven’t, please pay close attention to what the parents of your students say about their child in front of you. I thought this phenomenon was particular to students in primary grades, but I am discovering that it is not.
So, what am I doing to achieve equity in my classroom? I definitely have the passion and the respect. But I am working on my biases and prejudices. In order to have them at bay, I am learning more about myself. Yes, I am. I am facilitating the course Courageous Conversations at my school. Have you heard that if you teach some material you learn it better? That’s exactly what is happening to me! As I prepare the lessons for my colleagues, I am taking inventory of my attitudes, biases, and prejudices and facing them head on.
I am also sharing with my colleagues my knowledge and experience with practices that have been proved effective in teaching English Language Learners to read. Right now, I am working on a seminar about “What’s different about teaching reading to students learning English” from the Center of Applied Linguistics.
I would love to hear about your work on achieving equity in your classroom and/or school.