Hearing from real people who have lived through eras of change or participated in social justice movements can provide inspiration as well as information. Students also carry knowledge of their families and communities inside themselves. Making room to share this knowledge supports the development of student identities. Family assignments must be envisioned and explained in a culturally sensitive manner.
A seemingly harmless activity, such as creating a family tree, can marginalize students whose biological relations are distant or unknown. By listening to the stories of their own families and communities, students can deepen their sense of self and make personal connections with historical, literary and sociological material. Students can interview family members on a variety of issues such as historical events or eras, family experiences of justice or injustice, evolving cultural norms, social movements and identity.
Interview format, questions and reporting practices should be customized based on grade level and educational goals. Family and community members can visit the class to speak about a range of topics. Their connections to these issues may be personal, professional or both.
This research might include opinion surveys or needs assessments, community interviews, visits to local sites or Internet research about community history. As students learn and grow together over the course of weeks, months and years, parents and guardians can learn along with them. There are lots of ways to bring families together, including in-school or community-based events, group email lists and social media.
Four Elements for Creating a Positive Learning Environment | Alliance For Excellent Education
Elementary school students, for example, may be more likely than high school students to enjoy attending events with their families. And some communities will have access to the technology and skills needed to support online interaction, while others will not. Building connections among families supports two of the four anti-bias domains: Identity and Diversity. Making the curriculum more visible to classroom families helps generate support for anti-bias education work and provides opportunities for families to work with their children on social justice issues.
These connections can also foster diverse relationships that echo and strengthen key messages from the curriculum. Events that bring students and families together include family potlucks or picnics; family affinity events e.
Educational programming supports community building and engages family members. Possible programs include films, speakers or discussions for parents and guardians on topics such as bullying prevention, identity development, racial experiences, gender expression, sexuality, learning differences and family diversity. Events may stand alone or be part of an ongoing series. Service projects can include family action days at the local food bank, working together on neighborhood political and social issues, attending community events such as Martin Luther King Jr.
In addition to organizing or publicizing formal events, teachers can encourage families to connect informally to share information and resources and to support one another in times of need e. The school can foster this type of support by naming it as an explicit priority and creating a user-friendly contact list or online directory.
All local communities have valuable resources that can enhance teaching and learning on social justice topics, even if these resources are not always explicit or obvious. They include events, people, places and organizations.
Drawing on local resources supports all four anti-bias domains: Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action. Witnessing marginalization, power dynamics and activism in their own communities strengthens personal connections with these curricular concepts. At a broader level, schools benefit from community connections and partnerships, and communities benefit when citizens are educated in matters of equity and justice. Individuals or organizational representatives can be invited to speak about how their life or work experiences relate to social justice themes.
Social-movement-based history and cultural knowledge often connect to specific cities and neighborhoods.
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For example, certain New York City neighborhoods offer windows into the lives of different immigrant groups during the 19th and 20th centuries. By the time students reach eleventh and twelfth grades, only one-third of students report feeling engaged. Personalized learning is one instructional approach that could reverse these trends.
Personalizing learning helps students develop skills including thinking critically, using knowledge and information to solve complex problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets. These skills, known as the deeper learning competencies , are not only the skills students need to succeed in school, but the ones that will enable them to succeed in careers and life.
Personalized learning is greatly increasing student engagement in one school district in North Carolina.
In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, currently in its third year of a personalized learning initiative, 81 percent of personalized learning students report feeling engaged in class, compared to only 47 percent of other students in the district. Students must feel connected to teachers, staff, and other students. SEL helps students understand and manage their emotions and interactions with others and build the skills necessary to communicate and resolve conflicts.
Teachers are an essential part of fostering the type of learning environment in the classroom that supports student success.
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And yet many students, particularly students of color and students from low-income families, do not have access to prepared and effective teachers. Educators and administrators need professional development opportunities and training to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students to create a positive school climate. Students must feel supported by all those connected to their learning experience.
This includes teachers, classmates, administrators, family, and community members. These parties should share an understanding of what positive school climate at the school and classroom looks like so they can work together toward this common goal. School leaders can engage community members, teachers, students, and parents in school climate improvement work through conversations, meetings, surveys, and creating school-community partnerships.
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School leaders should gather and incorporate the feedback of all of these groups in any school climate improvement work. A quick guide for district and school leaders, teachers, and other members of the school community on how to initiate, implement, and sustain school climate improvements is available here.
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