Easy Equity: Racial Inclusivity Made Simple
Blog Post by: Andrea Schweitzer
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to learn about five essential action steps to approaching equity in the classroom from John Bracey (MagisterBracey.com / @MagisterBracey). John is a high school Latin teacher who comes from a long line of academics. His father is a professor of African-American studies at UMass Amherst and therefore, John was brought up with essentially a personal reference library to all things regarding race, racial history, and civil rights. This access, combined with many years of teaching, have given him a unique perspective on how we can incorporate simple strategies to foster a more equitable classroom environment. In his session entitled “Easy Equity: Racial Inclusivity Made Simple,” John proposed the following five topics: Be authentic, get personal, fail no one, represent, and listen.
BE AUTHENTIC: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just be you.
GET PERSONAL: “Nothing kills stereotypes more than actually knowing people.” We’re all naturally quick to judge and make assumptions about people when we first encounter them. By intentionally getting to know all of our students through personalization strategies commonly used in CI-based teaching (i.e. personalized questions & answers, card talk, student interviews, small talk, stories) it allows us to learn specific details about every student in our classroom. This helps each student to feel seen and important for who they are as unique individuals. When we get to know people, we treat them with greater esteem. How great it is that we can model this for our students! Again, the key is to connect by talking about what they love, what interests them and finding out what they are passionate about.
FAIL NO ONE: “Assess only when you can guarantee success [for all].” John reminded me that there’s nothing more demoralizing than when you think you’re bad at something, and there’s nothing more motivating than feeling like you’re good at something. It’s critical to give assessments that help students to feel successful (i.e. simple true/false comprehension “quizzes” after a conversation that all students were following). In this way we’re “stacking successes” and empowering them. Additionally, NO HOMEWORK. “Homework is just a way to reward and/or punish people for circumstances that are beyond their control.”
REPRESENT: Make sure to represent a variety of diverse aspects of culture – not just the stereotypical ones – through images, cultures, stories, novellas, Comprehension-based™ readers, etc.
LISTEN: Students just want to be heard and seen for who they are. Recognize that we all have different experiences; be humble; admit when you don’t know something. Ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” Finally, be patient, as not all students will be ready to trust and open up to you.
John emphasized that all of these strategies should be continual, intentional attempts to even the are not one-time events, but rather action steps that should be built into the curriculum year-round. Luckily, these steps are all very compatible with, and truly maximize the effectiveness of, proficiency-based teaching strategies. I’m excited to be more intentional about each of these areas in the new school year ahead.