March 2022 TTTs

Several times a year, we turn professional learning over to our faculty & staff during Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTTs) sessions. TTTs focus on improving our collective professional practice, allowing us to engage with our colleagues. On Wednesday, March 9, we had our second TTTs of the school year. For these TTTs, we challenged faculty to focus their sessions through our Learning At Its Best framework for their 45-minute sessions. (Re-visit our first TTTs of the year.)

 


5 Types of Non-Fiction
Principle: Captivate, Approach: Inquiry Pathway
Come check out the ES Library brand new collection of narrative non-fiction books: an engaging sub-genre of non-fiction writing that will spark joy for readers of all persuasions!

Basic PowerPoint animations
Principle: Captivate, Approach: Design Process
Learn how to add basic animations to your PowerPoint presentation

 

Level Up Student Projects with the Studio
Principle: Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Recording techniques for audio projects. Explore ISB’s recording facilities and familiarise yourself with our studio equipment. Go through the recording process from tracking to print. Then, take your learning to student projects!

 

How To Use WTW Data to Target Your Instruction
Principle: Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Now you have your middle of year data, so what? This session you will learn how to break down your current Words Their Way data to see exactly where the students need direct support and instruction. Come learn how to support and challenge all of the learners in your class!

 

Supporting LGBTQIA+ students in your classroom
Principle: Care, Approach: Social Emotional Learning
Powerpoint
It’s Pride Week at ISB, but what does that mean for you? If you know you want to make LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and included in your classroom, but you’re not sure where to start, this session is for you. Topics will include: addressing homophobic comments, using inclusive language, and more.

 

Cooperative Learning Structures
Principle: Clarify
Raising the number of Opportunities To Respond will increase the learning in your classroom. How can you get every student to engage with every question you ask as a teacher, rather than just one student who raises their hand. We will look at a number of Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures. Hopefully you will walk away with some new ways to engage your learners.

 

Clarify with COLOCOs
Principle: Clarify, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
This session is intended for those who are currently attending the C6 training (or those who need a refresher) and would like to revisit the work on COLOCOs (and complete their homework in the process!).

 

Using Visuals to Support Organization and Independence in the Classroom
Principle: Classroom Management
I will share two strategies using visuals I learned at a PD session in 2019 and have since used with co-teachers in the classroom. We’ll also share ideas about how to use and adapt these visuals to our classrooms.

 

The Working Genius Model and YOU
Principle: Collaborate
Resources, Podcast
Improve your collaboration skills by exploring Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius model, a simple and powerful 6 step model for all work. You will reflect on your personal Working Genius type and learn language to apply personally and in teams. This session will include chunked learning, reflecting and application individually and in small groups. This model is useful for anyone who works or is on a team.

 

Round Table: Sharing ideas on unpacking the Teachers College reading units
Principle: Collaborate, Approach: Inquiry Pathway
Let’s come together to share our processes around how we go from the planned lesson in the TC units to teaching our individual classes. Bring an example to share or a topic to discuss!

 

Making Thinking Visible
Principle: Confer/Challenge, Approach: Personalized Learning
Resources
This session will seek to share the ideas from the Making Thinking Visible training and book in a condensed and applicable way, including the core concept, and sets of teaching moves/strategies that can be used for all learners. Making Thinking Visible is a philosophy that seeks to promote engagement for all learners, intellectual curiosity and exploration, and to shift the focus in teaching towards ‘thinking’ above all.

 

Excel Basics
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
Looking for ways to organize and analyze student data? This session will explore some basic tips and tricks for using Excel. Bring your laptop and any questions you have about using spreadsheets.

 

What works to improve student literacy in Chinese class?
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
In this session, we will share what we have studied and learned about the Balanced Literacy components that have been used to effectively teach Chinese in some international schools.

 

Rubrics and Feedback in DX
Principle: Confer, Approach: Personalized Learning
Resources
Learn how you can use assignment rubrics and other feedback tools (including the new iPad annotation feature) in DX.

 

Diversity and Inclusion Conversations in Chinese
Principle: Confer, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
The purpose of this TTT is to create a space where educators can have conversations around Diversity and Inclusion in Chinese to explore it through the lenses of non-western perspectives. This session provides an opportunity for equalizing access to conversations around Diversity and Inclusion and building a foundation for contextualizing Bias and Racism to our global international school environment.

 

Spotting the Signs–Structure and Function in the Head, Neck, and Mouth
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: Personalized Learning
Spotting the Signs is geared for teachers and TAs of younger students. We will focus on spotting students who may need an SLT referral in the areas of articulation and feeding/swallowing–whether you teach in English or Mandarin! Normal and atypical anatomy of the head/neck/mouth and developmental milestones for articulation and feeding/swallowing will be taught so that you can spot students who may not be meeting these expectations.

 

Save the Rainforest! Digital Planning and Journaling with iPad
Principle: Consolidate
Tired of losing sticky notes with your to do list? Want to reduce your reliance on paper and taking notebooks everywhere? Move your planning and / or journaling to the digital realm to save your sanity. This session will be most beneficial if you bring an iPad, Apple Pencil, and have access to either the Good Notes or OneNote app.

 

People, Systems, Power, Participation
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: Service Learning
In this session we will explore the People, Systems, Power, Participation Thinking Routine. We will use this routine to examine Gender, Migration, and Racism, then talk about how it can lead to service learning.

 

Literacy is Learning
Principle: Consolidate, Approach: C6 Bilteracy & Bicultural
Various literacy activities across subject areas that can enable students to acquire depth of understanding and consolidate their learnings.

Welcome to Learning @ ISB!

Welcome to the learning at ISB blog! We’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 years, but we’re back and excited to continue sharing learning at its best at ISB.

At least twice per month, we’ll be publishing posts written by ISB educators sharing their thoughts & reflections on learning. Have an idea for a guest post? Let us know! Want to get inspiration delivered to your inbox? Enter your email on the right to subscribe! [Make sure to keep an eye on your ‘Other’ inbox tab for the emails!]

Have thoughts about something you read on this blog? We love comments! Feel free to leave your thoughts here or come chat with us in person.

As we relaunch this blog, we wanted to introduce Learning at its Best and our principles & approaches of learning. You probably have one of these posters up in your classroom or have seen them around the school. All of our blog posts will be written through these lenses. Want to dive deeper into one area? Check out the categories on the right to begin exploring!

Learning at its Best

ISB’s principles of learning provide a research-based foundation for how students learn best and insight into what makes our learning environments most effective. ISB’s Learning Principles are based on Tripod’s 7C framework of effective teaching: Care, Challenge, Confer, Clarify, Captivate, Consolidate, Collaborate, Classroom Management.

The approaches of learning are integral to how we design learning experiences at ISB, guiding our instructional practices.

Social-Emotional Learning – Research shows that explicitly teaching social and emotional skills increases student well-being, enhances positive behavior, reduces crises, and enhances academic achievement. A focus on social-emotional learning also creates a safe, positive school culture. At ISB, we prioritize building relationships and want every student to feel cared for every day. Our Social-Emotional Framework supports students in developing self-awareness, self-management, social and cultural competence, nurturing relationships, and taking purposeful action.

Personalized Learning – At ISB, we believe in a progressively learner-driven model of personalized learning to facilitate student ownership of the learning process and provide student voice and choice in their learning. We empower students to build strong relationships, leverage their interests, and assess their strengths and areas for growth to engage in deep, relevant learning.

Service Learning – Service Learning is infused into the curriculum and across the co-curricular program at ISB. It is a relevant learning journey that integrates meaningful action with instruction and reflection. We believe that Service Learning develops compassion and empathy, strengthens communities, and nurtures a global mindset.

C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework – The community at ISB is culturally & linguistically diverse, and we aim to serve our emergent bilingual and multilingual students so that they are able to access grade-level standards regardless of language proficiency. The C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework supports faculty in creating culturally responsive lessons that celebrate the diversity of our students.

Inquiry Pathway – At ISB, we empower students to ask questions, think critically, and reflect. Based on provocations and real-world phenomenon, students see & think, wonder & question, investigate & explore, make meaning & find patterns, and explain & construct arguments.

Design Process – Solutions to the problems of the world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are given the opportunity to use design-thinking to create connections between traditional curricular areas and build empathy while solving real-world, authentic problems.


We hope you’re as excited as we are for this blog to be active again! Next week, keep your eyes open for a post from Angie (MS/HS Math Instructional Coach) with a focus on Challenge. Even better, get her post delivered to your email as soon as it’s published by subscribing on the right! After you subscribe, look in your email to confirm your subscription.

A Plea for Positive Education in Schools

Author: Simon Zopfi, HS PE Teacher

 

 

 

The rise of positive psychology

“Dr. Seligman, how would you describe the state of the field of psychology today?” “Good.” “Okay, Dr. Seligman, that won’t do. We better give you two words…” “Not good.”

“Look, Dr. Seligman, we can see you’re not comfortable in this medium. The best we can do is give you three words…” “Not good enough.”

Dr. Seligman, the Head of the American Psychological Association at the time describes his interaction during an interview with CNN in his TED talk about Positive Psychology in 2004.

Until the late 1990’s psychology was the science of finding out “what’s wrong with you” and trying to get people from a constant state of suffering into a state of coping with everyday life.

A lot has changed over the last 20 or so years. Psychology still concerns itself with relieving suffering but the field has expanded further into the science behind human flourishing. Dr. Seligman himself launched the era of positive psychology in 1998 when taking on the role of Head of the APA and stood at the foundation of the development and implementation of his work in schools, calling it “Positive Education,” working with and living on campus of Geelong Grammar School (GGS) in Sydney for 6 months.

Researchers and teachers put their heads together and developed the Geelong Grammar School Model for Positive Education. A science-informed framework that outlines and guides the usage of positive education in schools. The foundation of the framework is built on students’ and staff’s character strengths, linked with 6 different areas being positive relationships, positive emotions, positive health, positive engagement, positive accomplishment and positive purpose. The outer layer encourages anyone to learn about Pos Ed, embed its theories in everyday practices and live its philosophy by paying it forward.

By no means is this the only model out there, nor is it claiming that the implementation in our work happens through this framework alone. Outstanding educators and people are highly likely to already apply many elements of Positive Education in and beyond their teaching spaces. Positive Education is also not the same as “happiology” yet recognizes life’s challenges, ups and downs and the struggle in search for meaning.

Positive Education in Schools

Schools can be stressful environments for both staff and students. Getting through piles of paperwork, lesson preparations and staff meetings can overload the systems on the regular.

Navigating the social landscape as a developing adolescent of friendships and first loves while submitting assignments, taking assessments, dealing with not making the school’s varsity team while deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life, are experiences that most students go through too.

 

Positive Education might be the light at, what sometimes feels like, the end of a long tunnel. Positive relations can be built in classrooms, hallways and meetings if we are more aware in our conversations and use active constructive responding. We create a more pleasant learning environment if we focus on people’s character strengths and the areas that they shine brightest in. Teaching about neuroplasticity will help students understand and believe in the moldability of their capabilities. This will in turn nurture a growth mindset and the development of grit, paving the way for positive accomplishment.

Positive accomplishment encourages intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy causing us to continuously engage in activities that we thrive in. Dedicating your time to something you are willing to work for and develop a passion around, can lead to peak performance and flow states or “being in the zone.”

Providing regular opportunities for staff and students to exercise, reducing the workload to support getting enough sleep and providing healthy snacks at work, all fall under the domain of positive health. People do better when they feel better and people who feel better do better too. Placing ourselves in the service of others by the ways of caregiving, service learning and supporting others around us, can lead to a sense of purpose and meaning for ourselves. Concepts that make life truly worth living.

The field of positive education is a fascinating area from which we can all benefit.

If you have made it to the end of this plea and you are as enthusiastic about it as I am, I strongly recommend looking into the 8-week professional learning course “Discovering Positive Education 2.0” by Geelong Grammar School. Enrolling in this comprehensive program is by far the best professional development I have come across and has changed the way I approach teaching and learning from here onwards.

Go well, friends…

10 Strategies for Surviving When Working from Home

Whether you are working from your apartment in Beijing or a beach in Thailand, working from home can be a challenging shift. When I first began working from home part-time 3 years ago, I wasn’t always sure how to find balance. I still sometimes struggle with being productive when there are so many distractions. Every day, I continue to learn how to be my best self without physically being in a school. Below are 10 strategies that have helped me transition from a structured work environment to the flexibility of an online work environment. I’d also love to hear your strategies in the comments!

Be Patient

First and foremost, practice extreme patience for yourself. Some days are going to be harder than others but remember that this is a learning journey and your perception of success will probably ebb and flow daily. Your colleagues and students also deserve your extreme patience. For your students, learning independently and the daily deluge of information has the potential to be just as, if not more, overwhelming as it is for you.
How might your expectations of what you are able to accomplish in a day need to change? How might your expectations for your students need to change?

Create Space

I have lots of places that I am comfortable and cozy in our apartment, but those spaces haven’t always supported my productivity. If you don’t already have one, create a space where you feel productive and inspired. While you’re working, minimize distractions by putting your phone away and turning off notifications on your laptop.
How might you create a dedicated area that allows you to focus? What might it look and feel like?

Find Balance

Working from home doesn’t have to be all work or all play. There have been days where I have worked way too much and other days where I have not worked nearly enough. Just because you are no longer restricted by school hours does not mean you should work all day, every day.
How might you find or create joy during your day? How might you incorporate play into your day?

Keep a Schedule

Make time each day to review your to-do list and map out what your day will look like. We’re used to a very rigid schedule, and now it is up to us to create our own schedules. I have a daily (paper) planner where I schedule my day and keep a running to-do list. Electronically, I have also used Asana to keep track and stay focused.
What will you do today? When do the tasks on your to-do list need to be accomplished? Which hours of the day are you most productive? How will you chunk your day and hold yourself accountable? How might you keep track of your various projects and tasks?

Treat Yourself

Celebrate small successes. Did you just spend 50 minutes dedicated and focused? Allow yourself 10 minutes to relax and give your brain a break. Read a good book, go for a swim, play in the snow.
How might you use ordinary moments to reward yourself?

Move

We’re used to being in constant motion, standing 6+ hours a day. Working from home reduces the reasons to leave the house, making it easy to inside for days on end. But, our brains need us to move. Be intentional about getting up and being active. Find reasons to leave the house. Use the resources at your fingertips to get up and move:

  • Two of my fav online workout channels: Pilates and strength.
  • More online workout ideas: here, here, & here. And some Barre videos here.
  • Not into videos? Do these 7-minute workouts on your own. Or, set yourself an alarm every 10 minutes to get up and do 10 repetitions of an exercise of your choice. Have a trampoline at your disposal? Go jump on it for a few minutes!
  • Looking for more interaction? Join Victoria’s virtual Zumba classes! More info in her WeChat group.
  • Hate exercising? Walk around while listening to these podcasts.

How are you making the intentional choice to move? How are you sharing your success with others?

Make Time to Collaborate

We’re used to being around people all day, popping across the hall to ask a colleague a question, meeting with team members to design authentic learning experiences. When I first started working from home, it was often lonely. Finding ways to embed collaboration in your daily schedule will allow you to share your successes, get support for your wonderings, and alleviate the stress of feeling like you have to do everything alone now.
How might you be intentional about connecting with colleagues? How might you use the tools that are available to us to support collaboration? How might collaboration benefit student learning?

Find Your Jam

Did you know that Spotify has all sorts of playlists for the workday? Get a confidence boost, find your focus, visit your favorite coffee house, get through the whole workday, or stop procrastinating. Silence more your thing? Revel in it!
How might you find your unique jam?

Collect Data

When I first started working from home, I had no concept for how much time I was spending actually working or what tasks were taking up my time. Keeping track of what you’re spending your time on gives you concrete data (I use Toggl) that you can later reflect on and learn from.
What data might you collect? How might you collect it? How might you use this data to support your future productivity?

Brush Your Teeth

This is might seem silly or obvious. But I have found that getting out of my PJs and brushing my teeth before I begin my workday has been beneficial for both my productivity and sanity. Do the people in my virtual meetings know that I’m dressed & have clean teeth? Nope. Do I feel better about myself? Yup.
What rituals will help you transition into and out of your workday?

Your turn!

What strategies have you found useful as you have undertaken the adventure of working from home? We’d love for you to share in the comments below so that our ISB community can benefit from your experience!

Written by:
Lissa Layman
llayman@isb.bj.edu.cn @MmeLayman
Professional Learning Project Coordinator

ISB Parents: Jiāyóu!

Image Credit: Pixabay

If you are a parent in Beijing right now, you are being challenged (and here’s a virtual hug).   A mere two weeks ago, life was fairly normal – we were finishing up a short stent of school and work between Winter Break and Chinese New Year and we were excited thinking about our Chinese New Year plans – being with family, eating delicious foods, and some more relaxation time.  Then, we started hearing more about the coronavirus…  As an international school, we were told that schools would not reopen until we receive further guidance from the Beijing authorities.  And since then, we have gone through the gamut of emotions, decisions on whether to stay or go and watching media from sources within China all over the world.  We are trying our best, with no clear end in sight. It has been hard.
Now, many of these emotions are still very much alive and we are feeling up, down and all around on a regular basis.  And now, our kids are at home with us and started “eLearning” while we are trying to work AND keep it all together. This is definitely not easy.  With two working parents and two kids at our house, Monday was exhausting.  We were trying to figure out our “new normal” and when everything is dependent on technology and there is information coming from multiple sources, it was a lot.  I’m sure you felt it too.
As parents, we want what’s best for our kids.  What can we do? And, what can we do to support them and stay sane and healthy ourselves?
Here are some ideas:

  1. Talk to your kids!  They are stressed. Many of them are hearing us talk about what’s going on and are scared about the virus and being locked in.  They are sad that they missed their last basketball games, APAC tournaments, recitals, concerts and maybe thinking about what more they potentially may still miss in the coming weeks.  They miss their friends.  They miss the autonomy they have when they walk out the door every morning as they exert their growing independence as teenagers.  Let them vent a bit.  Ask them what they are happy about or what they are worried about and let them know it’s okay.
  2. Give them space!  Many of us are spending most of our days in one location –  houses, apartments or even hotel rooms, some of which are only temporary, and that is really challenging.  While it’s good to check in on your kids, give them breaks.  Let them go listen to music and tune out in their rooms.  Don’t make them sit and work behind their computers all day.  Make sure they are taking breaks and give them some room.
  3. Give them some new responsibilities!  Use this opportunity to have them contribute more at home.  I know my children have learned to do their own laundry the past week.  They’ve learned to make new foods and they have more chore expectations than usual.  It’s good for them to learn more life skills and also contribute to the family.
  4. Keep them social! Make sure your children are chatting with friends.  Most of our children are communicating with their friends via school tasks through Seesaw, Dragon’s Exchange, email, Flipgrid or the hundreds of other amazing tools teachers are using to promote social, engaging learning.  Face to Face contact is important too – not just WeChat or Instagram messaging – make sure they are making face to face contact with friends and family, so they are chatting with people outside of your house too.
  5. Encourage exercise!  This is challenging.  Most of us are self-quarantining, but when the weather is nice, get out for a family walk.  Do the PE personal fitness activities sent by their teachers as a family.  Do a yoga or HIIT workout together. It’s amazing what a little exercise can do for the mind and soul.
  6. Keep to a schedule! While most of us can do school and work in our pajamas, try to keep to a schedule.  Keep a reasonable bedtime for your family.  Eat meals together.  Make sure everyone isn’t connected to their devices all day.

As for us parents, these are all important points too.  Make sure you are talking to people to validate your feelings and relieve stress.  Ask for help!  We are a part of an amazing community.  We are all together in this and all we want is what’s best for our kids.  If you need help, there are so many people that are here willing to help – our Leadership Team, Teachers, Counselors, Support members, and fellow parents.
If you have ideas or successful activities plans that are working for your family, share them in the comments or with your parent communities.  We are in this together!
Jiāyóu
加油

Written by:
Julie Lemley
jlemley@isb.bj.edu.cn @JulieLemley
Innovative Programs Leader
ISB ES & MS Parent

Inclusion at ISB

Inclusion at ISB
I was asked to write a blog about inclusion at ISB. As an inclusionist, it seems this ought to be an easy topic for me to write about and yet, after 30 years of doing this work, I still find myself at a loss in defining inclusion in our international schools.
You see, the idea of inclusion as well as my own thinking about inclusion has expanded and evolved over the years. In the early 1990s, I worked in a group home with adults with intellectual disabilities. Inclusion meant ensuring they had access to the community and participated in social activities with peers without disabilities. During that same time as a special education teacher I taught in inclusive schools which meant all students were taught in their neighborhood schools with their same age peers in the classroom.
This narrow definition of inclusion held true until I moved overseas in 2000. For those of us who have been teaching in international schools this long, we remember the days where we either didn’t accept students with diagnosed disabilities or we only accepted students with mild learning disabilities. Often, we accepted these students in elementary school where we felt confident in meeting their learning needs and then determined by middle or high school they wouldn’t be able to manage the rigorous, academic program. So, we did what we thought was in ‘the best interest’ of studentS and encouraged them to find a different school placement. Inclusion meant we accepted some students into our school for some period of time. Whether or not we provided adequate and professional services was another matter.
Thank goodness we’ve moved forward and now better understand the needs of our international families and their children. Some of our schools have been forced to be nimble and adaptable in terms of the students we enroll and some of us have enthusiastically chosen the pathway of greater inclusivity. I’m proud to be in a school where the latter is true.
International schools have expanded inclusive services where we now welcome students with Specific Learning Disabilities,  communication disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, etc. – and we have invested in professional resources to meet the needs these high incidence conditions present. A few international schools around the world have or are starting programs for students with intellectual disabilities, pushing the boundaries of inclusion even further.
And yet these definitions of inclusion still feel too narrow. Inclusion isn’t just about accepting students with identified diagnoses. Inclusion is really about equity and access for ALL. Inclusion is for all of us and when it comes right down to it, we are all unique and have the need to be included in our school community, regardless of gender, race, disability, religion, social beliefs, socio-economic status, sexuality, language background, etc. I encourage ISB to think about and define inclusion in this broader sense, emphasizing equity and access for all, rather than thinking inclusion is only for those with learning disabilities. Because of our privilege, our responsibility for including others is great. We have an opportunity to make the world a better place by embracing our differences and celebrating the value we each bring to the school community.
I went home for the winter holidays and witnessed firsthand the work so many advocates have done over the years in including those with intellectual disabilities into the community. While at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, I ran into a gentleman with intellectual disabilities I supported 27 years ago! He is now 60 years old, living a full life that included work (he’s retired), friendships, and an active social life. My heart was full knowing he was accepted and fully embraced in his community these past years. This acceptance and sense of belonging is what I wish for EVERYONE at ISB.

My Ongoing, Messy, Roundabout Journey Toward Cultural Proficiency

Do you notice yourself remembering the names of the white kids more easily than the names of the Asian kids?” 
This was asked of me last year by a close friend and colleague. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Because as I thought about which students I acknowledged by name in the hallway, who I would ask teachers about, who I took time to build rapport with I was unconsciously investing more time in the white kids. Research says that we do tend to have a natural affinity for  people that we see as like us. In fact, an article published by Phi Delta Kappan “recent studies have found that children as young as three months old can racially categorize people” (Hagerman, M.A., 2019). 
AND I am someone that sees myself as an advocate for marginalized groups. I speak out, often to the point where it makes my family shift in their seats, about injustices in the world. I recognize that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender, English speaking woman, I have a huge amount of privilege. I feel a duty to use my privilege to support others and dismantle systems of traditional power in the world. And yet, I still hold implicit bias and look for what’s familiar and comfortable. 
An article published this summer by actor N’Jameh Camara talks about why some names are more memorable than others. She speaks honestly about how when people don’t use her name and instead use a “generic substitute,” she notices. She challenges us to think that names are not “hard” or “difficult to say” but rather “unpracticed.” I love that. Perhaps my favorite quote is, “but as a person who was taught to respect and say Tchaikovsky, Brecht, Chekhov, Stanislavski, and Hammerstein, I know my name can be learned too. What matters most is that we see ourselves as people whose vulnerability and mistake-making hold the potential to bring us closer” (Camara, N., 2019).  
Fortunately, recognizing that we hold implicit bias is a crucial first step in doing something about it. Founder of the C6 Biliteracy Framework and honorary ISB Dragon, Dr. José Medina, shares the Cultural Proficiency Continuum in his trainings and I find myself referring to it constantly. It has supported me in recognizing when we are being culturally destructive. This continuum has given me the language and tools to reflect and speak up when I hear things that are not inclusive and supporting of our community. 

Original source of continuum: Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. Examples and quotes original.  

As a coach at ISB, I get the honor to work with and learn from the incredible educators here. I am so fortunate to see the high-quality teaching and care teachers share with students. I am all in when it comes to helping others who I coach, I care deeply about them as people and care completely about nudging them to where they want to grow. But as coach, as Elena Aguilar says in her article, “I have to keep the faces of all the children who [teachers] are responsible for, whose lives [teachers] affect, in my symbolic peripheral vision, equally in focus and present and part of the conversation. I am accountable to those children” (Aguilar, E., 2014). Coaching or collaborating without a focus of creating equity and access for our students is a missed opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.  
My journey towards cultural proficiency is not over. I still slip up, or occasionally bite my lip when I hear something that marginalizes others. But I am also committed to improving. If you have books, research, ideas, people you follow, tips and suggestions, or just want to talk about this with someone, I would love to learn. 

References: 
Aguilar, E. (2014). Why we must all Be Coaches for Equity. Education Week. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/12/why_we_must_all_be_coaches_for.html 
Camara, N. (2019). Names That Are Unfamiliar to you Aren’t “Hard,” They’re “Unpracticed”. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/names-that-are-unfamiliar-to-you-arent-hard-theyre-unpracticed?fbclid=IwAR0rwGC_Xxs59fUSKgBErE2vl9tA2ASVmmwHfqmNwdULnJm17cs0Qup3k_A 
Hagerman, M.A. (2019). Conversations with Kids about Race. Phi Delta Kappan. https://www.kappanonline.org/conversations-children-race-childhood-racism-hagerman/ 
Lindsey, R.B., Robbins, K.N., and Terrell, R. D.  (2009). Cultural Proficiency A Manual for School Leaders. 

Building Empathy with our Students

I recently read an article published by Jay McTighe entitled Three Lessons for Teachers from Grant Wiggins. Several of us know the late Grant Wiggins for his work around Understanding by Design, feedback for students, and his cheerful and thought provoking dispositions.
For me the most notable lesson Wiggins had to share in the article was “Empathize with the learner.” I have always been a classroom teacher. I feel fairly confident that I know what the experience is like as an elementary schooler; I see them on the playground, I acknowledge the pressures they feel from parents, and I value their diverse interests and needs. However, there is so much more to their day-to-day experience than the opportunities we explicitly provide them.
With this in mind I decided to heed one suggestion to help me build empathy with students-shadowing a student for a day. I looked at my schedule, contacted a lower elementary teacher, was given a buddy, and spent an entire afternoon in that classroom. Fortunately, the homeroom and Chinese teacher welcomed me and the idea and agreed to let me come in on the fourth day of school. I am very grateful and appreciative to the teachers for letting me come in and learn.
Before I walked into the classroom room Thursday afternoon I set some agreements for myself:

  • I would follow the daily schedule, including specials.
  • I would sit with my buddy wherever she sat (carpet, table, couch, etc).
  • I would follow the classroom rules and procedures (rules for bathroom, water, electronics).
  • I would take my teacher hat off but be observant of my behaviors in order to reflect on the experience.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  1. Our teachers cultivate incredible communities within the first week of school.

Seeing as it was the fourth day of school, I was not surprised when the teacher told me beforehand that she was spending a lot of time on routines. However, while there were procedures and routines being learned it was done in such a thoughtful, kind, and caring way. The classroom rules were in positive language, children were encouraged to think and discuss why we have rules, and the classroom had thought provoking questions all around the room. When a student needed a reminder or redirection it was done seamlessly and with a smile and it was focused exclusively on the behavior, not the student. I found myself smiling and laughing along with the teacher and other students because there was such a warm feeling in the room. The read aloud and community building game at the end of the day was such a beautiful example of how our teachers consciously make decisions to develop the whole child and nurture the needs of the students in the room.

  1. Our students show more empathy to one another than we realize.

When I was on the carpet during math time and working at a student table there were frequent opportunities for interaction. I was amazed at the way the students spoke and interacted with one another without much direction from the teacher. They were inclusive, working together, sharing, showing self-awareness, encouraging others to share ideas, and making space for one another. This was all done not because the teacher reminded students but because of who they naturally are as individuals. It was really heart-warming. During the short game at the end of the day I observed how well the students were including everyone and supporting one another.

  1. As engaging, brilliant, and planned as we are, our students will not hear everything we say.

We ask our students to listen a lot. We are frequently asking questions, giving directions, restating directions, modeling, giving examples, giving non examples, making students laugh, and a myriad of other things. It’s a lot to listen to as a student! After some time on the carpet my eyes were starting to wander around the room. I was taking in the classroom set up, glanced at the clock, looked at the math center, noticed what other students were doing. All the while, I thought I was listening but when the directions came of what to do with the math manipulatives I realized I had completely missed the instructions. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with them! If this happens to us as adults, it is definitely happening for our students.

  1. I failed at taking off my teacher hat.

If I was really doing this right, I would have spent more time focusing on being a student. But in truth I was always thinking through the lens of a teacher. I was adding management strategies to my tool box, when the small group I was working with was stuck I was scaffolding my questions to help students, and when I saw a student in the hallway hit another student I immediately walked over and spoke with the child to have him apologize. But I’m going to give myself a pass on this one.

  1. Teaching is hard, but being a student is harder.

There is no doubt that ISB is full of hard-working, talented, and amazing educators. Our job is not easy. But, we at least have the benefit of knowing the content, we have the benefit of understanding how the activity should go, how long the lesson will take, what will be covered when. We have the power to change something when it’s not working, speed up or slow down when we need to, and ask questions to help our students get there. Our students don’t usually have this power. They are learning new content, reflecting on something new, learning to work with other people, and are reliant on the adults to (generally) dictate the time and the content. Add in the additional challenges of being a new student, learning in your non-native language, or mastering difficult content and we realize just how tough a student’s job is.
The experience of shadowing a student was incredible, and one I highly recommend even if only for a short duration. Have you experienced a Chinese class at ISB? Have you attended Art or PE? Sat with your children through lunch? Completed the homework they have night after night for a week? It just might help us build empathy with our students, and with each other.

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