“Instead of brushfires for excellence, we need infernos of excellence. Our project will do this.” In a packed hotel conference room in Albuquerque, New Mexico, teacher leader Maureen Torrez, NBCT, describes the observation inquiry pilot project she and her team of National Board Certified Teachers are leading to deepen how teachers and students learn in Albuquerque public schools.
We need every teacher to believe in the full potential of every kid. Most of us share this belief, in theory. In practice, things get a little more complicated. It’s easy, for example, in a school where most students underperform, to adjust our expectations of what is possible to fit what we see. It is much more challenging to hold a vision that extends beyond the status quo, and help kids grow into that vision.
Here seven powerful practices you can use in your school to raise expectations for all students, especially ELLs, students of color, students living in poverty, or any students who are not yet thriving.
The language we use to talk about students matters. It reflects and shapes our perceptions, and most importantly, our expectations for student success.
In your school, make a courageous commitment to shift all staff conversations about kids and their families from a deficit mindset, which views diversity as a problem kids bear, to an asset mindset: one which truly values students and their communities for the diversity they bring. Begin by reframing these four sentences.
In a new study, Gershenson, Hold, & Papageorge (2015) reveal that non-black teachers have lower expectations than black teachers for the same black students in the same schools. How do white educators respond to these findings? Do we point the finger at others, or get personal to reflect humbly on what we each might better understand about ourselves, and change?
I wrote this poem about being an outsider in China in an effort to build empathy for what I have never experienced: being a new immigrant in the United States. I wrote it primarily for monolingual English speakers in my country who ask about immigrants, “Why do they stay together and speak their language?” “Why don’t they learn English?”
It’s easy to forget the dynamic of risk-taking in the world of K-12 education, where success is mapped in a staircase of standards and academic achievement is key to opening doors. This video poem and reflective blog dare educators to stretch the boundaries of what is possible, and inspire students to do the same.
When I was eight, I remember staring out the car window and thinking about disconnect between my world and the world of my Spanish-speaking neighbors who lived only a freeway exit away. No one in my family spoke Spanish, but I wanted to. In California, Spanish is the song of street signs and city names. It’s the voice of a history I wanted to hear, and neighbors I wanted to understand.
As an adult, I wrote this poem in my second language, Spanish, to reach out in a new way. An English translation follows.