Friday, December 15, 2017

Stop, Start, Continue

This week’s article summary is Stop, Start, Continue, and it resonated for me as we reach the mid-point of school year.

If you’re like me, one of the benefits of education is the opportunities you get to take stock of how you teach.

The article  below asks us to reflect on three questions:
  • What should we stop doing?
  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we continue doing?”

In answering these three questions, the author to me hit on Trinity’s goal of empowering students in their learning. 

When I think of all the teachers I had—be it in elementary, middle, upper, college, or grad school—the ones who meant the most to me were the ones who asked me to think and decide for myself. My best teachers guided rather than led me.

As we moved into a well-deserved hiatus, remember that when we return to school, we have a great opportunity to reset ourselves, our kids, and our classes. And those three questions might help us see what’s working and what needs to a little modification. 

Enjoy the holidays with families and friends and thank you for a spectacular first half of the year!



When I worked at United World College, on many days when we concluded our activities and jobs, we met in a circle and asked ourselves: What should we stop doing? What should we start doing? What should we continue doing?
As simple as these sound, these questions provided a safe, predictable set of questions that became habits of mind, a way to pause and reflect before engaging in something else. Our aim was to get better at what we were doing.
We need to give students in every school, at every age, real agency and authentic opportunities to make a difference in this volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous world. 
With this in mind, we cannot be satisfied only with students learning and developing deep conceptual understanding of multiple disciplines. 
We need young people building an ever-expanding portfolio of skills and experiences of things that they have done, created, and contributed to -- things that matter to them and others.
I propose three things that teachers need to stop doing, three things to start doing, and three things to continue doing.

What Should We Stop Doing?

Stop teaching as if we have the answers: Nothing could more powerfully demonstrate an inquiry-based approach to learning and doing than to design ways of engaging students with questions to which we ourselves do not know the answers. In this way, students may contribute to both their own understanding and also to ours.

Stop rushing: We need to slow down the race to cover content. We need to get more creative about ways to focus on key conceptual understandings, and about designing ways to demonstrate evidence of applying these conceptual understandings. Deep learning takes time.

Stop talking: Even with the most experiential, project-based approach, it would be good to figure out how much time any one person spends talking compared to listening. How much silence is there after any member of a group of learners poses a question? In a classroom setting, what would happen if we reduced teacher talk by 50% and increased the pause time between question and response by 50%?

What Should We Start Doing?

Start looking for problems to solve, actions to take, and beauty to create:If we were to do something that really mattered to ourselves, our classrooms, our schools, and our community, the potential for impact would be at once local and global. Start finding ways to engage students in understanding real-world problems, and then support them in solving those problems. Every student should experience the joy that comes with being a unique and positive force in the world.

Start teaching with new discoveries about the brain in mind: There is emerging evidence that where there is no emotion, there is no learning. Let's bring a full spectrum of positive emotions to teaching and learning. A good place to start is by sharing your passion, personal mission, and the questions and problems that are important to you. Bring all this to your students. And have them bring theirs to you.

Start seeking out authentic, high-stakes audiences for student work: We often ask students to spend many hours solving problems or creating things that are never shared beyond the teacher or the classroom. Partner with businesses, organizations, and your larger community to showcase innovative work produced by your students.

What Should We Continue Doing?

Continue with your professional development, and model the growth mindset in action:If we ourselves can't develop and model the 21st-century skills of collaboration, communication, and critical and creative thinking, how can we prepare students to master them? Regularly try new things in the classroom, and ask students for their feedback. Demonstrate that education is a lifelong process.

Continue to place our work with students in global contexts: We share a common humanity, and that's worth finding ways to be mindful of our interdependence. Foster the sense of connection that comes from seeing oneself as a part of a larger global community.

Continue believing in the potential of every student: Each student can make a positive difference, and each should understand the importance of investing in his or her own well-being along with the well-being of others. We cannot develop ourselves or contribute to the development of others if we live stressed, unbalanced lives. Introducing and modeling habits of mindfulness and doing what it takes to maintain well-being are critical for our very survival.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bias and Stereotyping Begins Early

This week’s article summary is Your Five-Year-Old is Already Racially Biased: Here's What You Can Do About It, and it appropriately follows our Wednesday faculty meeting topic on stereotyping.

The article provides some helpful tips to both parents and teachers about how to help young children avoid the pernicious influence of societal stereotypes.

One a-ha for me from the article was how early societal stereotypes influence young children.

As we have discussed, our macro DEI—Diversity, Equity, Inclusion--goal at Trinity is to help our students develop both a positive sense of self and a sincere care and concern for others.

More specifically, we strive to help our students:
  • Be proud of all aspects of their identity
  • Feel and demonstrate empathy and inclusion
  • Look for commonalities and respect differences
  • Resist societal stereotypes
  • With Trinity’s foundation, champion for a more equitable and just world

This article provides some ways in which both parents and us as a school can help our students avoid accepting societal stereotypes and help to live in a more just and fair world.



Fox Chapel Middle School in Spring Hill, Florida, recently fired a teacher who gave her sixth graders an assignment asking them to consider how “comfortable” they would be in the company of various people. Some of the 41 scenarios identified these “others” in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion.

For example:
  • Your new roommate is a Palestinian and Muslim
  • A group of young Black men are walking toward you on the street
  • The young man sitting next to you on the airplane is an Arab
  • Your new suitemates are Mexican
  • Your assigned lab partner is a fundamentalist Christian

Many Fox Hill students and parents were upset. “They’re kids. Let kids be kids. Why are they asking kids these questions?” one parent wondered. “I just don’t think it’s something that needs to be brought in school.” Another parent said: “I just think that sometimes kids are just too young to start that at this age, and in school.”

Such sentiments are familiar—and deeply misguided.

In the United States, a lot of us believe that children, especially white children, are racial innocents—completely naive, curiously fragile with respect to the realities of race, or both.

The truth is that well before their teen years, the vast majority of children are well aware of prevailing biases, and most kids, of all racial stripes, have taken on a bunch of their own.

Researchers have been studying the development of racial and ethnic biases in children for a long time, and we know quite a bit. We know that within a few months of birth, babies prefer own-race faces, probably because most are surrounded by people who look like them. Sometime during the preschool years, however, this relatively innocent pull toward the familiar morphs into something else.

By age five, black and Hispanic children show no preference toward their own group compared to white youngsters. On the other hand, white kids remain strongly biased in favor of whiteness. By the start of kindergarten, “children begin to show many of the same implicit racial attitudes that adults in our culture hold. Children have already learned to associate some groups with higher status, or more positive value, than others.”

So, with reference to the doubtless well-meaning parent quoted earlier, the crucial question isn’t “Why bring issues of racial, ethnic, religious and other kinds of bias into our schools?” It’s “how do we constructively engage the harmful biases we know pervade our schools and just about everywhere else? And what can we do to shape our children’s racial attitudes before and as they emerge?”

In that regard, research and experience offer some promising guidance to parents, teachers, and to all of us who care for or about children.

Start early: Let your child know that it’s perfectly okay to notice skin color and talk about race. Encourage them to ask questions, share observations and experiences, and be respectfully curious about race.

Realize that you are a role model to your child: What you say is important, but what you do—how diverse your circle of friends is, for example—will probably have an even bigger impact on your child. If he/she doesn’t attend a diverse school, if you’re able, consider enrolling him in activities such as sports leagues that are diverse. Choose books, toys, and movies that include people of different races and ethnicities. Visit museums with exhibits about a range of cultures and religions.

Let your child see you face your own biases: We’re less likely to pass on the biases we identify and work to overcome. Give your child an example of a bias, racial or otherwise, that you hold or have held. Share with your child things you do to confront and overcome that bias.

Know and love who you are: Talk about the histories and experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family strongly identify with. Talk about their contributions and acknowledge the less flattering parts of those histories as well. Tell stories about the challenges your family may have faced and overcome.

Develop racial cultural literacy by learning about and respecting others: Study and talk about the histories and experiences of groups such as African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Whites. Be sure your child understands that every racial and ethnic group includes people who believe different things and behave in different ways. There is more diversity within racial groups than across them.

Be honest with your child, in age-appropriate ways, about bigotry and oppression: Children are amazing at noticing patterns, including racial patterns (who lives in their neighborhood versus their friends’ neighborhoods, for example). Help them make sense of those patterns, and recognize that bigotry and oppression are sometimes a big part of those explanations. Be sure your child knows that the struggle for racial fairness is still happening and that your family can take part in that struggle.

“Lift up the freedom fighters”: Tell stories of resistance and resilience: Every big story of racial oppression is also a story about people fighting back and “speaking truth to power.” Teach your child those parts of the story too. Include women, children and young adults among the “freedom fighters” in the stories you tell.

Teach your children to be “upstanders” for racial justice: Help your child understand what it means to be, and how to be, a change agent. Whenever possible, connect the conversations you’re having to the change you and your child want to see, and to ways to bring about that change.

Plan for a marathon, not a sprint: Make race talks with your child routine. Race is a topic you should plan to revisit again and again in many different ways over time. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure” or “Let’s come back to that later, okay?” But then be sure to come back to it.