Being the Change- Week One #cyberpd

For months, I’ve seen Being the Change, by Sara K. Ahmed, in posts on social media. It immediately sparked my interest and I mentally noted that it may be something to check out. Then when the #cyberpd title was announced, I knew that reading this book with an online community would be a great addition to my summer plans. Of course, I invited some real life friends to join in as well. I have big plans for summer-an ambitious summer reading pile and visions of time to write. So far, my own kids eating up most of my summer…but I’m trying to sneak a few minutes in when I can!

About five years ago, I became certified as a Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher. My mentor as a first year teacher, Caltha Crowe, was also a consulting teacher and spent so much time coaching me through every aspect of my teaching life. Looking back, that partnership was so important in shaping the core of who I have become as a teacher. The overall philosophy of Responsive Classroom (see the guiding principles below) was something that meshed with my own visions of a teacher and continues to shape my work every day. Even early on, my main dreams for my classroom community was to support growing kind people.

RC Guiding Principles

  1. Teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content.
  2. How we teach is as important as what we teach.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. How we work together as adults to cre­ate a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.
  5. What we know and believe about our students—individually, culturally, developmentally—informs our expec­tations, reactions, and attitudes about those students.
  6. Partnering with families—knowing them and valuing their contributions—is as important as knowing the children we teach.

The reason I bring up Responsive Classroom in my post about Being the Change, is that so much Sara Ahmed’s work aligns perfectly with the work of Responsive Classroom…or of just fostering a RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM. I loved so much of what the book shared and found myself really connecting to chapter two, “Listening with Love”. In this chapter, Sara, seems to be putting into words some of my own thoughts. Teaching empathy and social comprehension can’t be captured in a curriculum. This is the work that comes from using our “strongest superpower in the classroom…kid watching. Make it about what the kids are doing and saying. That is, listen; don’t just wait to talk (xxvii).”

In the past, our district has tried to define the social curriculum. We’ve tried to write lessons and pinpoint times in the year that the lessons should be taught. I always struggled with this work because the social curriculum can’t be reduced to a handful of lessons. It is the work we do constantly throughout the school day. The social curriculum can’t just happen during Morning Meeting or during the district written lessons. As Sara said, “I can only sketch a blueprint and offer some tried-and-true suggestions and teaching moves. You, the expert in your classroom, will need to choose the moments and tools you’ll use to help your students build the skill of active listening (32).”

What I liked about chapter two, was that Sara attempted to show how this work could be woven across a school day. There was an emphasis on the work through literacy, which is a natural place for examining perspectives, connecting to our own identities, and for practicing active listening.

Some thoughts I’m still thinking about and hope to continue considering as I read more of Being the Change is how do we empower teachers to feel comfortable in choosing the “moments and tools” they’ll need to mentor (loved the use of mentor vs. teach) responsively. Trying the ideas in the book are a great starting place. But there is a subtlety in Sara’s writing, that invites us to do more than just “do the activities,” but to live this work each and every day.

10 thoughts on “Being the Change- Week One #cyberpd

  1. I loved your connections with the Responsive Classroom work. I have never done that training, but I have read lots and used a lot of their ideas. I love their basic tenets, starting with having a healthy adult community! And I totally agree with you that it’s hard to break that community into a series of specific lessons. It’s more a way of being with kids, and of teaching them to be with each other. I do however, like many of the lessons, especially in Chapter Two. I can see lots of ways this language could be helpful in the classroom.

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  2. To do this work well, we need to change so much about how we view our classroom and the world. I think the activities are a starting point. Doing this work with the #cyberpd community is another big step. Perhaps doing it within your school community would be next. That’s what I’m hoping for at my grade level.

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  3. I’m enjoying it too! It is so easy for us to say we’ve check our bias, but in reality there are biases we all have without even realizing it. I had a hard time for a long time with girls wearing spaghetti strapped tank tops to school. Every time, I’d hear my dad’s voice echoing in my head and I wanted to immediately make the child put a t-shirt from the office on their body! I’m better now, and I do know that I have the dress code to help me out. But if an adult is wearing one, I have to consciously tell myself, “This is your issue, not hers.”

    I am also loving how Sara weaves the work across the school day, not as stand alone lessons. I just don’t have time for another program that does not help me with curriculum, or one that does help me with curriculum but I have to spend a bunch of time figuring out how.

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  4. You mentioned empowering teachers to feel comfortable… one of the things I’m enjoying about Being the Change is the “Addressing Tensions” sections, which assume that discomfort is part of the process. I think I’m working on empowering myself to be okay with being uncomfortable!

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  5. Thanks for sharing the connection to Responsive Classroom. They do truly go hand-in-hand! I also appreciate how Sara encourages social comprehension throughout the day. It’s not a once a day lesson, check it off the list, we “covered” it during the morning meeting. We must live and breathe it every moment of every day. It’s that important. Thanks for sharing your voice and adding to the conversation!
    ~Michelle

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