Category Archives: high expertise teaching

Empowering Culturally Proficient Classrooms with High-Expectations Teaching

Jon - You can do it!

“Children need us to be their personal trainer for cognitive development.”  Zaretta Hammond 6/15/18

At last we are facing the need to educate white teachers about racism and the consequences experienced by students of color. We are self-assessing implicit racism and the way it perniciously leads to unequal treatment.  We are edging up on serious study of culturally proficient teaching. These are vital elements for making students of color feel known and valued.

Although transforming students’ school experience to one where they feel known and their culture respected is a huge step, here’s what’s missing: marginalized students have heard the messages that they are “less than” so long that a frightful number of them have bought it. And thus many students of color and students living in poverty appear unmotivated. No child is unmotivated: but many believe they are not capable, have given up trying, or think the deck is stacked against them (not a totally unreasonable assumption). We can change their minds about their ability if we focus on getting low-performing, low-confidence students to believe in themselves, specifically they:

  1. Become convinced that ability can be grown. Fixed inborn ability is a myth
  2. Gain confidence they can grow theirs. (It’s not enough just to teach about brain malleability and the growth mindset. My students have to believe it pertains to them. This is not just a theory.)
  3. Be given the tools to grow their ability (learn effective effort and study skills) (what Hammond calls being their personal trainer”)
  4. Gain the desire to want to

That is our job as educators.

And we know how to do it, concretely, in daily behavior. Such a pity that it is missing from teacher education.  But it not too late. Combine the daily behavior of High- Expectations teaching with culturally proficient teaching, and we’ll get legions of our students over the top.

High-Expectations teachers do a myriad of very specific things in daily practice like what you can see in this one-minute video.

What we see here is that when students make errors or are half right in their responses, a High-Expectations teacher comes back to that student after all the information is produced. That student is asked to put it all together, thus emerging as a winner instead of being the “less than” kid who needed to be bailed out. It’s called Persevere and Return”.

There are total of 50 behaviors and structures like this we see in the practice of High-Expectations teachers, including explicit teaching of the 6 skills of Effective Effort. These are teachers who get students to change their stereotypes of themselves and become successful students. We all need to learn how to implement these skills and structures.

Marry the “50 Ways to Get Students to Believe in Themselves” (downloadable here on our website) with teacher professional development in anti-racism and culturally proficient teaching, and we will collapse the achievement gap.

                                                                                                Jon Saphier

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Time to Be Tackling Racial Bias in the Classroom

Student Looking at GlobeRacism is a social construct that operates as a system of oppression based on race. It operates everywhere, even inside the best intentioned of educators.

Racism is built on stereotypes and expressed in various forms of oppression. It shows up in individuals belonging to marginalized groups as internalized racism, in unaware individuals committing micro-aggressions, and in the implementation of school procedures like student placement into special education, tracking, and unequal application of discipline. Facing all this invites difficult conversations that need to take place in schools across the country.

Racism is certainly a first cousin of cultural blindness and cultural improficiency, but it is profoundly different. Culturally improficiency arises from lack of interest and awareness and respect for other cultures. Racism comes from an ancient tradition of dominance and control.

The presumed inferiority of non-white racial groups shows up in a range of places throughout our history. We can see this bias systemically in unequal distribution of governmental resources to schools even to this day. We see this bias in views of intelligence as innate and fixed. Racism prompts differential teacher behavior.

One consequence of our history of racism is what Claude Steele identified twenty-five years ago as “stereotype threat.” “Stereotype threat” induces an unconscious loss of edge in performance based on racial cues. His 2011 book, Whistling Vivaldi, summarizes his quarter-century of research on this topic in engaging and non-judgmental prose. I recommend it to anyone who wants to broaden understanding of this very important and challenging topic.

As teachers, we deepen our understanding of racism by studying the manifestations of white privilege and racism from the beginning, in the history of our country and other countries. It is, in fact, an often unexamined history, and one whose consequences for people of color can be hard for white Americans to comprehend completely without a conscious effort to learn and talk openly about it.

The quest for racial awareness and anti-racist teaching should propel us to push back on negative stereotypes, to correct distortions, and to remedy omissions in our behavior and curriculum that stem from racism. Most powerfully, it should inspire us to make students of color believers in themselves and their capacity. And it is our job to convince them of that. In the process, we will have to work hard to convince ourselves, since we are all, without exception, tainted by traces of racism.

Recommended Reading:

Steele, Claude, Whistling Vivaldi

Singleton, Glenn E. Courageous Conversations about Race.

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Why Teachers Need Cultural Proficiency

Group of Elementary Pupils In Classroom With TeacherChanging demographics have made a “should” into a “must” for American teachers. Cultural proficiency produces behaviors that acknowledge and value the culture of those different from oneself. It develops out of being curious and wanting to learn about other people and their cultures.

We are culturally improficient when we lack any understanding of people whose cultural backgrounds and traditions are not that same as our own. Cultural improficiency in the classroom has the result of leaving students who are culturally and linguistically diverse feeling misunderstood and excluded. When a teacher is culturally proficient all students feel that they have a place in the classroom because cultural difference is acknowledged and recognized as having value. This shows up in the artifacts of the class and the examples used in lessons. Cultural diversity is viewed as enriching the classroom experience for everyone.

As teachers of all children, each of us has an obligation, a moral imperative really, to 1) learn about the different cultures of our students and 2) find ways to make their cultures appear in validating ways in our curricula and instructional examples. That is the starting point for cultural proficiency, and cultural proficiency is a new skill set that all American teachers must have to provide every student with the best learning environment.

Recommended Reading:

Excellent recent book in a rich literature: Zaretta’ Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.

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