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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