By Patrick Williamson
Every July, the Mastery Collaborative offers a Summer Institute to share strong practices with our community of practitioners and interested guests from the broader community of interested NYC public school educators. Participants dedicate a week of their summer to a deep dive into topics such as culturally responsive practices (CRE)—together with CRE and mastery-based curriculum design, facilitation moves, and grading policies. This year, we were honored to have Peer Collaborative Teacher Lonice Eversley from Careers in Sports High School sharing her CRE strategies and approaches. Here are some key takeaways:
CRE promoting critical consciousness
Students should see themselves as change-makers, which necessitates seeing themselves in the content. Period. Students being able to center themselves and their history in school leads to an increase in engagement and heightened metacognition about their journey as learners. It is essential to note that this is not just sharing a history of trauma, but a co-generative dialogue that positions students as change makers and resistors. Diving into courageous conversations is necessary for CRE. As educators, we have to do the heavy lifting, to truly embody CRE content and process. CRE happens when we leverage assets and let the students do the heavy lifting of identity development.
Media representations show up in the classroom and need to be addressed
Students will be engaging with media regardless, so instead of dismissing media as unscholarly, we, must engage and bring it into the content. Through what Lonice referred to as “symbolic annihilation”, students of color are constantly seeing themselves omitted, trivialized, or condemned in the media, only to feel further ostracized by our tendency to disregard media studies as inappropriate in the classroom. CRE is rigorous and requires overtly addressing, contextualizing, and analyzing current events. One activity that she has done in the past is to present images and articles published in the media, and analyze the contrast in language used to describe the situation from one news source to another. (Ex: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some news sources referred to white people’s actions as “finding” food or trying to survive, whereas other news sources characterized people of color—engaged in exactly the same activity— as “looters” and “thieves”.)
Addressing the “origins of invisibility”
Which leads us to the last highlight for this post: We need to analyze and push back on the stripping away of stories. Too often, our history is told by the dominant, without addressing the power dynamics at play. This lens leaves our students susceptible to an understanding history in which they are not active participants and change-makers. Depending on who is telling the story and how, people of color are robbed of subjecthood and become become objects in story, instead of leaders, visionaries, innovators, etc.
There has always been one most powerful strategy to respond to inequity: Teach it. As brilliantly stated by Lonice, “if [students] can problem solve, they can change the world.”
A note from Patrick:
Dear MC community, as you may know I've recently transitioned to a new position with our friends at NYC Men Teach to continue the equity work we've all engaged in for the past few years. From anti-bias trainings, to presentations from rockstars like Lonice, to speed round chats at our events, I've learned so much from and with all of you. I will carry that learning with me as we continue to build community and advocate for our students, in the name of equity.
Respect and community always, PW