Transcript: Beyond heroes and holidays: Expanding understanding and practices of culturally responsive and sustaining approaches
Nakanya Magby: On behalf of the California Center for School Climate, I’d like to welcome you to our session on “Beyond Heroes and Holidays: Expanding and Understanding Practices of Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Approaches.” I’m Nakanya Magby, and I will be your moderator for today’s session. I’m joined by my colleague, Kenwyn, who will be supporting in the chat. Next slide please.
Here’s a preview of what’s on today’s agenda. We’ll start with the welcome and introductions. Then we’ll have an opening activity. Next, we will set the stage for culturally responsive and sustaining education and equity. Then our speakers will help us think about the language of this work. We will participate in a post-session assignment where we explore identity. We will then have Q&A and closing with a feedback survey at the end.
This event is being brought to you by the California Center for School Climate, an initiative of the California Department of Education. We invite you to visit our website to explore the range of supports provided to districts and schools across the state. Kenwyn will be posting the website for you to explore in the chat now, or you could also utilize the QR code on the screen to visit the website. Our goals at the center focus on supporting districts in their efforts to improve school climate for students and staff, by meeting districts where they are and providing relevant supports. Next slide please. Now, I will welcome Hilva Chan from the CDE for a brief welcome.
Hilva Chan: Good morning. On behalf of the CDE, I’d like to welcome you to this session. My name is Hilva Chan and I’m in education programs with the CDE. We are so happy that you can join us today. We understand the pandemic has put an enormous stress on everyone, especially school staff that are trying their best to help students reconnect and reengage, support them academically, while managing your own stress at taking care of your families.
So, I want to just support you for what you have been doing to support your students. The CDE realizes the challenges, and to better support schools and districts we launched the California Center for School Climate, the CCSC, in January. The CCSC hosted this virtual event and offers many other training opportunities and provides technical assistance to help schools build a safe and supportive school climate. We know that having a positive school climate is critical, especially during times of high stress. It is the positive relationships and social support that make us stronger, make us feel like we are not struggling on our own and keep us going. So, I’m so happy that we are talking about culturally responsive and sustaining practices today. I look forward to hearing more about what we can do together to help all students, especially students of color, to feel seen, heard, respected, and valued. Again, thanks for joining us today. It’s great to have you here.
Nakanya Magby: Thank you, Hilva. Next slide please. So today our presenters will be Dr. Erin Browder, who is a senior program associate with WestEd’s Talent Development and Diversity content area. She provides technical assistance and project design for K–12 initiatives related to trauma-informed topics, school improvement, leadership development, social emotional learning, and culturally responsive and equity-centered approaches that foster safe and supportive schools. Erin brings a diverse skillset to her work, helping schools, districts, and state systems create sustainable change and positive outcomes for students, families, and staff members. She has demonstrated success as an educator and nonprofit leader, creating funding and partnership opportunities among education agencies, healthcare systems, community organizations, and nonprofits across the country.
Our next presenter will also be Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams. She’s an associate professor in science education at the University of California Davis School of Education. She’s focused on the intersection of equity studies, social psychology, social justice, and science education. Previously, she worked as an assistant director of an afterschool program, a middle school science teacher and an intervention instructor at an elementary school in Oakland Unified School District. Alexis is passionate about supporting teachers and creating equitable and just school environments in order to eliminate disparate experiences students have, as well as to reduce harm students experience at school. I will now pass it to Dr. Browder and Dr. Patterson Williams.
Dr. Erin Browder: Thank you Nakanya and team. Hello everyone. We are really excited and looking forward to this shared learning session this morning. You are certainly in for a treat. And so let me just start by saying, it’s not too often that you are able to partner with such brilliance of a grounded and aligned researcher-practitioner like Dr. Patterson Williams. Dr. Patterson Williams lives the work of equity. I stumbled upon her research paper on equitable science classrooms, and I thought, we need to invite this woman to join us in our CRSE, our culturally responsive and sustaining education work, here at WestEd. She has served as a classroom educator, is currently an associate professor and a teacher educator, and a published researcher who contributes to the teacher preparation field in a much-needed discipline of science, where there are noted inequities, inaccessibility and invisibility, really ,of culturally, racially and linguistically diverse people, especially girls and young women.
On behalf of our team, we are honored to be graced with her insights, research and community-rooted practices in science and beyond. I also want to acknowledge, I saw in the chat, we have lots of folks joining us, county partners from county offices of ed across our state. I want you to think about, as you engage in the learning for this session, which hat you’re wearing. The learning that you have here will be applicable in both your professional context and then in your work serving schools and system leaders, and classroom teachers. And so as we move through, just think about which perspective or hat that you have on. And we might ask you just to sit in the hat of your professional context, the role that you are tasked with fulfilling, and then your individual experiences. All right. Moving into the framing of our session.
And I think we can move to the next slide for this one. Thank you. Moving into the framing of our session. Most people who are familiar with CRSE or multicultural education, are familiar with these two terms of heroes and holidays. They are typically an initial step into the world of culturally relevant education. The title is certainly a nod to James Banks and Geneva Gay, who are the primary theorists of culturally relevant teaching. And we want to honor that as a first step, there is power into bringing and acknowledging the diverse cultural backgrounds of heroes and holidays and what they mean for our students, the symbolism that they have.
But we also want to encourage and really name for you all, that it’s time to go deeper. It’s time to move beyond the heroes and holidays and think about, what are the visible and invisible realities of systemic inequities in our classrooms and in our schools? How do they touch and impact our students and staff, adults, and colleagues that we work with every day? Today, we are going to go deeper into the individual level, down to the granular space, where we start to explore the big impact of small actions and interactions.
Strategies, protocols, practices. This field is full of ways to do the work, but a huge part of doing or being in this work is who you are and who we are together. And so that is the road we are staying on for today’s session. I’m going to invite you to make sure that you have a pen and paper handy as we will do a guided activity a little bit later, or you can also pull up a Word doc on your computer. Awesome. Next slide.
All right. So, we want to do a temperature check. We want to know, how are you feeling today? And so we have some songs here that describe feelings. And so we start off with “Walking on Sunshine.” We have number two, “A Good Day” by Ice Cube. These are good classics you all. For number three we have “Say a Little Prayer.” Four, “I’m Happy” by Pharrell. Five, “Torn,” because we’re not always 100% happy and that’s okay too. We want to acknowledge the range of emotions. And then we have “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena. So we are asking you, how are you feeling today? Go ahead and put the number of the song that describes your feeling in the chat. Ooh, so I see lots of twos. I see some fives. I see some threes. Awesome. Great. I’m sure for a lot of us, the songs are playing in the back of our heads too, which is good. It’s like a soundtrack for this session. Awesome. Thank you. Next slide please.
Typically, in our work, we start off with working agreements. And we know that today’s session we’re not going to have the full in-person or virtual meeting interactions. But we wanted to offer these both as parameters for our conversation today, so just that you note them, and then offer them as guidance for the field. So, as you’re engaging in conversations around culturally responsive approaches and equity, that you have agreements that are mutually shared across your participants to honor the work and the energy that’s in that shared space. And so, these agreements are keeping confidentiality. So we see in our chat, we have names in our chat. What happens here, stays here. Focus on impact versus intent. So we want to pay attention to, sure, we might have good intentions, but to pause on whatever action or words we might want to share and think about how might they impact other people in this room that have different identities, social identities.
We want to know when to step forward and step back, staying in the room and struggling together. We want to interrogate self and systems. This will definitely be prominent as we continue our conversation here. And we’re going to accept lack of closure. You all can imagine, we can continue this conversation for a whole entire year if it was up to us, definitely Dr. Patterson Williams and I have a lot to say about this. So please receive these working agreements and have your personal consent to them as we engage in our conversation today. Thank you.
Next slide please. So to break it up, I’m going to invite Dr. Patterson Williams to read our intended outcomes. I also want to name that we’re reading most of the content from the slides today for accessibility. And so, I invite you to think about that as well. A lot of times people assume like, hey, you can read the slides, I don’t need to read it. But we want to make sure that we’re meeting the needs, the learning, the visual, the verbal needs that our different participants have. Thank you. Dr. Patterson Williams, will you read the intended outcomes for us?
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: I will. The intended outcomes today, participants will deepen understanding of how and where culture exists in our schools, classrooms and shared spaces. Participants will explore the qualities of an equitable classroom and the essential role of noticing and self-reflection in the implementation of culturally responsive and sustaining practices. And finally, participants will discover promising practices and behaviors to support a critical consciousness and foster culturally affirmative schooling experiences for culturally diverse students and staff.
Dr. Erin Browder: Thank you Dr. Patterson Williams. So we have a lot to do. I’m not going to keep us here too long, but I do want to bring your attention to number two. In this session, we are going to reference both equity and culturally responsive and sustaining education. Shortly, we will define these as the language of our work. I want to name that these two terms are not interchangeable, but they are interdependent. And so, in our work, we believe that in order to be in a space of equity to create equitable outcomes, that means you have to implement and institute culturally responsive and sustaining approaches. So, I’m going to name that upfront because we will be going through both of those through the content here today. Thank you. Next page or slide. Thanks.
All right. So, we are going to set the foundation with starting where we are, and we have an opening activity for you all around culture in schools. Can you move to the next slide please? And thinking about our primary context, if you’re in an organization, I invite you to think about the ways that culture shows up in your organization. If you’re in a school, if you’re in a district office, you choose your context. The point of this activity is starting to be aware or just bringing our awareness into the ways that we experience culture every day. So, I have three questions for you that Kenwyn is going to place in the prompt. They are: What does culture look like in schools? What does culture sound like in schools? And in what ways do we feel culture in schools? And again, let’s sub out schools, it could be in your organization. What does culture look like, sound like, and feel like in your organization? I’m going to give you a couple minutes to respond to that.
Please use the chat and throw in your answers. (silence) All right. Well, let’s keep the answers coming in. I’m going to move us to … It feels inclusive. You feel welcome. So, you feel seen, valued and heard. There is diversity. So there’s multiple ways that people express themselves. Culture through the tone, amounts and content of communication. So how we talk to each other, how we acknowledge, how we greet each other. It’s a feeling of being safe and willing to take risks. So again, feeling seen and supported. All right. I’m going to move us to the next slide.
And we’re going to think about on a granular level, what are the ways that we see and feel and hear culture? We might hear it in language. Or, might, we do hear it in language. In our non-verbal communication. The ways that we express ourselves, the way that we greet each other in the hallways. When we think about our students, when we think about the way they dress and the different colors that they wear, the curriculum that we might see, the instruction. Thinking about hairstyles, physical appearances. So we’re looking again at that granular level. The music they’re listening to, the vocabulary, the words that they use. The ways that they want personal space, like spatial reasoning. The relationships that they have. So we are immersed in culture, in our workplaces, in our schools. And oftentimes when we have in our minds that we have to do something for culturally responsive and sustaining education, it’s working outside of ourselves. But if we just pause and took a perspective of what is around us, we can see the ways that we are immersed and surrounded by culture, and that it’s not an isolated incident or occurrence. And that at any given moment, we can be affirmative to that culture, we can be accepting to that culture. And then we can also be dismissive and ignore culture, or even problematize it. We don’t talk like that here. You don’t do that here. You don’t work, or you don’t wear these clothes or colors here, or heat up this type of food here. So thinking about the ways that we are affirming of each other and knowing that that’s what creates a sense of feeling welcomed and feeling safe. Our school days are filled, our work days are filled with culture. And for students of color in particular, they’re constantly receiving messages through adult behaviors, language and actions, that their cultures are not acceptable or valued at the same way or rate as those who carry dominant culture or a larger culture of white supremacy. As an opening activity here, we as educators, and if we’re in county offices, if we’re at the school site, this is one of the ways that we can start to open the floodgates and see the ways that we can be more constructive and aware of how we engage and notice cultures.
And so we’re going to move on and talk a little bit about, that culture is bigger than race, but is also shaped by our racialized experiences. So in our society, we know race is prominent. When we look at systemic inequities, we see the most disparity and gaps separated by race. But race is not the only aspect of culture that we carry. This comes from the New Mexico Public Education Department. And we see multiple rings of culture, and here they’re surrounding ethnicity and race. And we can also accept, even if it’s not in the diagram, that these rings are interlocking, they’re interconnected. And so there’s gender, there’s culture related to gender, to age, there’s youth culture, to orientation, to nationality, to ability, to socioeconomic levels. So, culture is rich and it’s very complex. And we should see it both through the lens of race, but also understand that race is one aspect of the cultures that we carry.
Can we go to the next slide? So here we have a quote from the New York State Department who has this culturally responsive sustaining education framework, that schools are a meeting place for cultures. They contain children and adults who bring with them multiple facets of their identity, and along with unique experiences and perspectives. And what we’re going to talk about is how that identity is really central to their achievement and wellbeing, their academic and their social wellbeing. Next slide please.
Here’s a question that we want you to keep in mind as we navigate through the content of today’s session. What are ways that we invalidate students’ home culture? And again, let’s expand this, thinking about your work setting. What are ways that we invalidate the home cultures of our colleagues and the people that we work with closely, the adults in a school building or in a school system? And we have underneath, perhaps it’s a little bit too small, that there’s commitments that we can take through our instructional practices and critical self-examination that can continue to heighten our awareness and help us see when we are invalidating. So that we can make different choices and be more inclusive to create that equitable space that we all are here to learn more about, but ultimately what we’ve committed to as educators. Next slide please.
So getting into the language of this work. It’s really important that we have a shared understanding of key terms. In particular today, we are talking about culturally responsive and sustaining education and equity. And we want to offer some definitions, so at least in our time here today, and we hope that perhaps you use these definitions in your work, we have a shared understanding of these terms. Next slide please.
So what is culturally responsive and sustaining education? So right here we are borrowing the work from two scholars, two folks who have contributed much to the ways we understand culturally responsive and sustaining education now, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr. Zaretta Hammond. And we split it out into both students. So what does it look like for students and what does it look like for educators? And before diving into what’s on this slide, I want to offer some language from Dr. Django Paris and Samy Alim, who actually coined this term “culturally responsive and sustaining education.” This work draws on decades of research from those two researchers who found that asset-based pedagogies that recognize cultural difference, that include all those rings of culture that we just talked about — ritual, ethnic, linguistic, gender, sexuality, and ability — are assets for teaching and learning.
The term “culturally sustaining” requires that our pedagogies be more than responsive or relevant to the cultural experiences and practices of young people. It requires that they support young people in sustaining the cultural and linguistic competence of their communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence. Culturally sustaining pedagogy then has an explicit goal supporting multilingualism and multiculturalism in practice and perspective for students and teachers. So here on the left side of this slide, we see the impact for students. They develop and maintain their own cultural competence. They develop their own critical consciousness, which is what we’ll talk more about today. And they experience academic and social success.
And for educators, they recognize the impact of the racialized society. They recognize and validate the use of students’ cultural capital. So, thinking about the ways that students are bringing culture into our schools. They connect content to student knowledge and culture, and they build relationships and social-emotional connection to create a safe space for learning. Awesome. Thank you. Next slide please.
All right. And so, we have this other definition of equity. And I’m going to invite Dr. Patterson Williams to read this definition for us. And then I’m also going to prompt you all in terms of what connections or key terms stand out to you about this definition of equity.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Okay. So according to Glenn Singleton, equity and education is raising the achievement of all students while narrowing the gaps between the highest and lowest performing students, and eliminating the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.
Dr. Erin Browder: Thank you Dr. Patterson Williams. So as you’re listening and reading this definition, what stands out to you? What resonates? Which key terms or phrases have caught your eye or ear? Feel free to use the chat to jot your responses. And while you all are doing that, as we start to move into our content for today, I do want to name that equity is a concept that most everyone agrees is important, yet we all hold different understandings. The importance of shared language and understanding at your school site means that you’re starting with practices like this, establishing the language of this work and working together to make sure that your definition reflects the interest of the different partners in your school community or school system.
One of the disconnects that we see when we are discussing equity and we’re talking to folks about putting it into practice, is that they are like, what do you mean? What does it look like? What does it sound like? We all understand and accept that equity is important, but sometimes moving it into practice, there’s a gap there. And one of the brilliant aspects that Dr. Patterson Williams is going to bring into the session, is helping us ground our understanding of equity, into four concrete approaches. And so, I’m going to pass the mic to my co-host, and Dr. Patterson Williams will talk more with us about equity in our classrooms.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Fantastic. Thank you, Dr. Browder. I am excited to be engaging in this conversation with you and taking the mic on this concept of equity. We’re about to go deep in here y’all. This is my research. This is my jam. And I believe that we as teachers and educators are capable of handling really robust discussions about equity and culturally responsive and sustaining teaching. So today I want to offer you some ideas about equity from my research in science classrooms and discussions about how to best serve culturally and linguistically diverse students that I have been having with English language arts teachers that I’m working with. And although you might hear me say classrooms a lot, these things also apply to our organizations and the spaces that we are working. So really building on this idea of equity. We often think of equity as an outcome that we are trying to achieve.
But in my research in the classroom, I’ve come to understand that equity is something that we achieve, yes, but there is a work that is required to create equity. Equity is action oriented. It is solution oriented. It is dynamic. It is not static. It has to be created. So, equity is not just this preexisting thing in our schools and workplaces, but we have to ask ourselves, what does it look like in our classrooms and in our organizations? And we asked you some similar questions and what I want to offer are four aspects of equity and what I call the work of equity that I have found in classrooms. And these four aspects are voice, visibility, agency and authority.
So, let’s start with voice. Whose voice is present in your classroom? And whose voice is dominant? Is it the smart students that talk the most in our classroom spaces or in our organizations? Whose ideas are heard and taken up in our whole group and in the small group space? Whose voices and identities are represented in our curriculum, present on our walls, or speaking through our actions? Curriculum and instructional moves are not neutral. They reflect our values, our beliefs, and are often aligned with culture. The other place we can look to is these linguistic practices. Linda LeNoir was talking about asking students, in the chat, she was talking about asking students to speak English and not honoring home languages. So, whose linguistic practices are we deeming academic or appropriate for sense making of the material that we present?
All these questions can act as an indicator of the presence of voice in our classroom. Are the voices equally represented in our spaces of learning? That’s equity as an outcome. The actions that we take are the work of equity. And so, in culturally responsive and sustaining classrooms, equity of voice is created by various decisions we make. The notion of voice and visibility are really interconnected. And I love the work of Paulo Freire. He makes the argument that if it is in speaking their word, that it is in speaking their word, that people by naming the world, transform it. Dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve significance as human beings. Dialogue is thus an existential necessity. It an existential necessity. So here Freire identifies dialogue with others as imperative to our existence as human beings. Dialogue is our primary way of impacting the world. It’s how we make ourselves and our truth visible. In a group space like classrooms and organizations, students and other folks often assert themselves and make themselves seen through their voice. Thus, the exclusionary behavior or a lack of engagement, both physically and verbally, can render students invisible during the process of meaning making and learning. Whose voice and identity is present in our classroom becomes then of crucial concern for us to make sure that our talk is aligning with our classroom walk or our organizational walk. I’ll talk quickly about agency and authority, and I’ll try to hit them together.
So, it’s important to recognize the social hierarchies inherent in our school systems and organizations. In a classroom, the teacher is the built-in authority figure. And in a work environment, the supervisor or manager is also the designated authority. So, when it comes to authority, who has the power in the space to shape the work, who is leading the discussion, the task, or the project, are important questions to be asking ourselves. Oftentimes it’s not that this kind of binary where one person holds the authority all the time. But it is important for us to consider, what types of tasks do we allow others to lead? Are they small menial tasks that don’t require much critical thought or responsibility, or sustained leadership? If so, we might need to engage in doing some of the work of equity to really up the shared authority and agency. In a classroom where equity is being created, there is, as I just said, shared or delegated authority. Where those with the highest status are actively delegating and distributing their authority, their voice, to those who may, by given social hierarchies, not have that same power distributed naturally.
And this is where we see agency arise. Agency in action, according to Basu, is students purposely considering and enacting both small and large skilled changes in personal or community domains based on their beliefs and goals. Other researchers emphasize the power of student agency in shaping classroom curriculum and transforming local policy. So here we see some shared design in the classroom, shared voice in what is being learned and how action is taking place in the classroom space. However, Molly Blackburn describes a more personal form of agency, where agency is the student’s ability to recover from and exert power against oppression. And it can lead to standing up for one’s self or asserting one’s self during a class assignment or a work of project.
So, these are important ways that we can see authority and agency, and I’m hoping you can also see the way that voice and visibility are interwoven in this. We want equity in our classrooms, but we also have to be actively creating it in our organization and in our schools. It takes work and that work can be realized through culturally responsive and sustaining practices.
So, I’ve said a lot. So, let’s take a pause for the cause here. I want to give you some reflection time to think about how these ideas of voice, visibility and authority, and agency may or may not be present in your classroom or organization. So, we’re going to reflect through a poll. So the first question I’d like to ask is, is there shared voice amongst students in your classroom? And for those who are non-classroom teachers, is there shared voice among individuals in your work setting? Go ahead and share that poll. And after you’ve gone ahead and put in your answer, go ahead and drop in the chat if you would, how it is that you are ensuring that shared voice is happening in your space? And I want you to think about whether or not people from multiple marginalized backgrounds would say that they have shared voice. How do you know this? And what are the ways that you really act to ensure that’s happening?
So we see from the poll that 13% of folks say “not all the time,” 67% of folks say “sometimes.” And then we also see that 21% feel like “all the time” shared voice is happening in the classroom. Awesome. We have one more question that we want you all to reflect on, and that question is about visibility. Do you feel like all of your students are visible in the classroom? And again, for our non-classroom teachers, do you feel like all individuals in your space are visible? (silence) And again, I encourage you to reflect on whether or not folks from multiple marginalized identities, would they agree? And how do you know? Okay.
And so here, I want to just highlight, I want to highlight that, oh, I didn’t get that data on that last one. But in the previous poll, oh there it is, great, and in this current one, we see that the majority of folks are saying “not all the time” or “sometimes.” And I want to say that it’s important to be aware of when inequity is not happening. There’s no shame in being honest about saying sometimes inequity is occurring. Because when we talk about equity as a process, that means that there are times when inequity is happening.
There’s something that we are creating and trying to redress when we’re trying to build towards equity. And so the question then becomes, how do we respond and interrupt? How do we recognize when it is us? When we are the ones creating the inequity, when we are the ones that might be perpetuating it. In order to do culturally responsive and sustaining, to create those environments and to engage in those practices, we have to be critically conscious and aware of the ways that we are creating and/or maintaining inequity. Next slide.
So, we see that Beverly Tatum, who is one of my favorite scholars, she talks about us being smog breathers. And so when we think about the fact that we may be creating inequitable spaces, it might be hard to hear that, that we might be the ones that are bringing, what Beverly Tatum calls smog, into the classrooms or into our organizations. So, first of all, what is the smog? Schools and organizations are microcosms of a larger society that is full of what I like to call isms — racism, sexism, you know all of the isms — the various ways that people are marginalized and oppressed in our society. And those isms act as the smog that is surrounding us, unfortunately. And we live in society and breathe in the smog, AKA, those isms. There are multiple ways that we get messages that reinforce those isms. The media that we consume, in the news, jokes that we hear at the holidays with our family.
So there are multiple ways that these isms get reinforced and we breathe it in. And through our actions, through our teachings, through the ways that we lead and facilitate our spaces, that smog influence is there. The smog’s influence is there. We are breathing out the smog unless we are actively detoxing, unless we are actively disrupting the smog that’s within us. We are bringing that into spaces with us. So how do we detox or how do we disrupt the smog within our classrooms? It does indeed start with the self. We have to detox ourselves. A lot of times we want to start trying to purify the environment and point out the inequities that we see all around us, in our schools, in our classrooms, in our organizations, but really the work of detoxing begins with ourselves. It begins with the work of developing critical consciousness, and we want to turn our focus there. Next slide. At this point, I’m sure that you all would like a little bit of reprieve from my voice. So, I’m going to ask if Dr. Browder would read the slide, the quotes from these prolific scholars describing critical consciousness.
Dr. Erin Browder: Thank you. Critical consciousness. The process whereby people achieve an illuminating awareness of the socioeconomic and cultural circumstances that shape their lives and their capacity to transform that reality. Freire, 1978. It is an active participatory process through which individuals and groups gain greater control over their social identities and lives that they protect human rights and reduce social injustice. Matan, 2008. Gloria Ladson-Billings reminds us that critical consciousness is a broader sociopolitical consciousness that allows individuals to critique the cultural norms, values, morals, and institutions that produce and maintain social inequities. Critical consciousness is a constant practice. It’s an increased awareness of self, society and systems. It is a journey and not a destination. We’re going to hear a little bit more from Dr. Patterson Williams about a strategy, a practice that we can use to strengthen our critical consciousness through a discipline of noticing. Next slide please.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Awesome. Thank you, Erin. We’re going to talk about the discipline of noticing a little bit, and I want to give us a little bit of context. So when we talk about noticing, noticing is what one attends to or sees in spite of a barrage of information presented. We have a lot of things happening in our space, but what you attend and focus on or see in spite of all the things, that’s what you’re noticing. There’s three critical components to noticing. So it is the attending, so what you see. It’s the interpreting, so how do you make sense of what you see? And then it’s the response. So how do you decide to respond to what you’ve observed?
You can notice in the moment and you can notice later upon reflection. And it’s important to understand that noticing is not random or objective. What we as teachers or educators pay attention to are influenced by various factors. This includes the vision and the values of our field, our pedagogical commitments, our own positionality, who we are, our multiple identities, our personal background, our dispositions, the content that we teach and the amount of time that we’ve been teaching in our organization. And these varying factors influence what stands out to us as important, good, and right for our classrooms and for our students to be doing.
And so, it’s at this point that it’s really important that we then think about not just noticing, because we can notice for many things. And a lot of times teachers are trained to notice around the academic content. But it’s really important for us to begin to think about our noticing for equity. And noticing for equity is about the ability to see, interpret and to respond to behaviors that facilitate equitable interaction. Noticing for equity includes teachers and individuals intending to and addressing issues of race, gender, class, and status. So it really is about the ability to see what’s happening, where injustice and inequity might be happening, and then being able to make sense of it and respond in the moment or later upon reflection. So how does noticing and noticing for equity connect to critical consciousness? John Mason tells us that we have to look at our noticing.
We have to notice our noticing. And so, we want to become aware of what we attend to and how we make sense of it. When you see the black boys in the back of your classroom with their head down, are you saying, “Oh, these boys are lazy” or “That community doesn’t really do science, so that’s why they have their head down.” If that is the way that we’re making sense of what we see, then we’ve got some work to do disrupting that smog. So this is what it means to have the critical consciousness. It is to allow understandings of how larger social political, our social political context, or the smog is affecting how we see. It’s trying to understand that, it’s trying to understand how we make sense of what we see and how we respond. And so we want to develop what Mason describes as an inner witness. And the inner witness allows for the intentional self-observation of our practices. Next slide please.
So, we can develop an inner witness towards anything. If you identify as a feminist, just by reading the blogs, perhaps reading books, listening and going to talks that people who have that background, you have developed an inner witness towards gender and understanding how gender hierarchy plays out. And when you’re in spaces, no doubt, you probably see these hierarchies, have a way to make sense of it and address it. So again, we are quite capable of developing inner witness, because this inner witness highlights information and interactions according to the lenses or perspectives that teachers or we as individuals have developed. It can be likened to what I like to call as a guide on our shoulder, pointing out the relevant information. Did you see that student who said this? Did you see how this one student is holding all of the materials and nobody else can touch it?
When you see these things, then you begin to start asking questions of yourself. What can I do? How can I approach this? You begin to use frames to make sense of what’s going on. And so developing an inner witness towards noticing for equity and justice is imperative for teachers and for individuals in any workspace. Cultivating an inner witness requires preparation and reflection. That is, we as teachers and educators need alternative ways of seeing and understanding the world to transform our smoggy ways of being and seeing. These alternative lenses in our case will reflect and include equity oriented theoretical frameworks, pedagogical approaches, like culturally responsive teaching, and curricula.
These frameworks inform our inner dialogue in noticing while planning and teaching. So when we develop our ability to notice for equity, we can become more aware of the ways culture and identities are represented or not in our curriculum and take steps toward addressing erasures and, excuse me, misrepresentations in the way that we engage with students and our peers. Having an inner witness toward equity really supports the thinking of how we treat students, families, and peers, that come from different backgrounds than ours, especially those that are coming from marginalized backgrounds that differ from our own.
So, developing the inner witness in our work is one way that we can focus on developing a critical consciousness as educators. Next slide. So as we think about noticing for equity and the development of a critical consciousness through the development of an inner witness, I’d like for you to engage in a noticing exercise that I often share with the teachers that I’m working with. So I’m going to ask you to pull out that pencil and paper, if you haven’t been previously taking notes or whip out that Word document. And I want to give you a few minutes to engage in the following task.
So first I want to give you a couple of minutes to reflect on an inequity or an injustice that you see in your school, classroom or organization. I want you to reflect on an inequity that you’ve seen, and then I’d like you to describe an instance of inequity. So, you might have thought of, like, five, but just choose one. And what I’d like you to do is to describe that inequity or injustice, providing as many details of the situation as you can recall. And I’m going to give you two minutes to do that. (silence) And these are for your own personal reflection. So please feel free to be as candid and honest and free in your reflections as you like. We will not share these in the chat.
(silence) Okay. One more minute to finish describing and writing about an instance of injustice or inequity. (silence) Okay. About 20 seconds to wrap up your final thoughts. (silence) All right. Let’s turn to our second question. I would like for you, now that you’ve reflected and recalled to the best of your ability the details of the situation, I’d like for you to take a minute to jot down, why for you is this a situation or an issue of injustice or inequity? What is the inequity? Describe it. What’s going on here? How are you making sense of what’s going on? Take about a minute.
(silence) I know a minute is fast, but we have about 30 more seconds. (silence) Okay. Wrap up your reflections there. And then the final question that I’d like you to grapple with is, what are some ways that you could address or resolve this issue of injustice or inequity that you’ve reflected on? And if it’s not you that perhaps is in the middle of the situation, what might you advise for the resolution? So, what are some ways to address and resolve this issue of injustice or inequity? Or how might you advise that it be resolved? (silence) Okay. About 30 more seconds. (silence) Okay. So, you’ve all had an opportunity to engage in reflecting on an instance of inequity in your organization. What I’d like you to do is direct you to the second prompt where you talked about why this was an issue of injustice or inequity.
And I want you to reflect on what you wrote. So we’re going to do a little bit of discipline noticing. How did you make sense of the inequity? What frames did you use to discuss what was going on? Did you talk about it in terms of race? Did you mention maybe the race of the people involved in the scenario? Did you talk about the language, the language that was used to describe people or to describe a text, or to describe what was happening? Was it a gendered issue? Did you talk about it in terms of gender or class, or status? Or did you use multiple frames to discuss what you saw happening? And I want to offer, regardless of what your answer is, that when we have a robust way of making sense of inequities, think back to the rings, the rings of culture that Dr. Browder talked about earlier.
When we have a robust way of making sense of inequities, when we can look at multiple lines of equity, multiple lenses of equity, that are aligned to our vision of equitable classrooms, we can really increase the likelihood of behaviors and actions that are culturally responsive. And that’s the work of critical consciousness and that is the work of the inner witness. It is our ability to sharpen our ability to see, and to really interpret what’s happening in our space using multiple lines of equity to then have us respond in ways that increase visibility, support, agency, and voice, and authority, of our students and of our peers that we are sharing space with, so that we can create equity and have an equitable outcome in our learning communities. And so with that, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Browder to lead us through some final reflective exercises.
Dr. Erin Browder: Gracias, Dr. Patterson Williams. Next slide please. Awesome. So at this point, we want to check in with you all. We’ve shared a lot. Chances are, a lot this might be new for you. But you also might be making connections with practices and content that you already are aware of and we want to hear from you. So we have two questions to pose or to invite you to respond to in the chat. What information is new and or surprising to you? What a-has might you be experiencing? And then what questions and curiosities do you have? And in the interest of time, I know we have 10 minutes set aside for questions in the next couple slides. So you can type your questions. We have Kenwyn and Nakanya, are holding it down in terms of recording those questions and making sure that we respond to them in the designated space. But maybe we share now in the chat the information that’s new and surprising to you, any a-has that you’re experiencing. And I’ll give a couple minutes for that.
(silence) As folks are typing, I think we can move on to the next slide. And here we really want to reinforce, I’ll read the slide. All right. Culturally responsive educators routinely reflect on their own life experiences and membership in various social groups, such as by race, ethnicity, social class, and gender. They ask themselves how these factors influence their beliefs about cultural diversity. They understand that they, like everyone, can unwittingly adopt societal biases that shape the nature of their interactions with students, families, and colleagues. Reflection is a muscle. It’s something that’s iterative, it grows stronger, the more that we do it. When we think about CRSE’s strategies and practices that we implement, that don’t quite produce the results or the impact that we are looking for, we should constantly be circling back to these reflective practices. To the discipline of noticing, to checking in with our inner witness. Because we have this strategic tension, many educators we hold this, where we’re constantly looking and searching for the right strategy, the right protocol.
But what Dr. Patterson Williams prompts us to think about, is if we aren’t detoxing, we don’t know which fumes we emit in our practices and in the strategies that we’re implementing in our classrooms that muddy the results and potentially cause harm to our students and our colleagues, and our families as well, our communities. So we hope that these two practices are something that, as we move away from our session, that you continue to contemplate and think about. How does this look like in your daily work, in your context, in your drive home from work or during lunch? That you’re checking in with that inner witness and thinking about your practices of noticing. Next slide.
We are not going to leave you empty handed. We are going to give you two really great resources to continue this dive and sitting with yourself and building your critical consciousness. The first one is — may you go to the next slide please? — a social identity wheel. This is a tool that we use in many of our culturally responsive and sustaining education workshops. It’s a great way to kind of zoom out and get outside of ourselves and think about our rings of culture and the different identities, the various identities that we hold, which might be in conflict with each other, which might have changed across our lifetime. Identity is also something that evolves and grows. And along with this tool, there’s some key questions that we offer to really prompt a deeper discussion around equity and inequity. Next slide please. Thank you.
So here you see these three questions. What did you learn about yourself going through the social identity activity? How has your understanding of your self-identity changed over time? Thinking about yourself and your childhood, how you might have identified in one of these areas or rings, and what has shifted since. And which identities give you power and privilege? Oftentimes the identities that we don’t think about are the most prominent and shape our understanding and expectation of power and privileges.
I also want to note that Kenwyn has added the link to this resource in the chat. So we invite you to make sure that you open it on your screen and you have it after, and we’ll definitely make sure that it’s part of the webinar recording that’s sent out. Awesome. Next slide please.
Another really great resource that we wanted to share with you all are a set of culturally responsive coaching questions that come from the University of South Florida. These questions are bucketed by classroom caring and teacher disposition, physical environment, students’ lives, so on and so forth. It’s got really great prompts and inquiries for our teachers and educators to engage in about how they lesson plan, how they create and construct classrooms with their students or not with their students, and for things for them to think about. So we invite you to pull up both of these resources with the links that are in the chat and hold on to them for the continued learning and evolution of your critical consciousness practice. Thank you. And I think we’re ready for the next slide.
Nakanya Magby: All right. So now we will move into the Q&A portion of the presentation. So I’m going to go ahead and read some of the questions that we received. So there was a comment from Lauren Stevens. She says, how can we address the power dynamic that exists between, say, for example, a white male teacher and students of color and how that might impact their classroom experience? And either one of you can feel free to answer that question.
Dr. Erin Browder: You want to go first, Dr. Patterson Williams?
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: I was hoping that, can you read it one more time for me?
Nakanya Magby: Sure.
Nakanya Magby: How can we address the power dynamic that exists between, say, for example, a white male teacher and students of color and how that might impact their classroom experience?
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Yeah, It’s a great question. And I think it’s an important role as a coach or a teacher educator is how do we, sometimes we’re excited about things and noticings that we have, and how do we bring people along with us or get them to see what we’re seeing, because oftentimes we are in the smog. And so I think a really practical response would be using those questions that Dr. Browder dropped in the chat from the University of Southern Florida. Is that correct?
Dr. Erin Browder: South Florida.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: South Florida. I think that’s a really important set of questions to begin to integrate into maybe some coaching conversations. I think oftentimes, and I have found in my coaching with teachers that you can’t just bust out with the questions, because we know what to say. Nobody or maybe most people don’t wake up going to the classroom to say, I want to inflict harm on students. That’s not the intention. And so I think while those questions are helpful, sometimes being able to provide actual data, so I noticed that in this five-minute period, when you called on students, you called on these students or whatever ways that you’re seeing the power dynamics manifesting. I think it’s good to really script out the things that you are noticing and attending to, to really support the teacher and being able to, again, develop that inner witness. So then that white male teacher could begin to see.
Then how do we provide sustained opportunities to develop that inner witness? So if these things are happening, I’m assuming that this teacher is not intending to, but they are. And so how do we help them really develop their framework? What kind of PLCs are we having? Are we going deep? And maybe this person is attending to one thing, but not to another. I know in my work with the classroom teachers that I’m working with in this project, one of the teachers said, I’m a feminist and I am super aware of gender issues, but I’ve noticed that there’s no room for race in my analysis. So, when I’m looking at classroom dynamics, I’m looking at the gender dynamics, but I’m realizing now in conversation, that race is not a lens that I really have space for because all of my attention is on gender.
So really, I think it’s a part of having sincere questions and asking honestly about, what are they attending to? How are they making sense? We can’t attend to everything in the space, but we shouldn’t be neglecting race all the time or language all the time. And so how do we help them and support them in deepening that lens so that they can have the ability to make it a priority? That was a long answer. Go ahead, Dr. Browder.
Dr. Erin Browder: I will just add that when you mentioned the PLCs and the work that’s being done outside of the classroom, that social identity wheel and facilitating conversations and processes, where people have a safe opportunity to engage in understanding themselves better and understanding kind of where their belief and mental models come from, can really help to heighten their awareness in these interactions with students. I also will say that we have to center race, but racial equity is extremely important in any conversation around culturally responsive and sustaining education, as it holds predictive power over how students will fare in their classroom.
And then I want to, there’s a couple things. One is there’s obviously positional authority that teachers step into. And I think it speaks to a lot of what Dr. Patterson Williams shared around the shared authority. So, “power with” versus “power over.” In that, a lot of what solidifies this learning and thinking for our educators is also what is replicated among school leaders and among their colleagues. So as we are having professional learnings after school, or the different ways that you’re engaging with the adult, that we’re modeling these practices and behaviors, and awarenesses, that we hope that they carry into the classroom.
Nakanya Magby: Thank you. What are practices or strategies that you use to ensure voice and or visibility?
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: You know I was looking at you Dr. Browder, since I took up all the talking space last time. What are ways? So I think one of the things that I really like to do is to think about pre- and post-activities around voice and visibility. So I think about norms, norms are very important for me as an educator. I like to create norms at the beginning of the school year. I like to have them posted and I like to revisit them, actively talk about them. And when we’re going into an instructive task, I like to highlight the norms that I think are going to be at play. And so if we’re going to do a group work task, I want to talk about what it means to engage equitably. What does equity look like? What does it not look like? So I oftentimes would show videos of people behaving badly in group work, and kids identify that. “I see Reggie didn’t touch the pencil. I see these two boys were talking and Reggie tried to say something and they didn’t listen to what he said at all. And he said what they said, and they didn’t even hear it.” There’s an actual video with a kid named Reggie that shows these kinds of dynamics. And really having teachable moments around these norms. So, creating objectives around these norms. And then when we’re introducing a task, then bringing to mind what we’ve talked about, putting up the norms that we really want to be making sure we’re attending to. And then at the end of the task, allowing for reflection. So really allowing students to say, did everybody get a chance to participate?
Now, maybe everybody didn’t participate the same amount, but did people get to participate in meaningful ways? Were voices overlooked or ignored? So giving students an opportunity to reflect and to think about what they would do differently, and then being able to carry that over to the next task. And I think it’s helpful if we can keep kids in the same group so we can build rapport and relationship, and some continuity. So that’s just one approach that I try to take to creating visibility and increasing voice, is by really making norms explicit and allowing students an opportunity to be planful, and then to also have opportunities to reflect. So we’re developing that noticing with them as well.
Dr. Erin Browder: I would add, and I just want to highlight too, in Dr. Patterson Williams response, that she offered strategies for both educators and for students. So that we’re not just thinking what we’re doing in the class, but again, coming back to who we are being. So using some of those reflective questions of, did I give enough opportunities to hear all the voices in the classroom? That there’s work on both sides for students and for educators. Some of the things that come to mind are small group work. I think we all understand the power of small group work, having structured and unstructured conversations. Inviting students to paraphrase. That is something that’s so simple and we lose it. Paraphrase a term or a definition in their own home language, in the ways that they understand it to be. And even reconciling between their understanding and then what the official or the academic understanding is. Those are just a couple small things that come to mind. I think also moving through those coaching questions can also prompt ideas around visibility and voice strategies.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Can I just say that what Erin was talking about is the group worthiness of a task. So oftentimes we give kids group tasks that really could be done by an individual. And that is one of the first ways that we squash equity and voice, is because one person who’s all about it is going to get it done. So this group worthiness is what Rachel Lotan and Elizabeth Cohen would describe, making a task where it is one that multiple people could engage with.
Nakanya Magby: Great. Thank you. And for our final question, it is, during this time with policy coming out around CRT, what does that mean for this work?
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: All right, fine.
Dr. Erin Browder: Thank you. I just don’t know where to begin. So I’m going to let you start.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Well, I’ll begin with something that I say all the time. First of all, people have to keep their jobs. So there’s that, I want to put that out there. And I always say to my pre-service teachers who are like, we’re going to burn the institution down and we’re raging against everything. You also have to keep your job. So I want to acknowledge how real that statement is in this climate and context where there are bans on critical race theory, social emotional learning, anything that seems to be asking for —
Dr. Erin Browder: Gender identity.
Dr. Alexis Patterson Williams: Gender. Yeah, all of, you name it. There’s a laundry list of things that are being banned. So you have to keep your job. And also, children have to come to schools. Schools are not optional spaces. They are compulsory in our country. And so I really believe that it’s incumbent on us to figure out how to do this work. Some of this work is just good teaching, creating voice, creating group-worthy tasks, talking about norms. That’s just good teaching. I often wonder, do folks really know what they’re even saying when they say we’re anti–social emotional learning? I want to attend to the emotional wellbeing of my students. So if a task is causing my student undue stress and duress, as the lead educator in my classroom, it is my responsibility to redress that, to notice that and do something about it.
And to also encourage a community of learners, where, as students, we are making people feel safe. You may not agree with certain things, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot love on our children and make them feel safe. Love on, and when we talk about love, we’re talking about a commitment to making students better and to supporting them in being their whole selves. So I don’t understand where these things are intentioned, but I do understand that as an educator, it is my responsibility to make my children feel safe so that they can learn. And so if that is welcoming their multiple identities in the space, then I’m going to do that. And I’m not going to allow other people to attack my children in my space, because they have political leanings or religious leanings about those things. And so how you do that? I think you can bring in rich texts that look at multiple identities. Yeah, I’ll stop, because I could get on the soapbox, but —
Dr. Erin Browder: Yeah. Well, I’ll just take your handoff of identities, because our students start school whole and throughout their schooling, they become splintered and fragmented by the parts that educators want to see of them. And so to me, it’s not a question of CRT or not CRT. It’s, how do we keep our students whole? How do we encourage their inquiry and their identity, and the questioning of why things are the way they are? And so for educators who make that commitment, then again, the conflict or that tension of being against CRT, I just don’t see how that enters the picture, even though I know that that’s not the reality. So how do we keep our students whole? How do we encourage their self-exploration and self-investigation, and not splinter them or perpetuate more systemic harm inside of our classrooms and instruction?
Nakanya Magby: Thank you for that. Next slide please.
Dr. Erin Browder: All right. So as we are landing this plane, we wanted to end with the ripple activity for our closing. And we actually do have additional slides after this. So, apologies that this says closing, please stay. We have a survey for you. And maybe we can put that survey in the chat before people sign off. But we invite you to share one action that you can take following our webinar or one word that describes how you feel after today’s session. So we heard a lot of things. We know the power of the ripple effect, that when something lands for you and you carry that into the world, there’s a domino effect, where others internalize and experience that, and can also begin that practice as well. So what’s one action that you will take from today or one word describing how you feel after today’s session? (silence)
All right. And I thank you all for sharing. The window is open for sharing, but it is closing. The window is closing. Encouraged, empowered, enlightened, nice. The window is closing. Empowered, and the window has closed. Keep putting your words in, and I’m going to ask that the monitor move our slides forward. Connected, conscious. Thank you both. Thank you all for attending our session. On behalf of Dr. Patterson Williams and myself, this is the work that we live and breathe. We invite you to reach out to us, to ask us questions, to keep the conversations going. You will see here on the slide our email addresses as well. Kenwyn added our bio pages. I invite you to check out YouTube. Dr. Patterson Williams has some great recordings with different educators and professors that she’s worked with. To look for her research papers. She’s a wealth of knowledge and I’m excited to have her impart that upon us today. Next slide please.
Nakanya Magby: All right. So in closing, we’d like to first start by thanking our speakers today for sharing with us. So as a part of closing, we want to share a couple of things about the California Center for School Climate.
The California Center for School Climate launched in January of this year. And we provide free supports on school climate and data use to districts and schools across the state. These are offered through a series of activities, including school climate virtual events, such as today, data use webinar sessions, small peer learning exchanges, professional learning supports, and one-on-one consultation supports.
And then staying connected with us. We’d like you to connect with us. So please join our newsletter to get information on upcoming events, or you can feel free to reach out to our team via email. And once again, that link is in the chat. And once again, we just want to thank you for joining us today and we hope you enjoy the rest of your day