Teachers strive for equity in classroom

News

On Wednesday, Jan. 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. the KO faculty participated in a faculty development day, learning how to improve equity in the classroom.

They began the day by splitting up into groups that they have been meeting with since the beginning of the year called Collaborative Learning Groups (CLG).

“So for the first two hours on Jan. 2 those groups met and shared something they had done and sort of how it had gone and got feedback from the rest of the group and the second hour everybody in the group partnered up and shared together,” math teacher and Director of Teaching and Learning Jane Repp said.

There are many different CLG groups dedicated to different focuses including Equity in the Classroom, Student Led Class Discussion, Project Based Learning and Design Thinking and Student Choice.

Spanish teacher Ron Garcia said that he is in the Equity in the Classroom group and prior to this day they sent out surveys to their students about equity in the classroom.

Then from 10:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Jenna Chandler-Ward and Liza Talusan spoke to and organized activities for the faculty about equity.

“It’s great to have people come in because it just encourages good conversation about what it means to be a really good healthy community for everybody,” Director of Academic Skills Jacquelyn Rubin said. “That’s important.”

Math teacher Danielle Hoff said that she really enjoyed one of the activities they did that was all about seeing different perspectives. “We looked at these pictures and we had to look at the certain things that stood out to us,” she said.

Director of Diversity and Inclusion Joan Edwards said that the presenters were not afraid to ask the hard hitting questions.

“One of the two presenters said: How will your students know tomorrow that you did this training today?” she said. “We don’t always think about how will they know.”

Ms. Edwards said it is time to move from talk to action to benefit the students. “I think there is obviously more that we could be doing about continuing to discuss and reflect but ultimately be need to take those and reflections and embed them into our work as educators,” she said.

Ms. Repp said that this has been a slow process and it’s not done, but this type of work can’t be forced if it is going to me meaningful for the entire community. “It’s fun to watch the teachers grow and learn just like we want the kids to do and everything just makes it better for you all because that’s the goal,” she said. “How do we make everything best for the students.”

English teacher Ron Monroe said that he appreciated what the speakers shared with the faculty. “They were knowledgeable, they were enthusiastic, they worked well together, they challenged us, they brought a new perspective and they didn’t necessarily claim they had all the answers,” he said. “They were very kind of down to earth about that.”

Ms. Repp said that equity in the classroom can mean a lot of different things so she took a moment to clarify what equity in the classroom really means in the KO community.

“It’s really about how to be aware of who the students are in your room and is the environment one in which they feel comfortable contributing,” she said. “Is the environment one where they see themselves? Is the curriculum one in which they see themselves? Is the language in the classroom inclusive?”

At the end of the day each teacher got into pairs or small groups to come up with some goals they are going to set to make their classroom environments even more equitable.

When Mr. Garcia was asked about what his goal is for the future he said that he hopes to make every student feel important when they enter his classroom. “I am more intrigued in some students’ activities and passions than others, and I would assume that students of whom I don’t share their passions and interests would feel that I am less invested in them,” he said.

Ms. Hoff said that when she and her partner, Mr. Monroe, talked, they came up with activities they could do with their classes.

Ms. Hoff said that the activity she planned for her class revolves around getting the students to talk with each other and even teach each other some math so that she is not just doing math problems on the board for the entire period.

On Friday, Feb.1, Ms. Hoff and Mr. Monroe said that they plan on meeting with each other to discuss how their activities went in their classes.

Many teachers said they are aware that they have room for growth when it comes to maintaining an equitable classroom.

“We are working on raising our own awareness as teachers and as humans because even with all the work we have done, we still have a way to go,” school counselor Laura Doyle said.

All the teachers seem to agree that this is a very important topic for them to be covering as educators. “I am glad that we are continuing on the path of working on equity in our community,” Ms. Rubin said. “It’s important work that we are all behind.”

Ms. Repp and Ms. Edwards already have plans for the future. “We have a couple of checkpoints over the course of the winter where people will check in with their partners,” Ms. Repp said. “And then towards the end of the year we are going to really think about what we want the teachers to think about over the summer in terms of equity.”

Ms. Edwards added that some of the work teachers will be doing over the next few months might be off campus.

She said some teachers will attend conferences to connect with other educators and learn even more about how to be a better educator.