Hidden things seen out loud: Riveting revelations from a school walkthrough

Where to find proven strategies that will immediately engage students in your curriculum, no matter the subject or grade level.
Andre Daughty
Andre Daughtyhttps://andredaughty.org/swhh/
Andre Daughty is a dope educator whose educational philosophy is, “If you observe students, they will teach you how to teach them.” He gets the honor to speak and teach to audiences around the world sharing meaningful stories and is a co-host with his wife, Danielle, on their educational podcast, “See, What Had Happened.”

I had the opportunity to do a walkthrough at a school. I was greeted by several students and staff as I checked in. With a group of about eight educators, we walked through the halls of the school.

I noticed pictures and trophy cases full of famous alumni and notable community members. This school had a diverse population but the faces on the walls and trophy cases didn’t reflect the students and community it served.

Then we entered an English Language Arts class in the midst of a lesson. The teacher’s opener was a discussion on famous authors. As the teacher spoke, the students were not engaged in the discussion and silence filled the space. The teacher named several famous Eurocentric authors and explained how these classics are in the library. The students sat quietly.

The last class we observed was a math class finishing bell work. The teacher opened the room for current events asking, “Before we get started, what did you find interesting on Beyonce’s Internet last night?” The way the class responded made my heart smile. Students immediately started blurting out.

The teacher did a turn-and-talk with triads to give students an opportunity to share what they saw. We observed students sharing everything from a satisfying ASMR video to the latest dance craze on TikTok. The teacher used what was shared and slid in references from the turn-and-talk during her lesson. Personally, I did not want to leave this class because this teacher HAD IT!!!

‘The Classroom Starts With Culture’

During our debrief, one person lifted up how lessons appeared more teacher-driven versus student-driven and how dry the atmosphere was. Another noted how the opposite was true in the math class because that teacher tapped into the world of the students with something as simple as a genuine connection. I lifted up that the welcome felt inviting and warm and while the murals, posters, pictures and trophy cases did represent the history of the school, it did not appear to represent the evolution and diversity of the school’s community.

FETC 2023

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In the midst of our discussion, we shared possible ways students could see themselves more in and around the school. That blended into how students didn’t feel invited to talk about famous authors from their perspective. I lifted up how the discussion leaned heavily towards Eurocentric writers—such as Shakespeare, Poe and Tolkien—and not authors who looked like the students or who weren’t considered famous by ELA standards.

Was it because there wasn’t a brave/safe place of trust to discuss authors of color? Or authors of the LGBTQ+ community? We all agreed the math teacher had something different from the other educators because that teacher connected to the students, elevated the trust to share and used those same discussion points in a lesson was a great callback to keep students engaged.

The debrief brought forth a great conversation about how the school’s culture is important from the first foot on the campus through the school’s halls and inside every classroom. It was great feedback to consider and a powerful moment to reflect upon our learning environments

At the 2023 Future of Education Technology® Conference, one of my sessions, “The Classroom Starts with Culture,” explores how the culture and climate of a school can affect how students will interact and succeed. While having fun and being engaged, we’ll discuss how the same buzz in that math class can be felt in classrooms and schools worldwide. We’ll share proven examples and strategies that can be implemented immediately to help students engage in your curriculum, no matter the subject or grade level.

The best part? There will be moments to reflect on our learning and do a self-evaluation to ensure every person feels equitable, loved and appreciated because that is how the classroom starts with culture!

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