Challenge Day Reflections: Education, LT'19

Education Challenge Day
November 2018
By: Tom Tidyman, LT’17

To keep you connected to LT and current issues and topics discussed in the curriculum, LT will share highlights and resources from the recent Challenge Day. We hope you enjoy these monthly updates!

As a former middle school teacher, I enjoyed participating in this year's Education Challenge Day. A central theme of the day was how supportive teacher/student relationships make all the difference in a student's educational experience and can have a profound impact in shaping their future.

Another theme was the importance of addressing systemic and institutional racism in our schools. Youth receive influential messages from media, society, and their schools about race from a very early age. Teachers and parents must pay attention to these messages and work to create new narratives and stories for our children.

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For a full list of objectives and speakers, refer to the agenda. If you would like additional resources, you may access the pre-work here.

Youth Voices: Involving Students in Conversations About 
Equity, Racism, and Social Justice

Panelists: Emily T, 8th Grade Teacher, Showalter Middle School; Yasmin L, 10th Grader, Foster High School; Alexis M, 8th Grader, Showalter Middle School

The morning panel included two students who spoke of their experiences starting a race and equity club at their middle school. Their stories were enlightening as they both pointed out how easily students notice racism in their school settings and from their teachers.

Yasmin said she knows when a teacher cares about equity when they provide "the ability to start a club and allow the safe space to talk about tough issues." In contrast, she can easily see when "students of color are not being paid attention to or cared for appropriately when discipline issues arise, but teachers' reactions to white students are completely different."

Alexis wishes more teachers and administrators would "talk to students and have conversations instead of talking about student issues without students represented." Alexis also spoke about student-centric school and healthy relationships with teachers. "A teachers' relationship with students is important; it's not always just about the content they are teaching."

Take Action: Want to learn more about equity in schools? Check out these resources:

Site Visit Highlights

The class visited a variety of schools to learn about their innovative education models. I visited Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle's International District, one of the few Charter Schools in Washington State. 

Site Visit: Puget Sound Skills Center. This school provides hands-on, experiential learning with real career training for fields such as nursing

Site Visit: Puget Sound Skills Center. This school provides hands-on, experiential learning with real career training for fields such as nursing

After site visits, class members reported their takeaways and observations:

  • Schools are becoming delivery hubs for social services.

  • The dynamic between students and teachers is critical, and we can't overlook the emotional/socio-ecological aspect of learning. 

  • Some schools have "stopped tracks" and are teaching high-level curriculum to all students rather than segregating students to different educational levels. 

  • For students' success, it's critical to take an individualistic approach, not a one-size-fits-all methodology.

  • To create a positive school environment, students must be empowered and have a voice.

Take Action: Want to know the demographics of your school district and how it's performing compared to other districts? Visit the OSPI WA State Report Card and search for your school district in the drop-down box titled "Select Organization." 

Setting the Historical and Structural Context

The afternoon focused on unpacking a historic overview of institutional and structural racism. Marcello Sgambelluri, Assistant Principal, Evergreen High School, examined the systemic realities of racial disparities in education by talking about racial bias. Marcello spoke about the importance of teachers giving students different stories and narratives about race and prejudice, since children come into a school system with bias already in their heads.

He explained that race and social justice cannot be just an "education conversation," but must be a societal discussion where we can all become aware of our implicit bias and the stories and narratives we continue to teach and show children from a very early age.

Take Action: Engage in important conversations with your friends and family. Read Marcello's suggested norms to use when talking about institutional and structural racism.

Special thanks to our Challenge Day Sponsors

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