Organizing for Our Students

The National Board for Professional Standards  in 1989 published What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do and re-released this seminal work recently.  It outlines the National Board’s Five Core Propositions for Teaching, concepts that  accomplished teachers should know and be able to promote to spur student achievement. They are:

Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and their learning. 

Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students. 

Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. 

Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience. 

Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities. 

 It’s worth noting that  the very first proposition speaks to our commitment as teachers to our students’  learning. Our students come from diverse backgrounds, their lives are complex and many of them face challenges most of us can’t even imagine. Yet, as education professionals, we must find ways to inspire natural curiosity, imagination and the desire to learn in them all.  National Board Certification helps us achieve that goal.

There’s no question that the road to National Board Certification can be long and winding, but the journey provides opportunities for amazing professional and personal growth.  National Board Certified Teacher  Ambereen Khan-Baker from Maryland blogs about how certification has helped her pay particularly close attention to issues of fairness and equity as she encourages student learning.

If we do not address safety, equity and diversity in our classrooms—now, today—then we will continue to fail large numbers of our students.  During the past six months, I have heard and seen threatening messages reported by the media that have caused me, a Muslim, Pakistani-American National Board Certified Teacher, to question the standard of fairness, equity and diversity in a renewed and urgent way.

Knowing your students is step one of the Architecture of Accomplished Teaching (AAT).  It is important for us, as teachers, to identify, and understand the identity of, our students before we can identify goals or plan instruction.  One of the questions we pose when seeking to know our students is, “what are my students’ needs at this time?”  We have to acknowledge our students’ fears and feelings.  Many students—especially minority students—feel unsafe and unwelcome today.  They fear what their future will be like.

The voices of groups that desire to suppress these minority students have the potential to cause more damage in years ahead.  Now is the time for us, as educators, to reevaluate our own biases and determine how we can support every student. In analyzing videos of my classroom instruction, I asked myself questions based on the fairness, equity and diversity standard:

How did I welcome students? How did I know my students’ needs? Did I consider each student individually?  How did I frame my English lesson with information about my students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences?  What opportunities did I provide for students to appreciate and accept each other? How did I act with clarity and consistency in providing support for students?

The core of the National Board process is to reflect on your teaching practices, including reflecting on your identity, life experiences, biases, and, ultimately, how such factors affect instructional decisions.  It is not enough to talk about these issues: We have to organize to collectively advocate for our students. We have to fight for our students and tell them how much they matter to us. We have to gain a better understanding of where our students are—their experiences and their identity.

As teachers, we must be committed to justice for our students, and it starts by examining our own instructional practices.  Find your certificate area here, and read your standard on fairness, equity and diversity.  Videotape one of your lessons.  Challenge yourself: How are you encouraging fairness, equity and diversity as part of your students’ learning environment?

More than ever, this reflection is important in order to move past our own biases and identify why and how we will support the emotional and social well-being of our students in this difficult time.  Our collective organizing is important to ensure that classrooms promote learning for every student, not just for some.


One Response to “Organizing for Our Students”

  1. Charlene Steadman

    Very timely blog! Great reminders for every teacher.


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