Preparing Teachers for Diverse Classrooms

Evidence shows that teachers who complete supervised experiences in school contexts similar to their later employment contexts typically stay in the profession longer, are more effective, and feel more confident about their work than their colleagues. That’s why the Curry teacher education program systematically places future teachers in communities that best align with their career goals.

Our teacher candidates told us about their goals to work in larger, diverse metropolitan areas, so we established strong partnerships with Alexandria City, Falls Church City Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools, Newport News Public Schools, and Richmond Public Schools. But we didn’t stop there.

To best serve our teacher candidates interning in these school systems, we developed student teaching seminars focused on diversity and equity in the Washington, DC, Richmond and Tidewater areas. Each group of student teachers meets with a local seminar facilitator to think through the challenges they face as they transition from preservice to novice teachers. They also meet with the community members who will become their partners in education.

As guest Curry blogger Dr. Jennifer Bacon recently advised, teachers need to call in the community experts and collaborate. We invite community partners to meet with us as a part of the seminar and often go to their centers to see their work in action.

Jordan Tyler, Kirstain McCormick, & Justin Thompson. Standing L to R: Lindsey McLean, Arianna Trickey, Victoria Dandridge, & Izabella Pinchuk.
Teacher candidates in the Richmond seminar visited the ARC Park. (Seated L to R) Jordan Tyler, Kirstain McCormick, & Justin Thompson. (Standing L to R) Lindsey McLean, Arianna Trickey, Victoria Dandridge, & Izabella Pinchuk.

Professor Paul Gorski (M.Ed. ’95 Soc Fdns), author of the book, Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, met with our Northern Virginia seminar and discussed the ways in which socio-economic status may impact student learning and engagement.  One teacher candidate noted that his discussion was “particularly informative because he described stereotype threat in ways I’ve never heard before. …He made me think about the little things I do that affect students.”

Our Newport News candidates visited the Family Education Center, while our Richmond area candidates met with Renee Soniat, Henrico County Family and Educator Resource Center, to learn about the resources available for their students and families.

Inclusion is a term our teacher candidates begin to consider beyond the bounds of special education policy by purposefully using strategies to make their students feel safe, valued, and trusted in classrooms and schools. Leslie Stockton, Kenmore Middle School (Arlington) Minority Achievement and Testing Coordinator, helped student teachers work through the immediate questions they faced early in their placements related to diversity and equity.

Jonathan Zur, president of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, discussed specific resources and strategies for instructional and emotional support for students who speak multiple languages and may not be proficient in English.

Other speakers included

  • April Vazquez with the Newport News Newcomers program for students (Grades 2-5)
  • Dana Taylor, Campagna Center faculty and director of the Building Better Futures program at TC Williams High School
  • Marcia D’Angelo, New Neighbors program director
  • Valerie Goos, director of the Henrico County Public Schools Welcome Center.

Curry teacher candidates view their students and learning holistically. Although content knowledge, instructional strategies, and positive behavior management comprise the bulk of the teacher preparation program, understanding wraparound services that impact learning is a priority.

Jane Moreland, Newport News Public Schools Outreach Services Program Director, provided a wealth of information about dropout recovery, attendance, and adult education. Quentin Brown, the executive director of Communities in Schools in the Tidewater region, and Kathy Doxsee with the Campagna Center’s After School program, talked to teacher candidates about wraparound services and partnerships between schools and communities.

Lucy Beadnell, Director of Advocacy for the ARC of Northern Virginia, shared some of her time with our NOVA teacher candidates, while the Richmond seminar toured the new ARCPark and met with the ARC staff.

Curry teacher education is a part of a larger community that values all children and their potential. We view these seminars and conversations as important work, connecting future teachers to community funds of knowledge and resources so that all children have network of educators working to help them succeed.

Guest Author

Adria Hoffman

Adria Hoffman

(M.Ed. '05), Field Placement Coordinator

Have the Courage: A Conversation about African American Mental Health

I will never forget my experience working as a Mile 22 Hydration Station volunteer at the Boston Marathon when bombs exploded at the finish line. I can still picture the chaos that ensued moments after the bomb exploded: the speeding of police cars from the security station behind me, the confused looks from runners who asked me what was happening, the screams from sprinters passing by as they called the names of fellow teammates, and the sobs of onlookers doubled over in fear and distress. I offered Gatorade and words of comfort to runners until the road in front of me was clear.

After the bombing, I found myself exhibiting common reactions to trauma. I had trouble focusing during my graduate classes, found myself clutching my chest in fear every time I heard a siren or car horn, and returned to my apartment at the end of each day incredibly fatigued and unable to concentrate or sleep. The sights and sounds of the world suddenly felt overwhelming. With support from friends, family, and professors as well as access to free resources from school and local community agencies, I began to recover after about three weeks.

A year later, when Arianna*, one of my African American eleventh-grade students with a cumulative GPA below a 1.0, told me she felt like she was never “fully there” in the classroom, always felt like she was having mini panic attacks, and desperately wished for a break from “all of the noise,” I noticed similarities in her symptoms with my own traumatic experience. Read more…

Guest Author

Lauren Mims

Lauren Mims

Ph.D. Student, Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science

How Is This Consequence Helpful to My Child?

“How is this consequence helpful to my child?”

I recently asked this question of a school administrator and was shocked by the answer. In parenting I have tried to operate on the premise that consequences must be understandable to the individual in question and provide a correction that encourages a change in an unwanted behavior or action.

I assumed that the answer would be the same for my colleagues in education. On a macro level I think it is—we all discuss theory and scenarios and engage in debates about how to best model and form behavior that is conducive to good citizenship. If we drill down to the purpose of U.S. education and really any type of state sponsored education the purpose for any nation is to teach its citizenry a collective set of ideas, values and mores which contribute to a national identity. Yet in practice and on a micro level this goal is sometimes lost, especially in the heat of the moment.

Read more…

Guest Author

Daisy Rojas

Daisy Rojas

M.Ed. '15 Higher Ed

5 Tips for Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom

When I started working on my follow up blog to culturally responsive pedagogy, I started thinking about what my student teachers, teacher candidates and even graduate students always wanted to know and what, when I was a secondary special education teacher, my students taught me.

Teacher candidates know that demonstrating an understanding and respect for diversity is an educational standard they are required to master.  As teachers and teacher trainers, we are fortunate enough to be able to call on and build upon the works of such culturally relevant/responsive scholars and experts as Gloria Ladson-Billings and Jacqueline Jordan Irvine (to name just a few).

Ladson-Billings’ work includes The Dream Keepers: Successful Teachers of African American ChildrenCrossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms and the article “But That’s Just Good Teaching!” Jacqueline Jordan Irvine’s work includes Educating Teachers for Diversity and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

But what does this mean for in-service and preservice teachers in creating a culturally responsive classroom/environment? Read more…

Guest Author

Jennifer Bacon

Jennifer Nicole Bacon, Ph.D.

M.Ed. '04 Spec Ed

Helping Your Child Learn Autonomy Through Choice

iStock_000019703515_Medium-1080x675As your baby becomes a toddler, you quickly enter a whole new ballgame of behavior management. Your child is learning that he or she can think, feel, and act independently, and it is amazing to watch ​this new independence in action​ ​-​ ​such as when your child decides that he can conquer that big slide on the playground all by himself​!​ However, it can be frustrating when your child asserts his autonomy at inopportune times. You might realize just how strong (physically and mentally!) your toddler become​s​ when he decides he is not getting in h​is​ car seat for no ​obvious​ reason.  You can use choice to help your child learn autonomy.

Autonomy is an important developmental milestone in early childhood, but​ your child’s need to be in control over his or her own actions can create some serious power struggles. Some days you ​may ​feel your child says (or screams) “NO” to everything.

As parents, we don’t often think about the amount of freedom our toddlers have to make independent choices ​throughout their day. Sometimes, children need more opportunities to feel in control, have some say in what they can do, and feel successful in their new independence. ​R​esearch shows that when parents offer children more choice, children are more likely to comply with their parents’ commands when choice is not an option.

What does it mean to offer choice?  Read the rest of Amanda’s article on the Please & Carrots blog.

Guest Author

Amanda Williford

Amanda Williford

Research Assistant Professor, Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning