H1. Honor student diversity and development.
To me, honoring student diversity and development means an ongoing commitment to educating oneself about the cultures and histories of all of the students in your community. In my mind this standard is simultaneously the most complex and rewarding job a teacher pursues. In my experience as a teacher thus far, students need to see that their teacher is weaving representations of their personal experiences into the curriculum before they become invested in the learning. This need for students to recognize their development level and culture in the curriculum is especially essential when one is teaching social/emotional curriculum.
I have had the opportunity to teach my mentor school’s social/emotional curriculum over the past year. The core curriculum for our social/emotional learning is a program called Second Step. Second-Step is a researched based curriculum for helping primary students to attain social/emotional literacy. It is a fun, engaging curriculum that includes puppets, songs, and photographs of children to engage students into constructing skills for social and academic success. One of the objectives of Second Step is help children to speak directly with their friends to solve problems. Often students will help the Second Step puppets, Puppy and Snail, to solve relatable problems. The children are able to see their problems more objectively and practice social problem solving, when the problem is projected onto puppets. If a child is having a particularly challenging time in an area of social-emotional development, Second Step provides a unthreatening forum for the class to help the “puppet” solve their problem.
The evidence I am providing is a photograph of myself teaching Second Step. It is apparent from the boy and girl in the foreground how Second Step lessons facilitate a culture of compassion and nonviolent problem solving. In addition, students learn fun strategies for developing school skills in Second Step lessons. For example, our students learned to use “self talk” to help with focus and confidence for learning new academic skills. Self-talk is a strategy of repeating the steps for a task quietly to oneself as a way to retain and focus. It occurs to me that we are explicitly teaching students to use Vygotsky’s third stage of speech, called egocentric speech. In Second-Step the teacher team provides scaffolding that supports students to integrate a strategy into their repertoire. There is a “self talk” song that our community has sung all year to motivate engagement with learning challenges. The teacher team models, and acknowledges the use of a strategy often until the students begin to use this strategy independently. In addition, a home link page is sent home with each weekly lesson to enable the family to integrate these tools as well. I observed this scaffolding technique to be successful with the K/1 students integrating self-talk into their process of beginning a task after about two weeks. I hope that by offering a variety of strategies through Second Step instruction, and using formative assessment to ensure that these strategies are serving all students’ learning needs, we are providing greater access to to a diverse group of learners.
I have learned how to meet K/1 students at a developmentally appropriate level with the use of puppets, relatable photographs and dialogues amongst same-age children, songs, and movement through teaching Second Step.
Furthermore, the Second Step curriculum is a process that supports student’s unique cultural experiences. The implications for student social/emotional growth are that a child can bring their unique challenges to reconcile their personal or family culture with their school culture into a safe and productive structure for problem solving.
I have facilitated countless interventions with K/1 students over the past year where students successfully used Second Step strategies to solve a social problem, or an academic frustration. Moving forward into my first year as a lead classroom teacher, I will utilize the instructional strategies that I have practiced with Second Step curriculum.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators.New York, NY: Guilford Press.