H1 – Honor student diversity and development.
“Development is very complicated” (Pressley & McCormick, 2007, p.15). This statement is obvious. There are general factors that have an impact on student development and learning such as: genetic predisposition, nurturing, socio-economic status, culture, and nutrition. The context for Pressley and McCormick’s statement is that it is crucial for educators to be, “informed consumers of research” (p.15). I could not agree more. It is one thing to read educational research and theory, but a teacher must approach their classroom with a beginner’s mind every day regardless of how many years of teaching they have if they wish to honor student diversity and development. The graph shown here depicts the achievement gap in America for on-time graduation in relationship to race from the year 2000. In terms of how this informs my philosophy of instruction, I am aware of the achievement gap with respect to race, and am committed to doing my part as a teacher to help close this gap. As far as how my philosophy of instruction will help to do this, my approach is multi-faceted. I think that students need to be able to co-construct learning experiences through problem-solving, activity, exploration, and reflection so that their cultural background and temperament is the lens through which they are acquiring new knowledge. At the school where I teach the 4th and 5th graders history text-book is A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. In this history text students learn the truth about the violent history of American colonization. I am committed to sharing true history with my students because they need to know the factors that have contributed to social inequality. There are wonderful books to teach students about social inequality and what they can do to transform it. Children need to be able to see themselves represented in texts and this need spans a spectrum of identities: race, family structure, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and ability, to name a few. As a teacher committed to diversity and high student achievement I can never decide that I have it all figured out. I need to be willing to be a life-long learner when it comes to understanding the complex matrix of history that a child carries to the classroom. I must be willing to feel uncomfortable, and ask questions of families regardless of personal fears. After all, a child’s chance for academic success is at stake. Many of the students I work with presently are adopted. Most of these adopted children have same-sex parents. Many of these children are African-American. I am learning about these children’s needs as I get to know their families and them. Reading some vetted research about the needs of children who fit into any of the above categories is certainly important to inform my teaching. However, I think it is more important to consider each child’s unique profile, establish a personal connection, and implement materials and activities into my teaching that set each student up for optimal success and development.
Reference: Pressley and McCormick. (2008). Child and Adolescent Development for Educators. New York, NY. The Guilford Press.