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We Got This! Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be

Workshop Spotlight | March 23, 2021

How might teachers infuse their instruction with anti-racist practices, student centered instruction, and equitable opportunities to support students during remote learning? 

Now more than ever, striving for this is at the forefront of teachers’ focus as they take on the challenges of teaching in a pandemic. “Turn punitive practices into proactive practices, commit to co-generative dialogues to promote student voice, and create systems we can influence within our locus of control,” said MƒA Master Teacher Dwaina Sookhoo (Academy for Young Writers, Brooklyn), who explored these ideas while co-facilitating the virtual MƒA Professional Learning Team “We Got This! Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be,” alongside MƒA Master Teacher Marisa Miller (Forest Hills High School). MƒA PLTs like this one connect teachers to do this work, regardless of the setting in which their students are learning. 

During the PLT, teachers read Cornelius Minor’s book We Got This! (2019). Together, the group participated in rich conversations to create actionable anti-racist changes in their blended or distance learning classrooms, redesign their curriculum, hold each other accountable to hear what students are trying to tell them, and work toward giving students ownership over their learning. These shifts support student-centered instruction while lifting the voices of young Black students and other students of color. 

“Cornelius' book was a great weekly conversation starter as we focused on the importance of giving students voice and space, even virtually. We used his graphic organizers to guide the conversation about what we wanted to work on and accomplish between meetings,” shared Dwaina. Cornelius Minor joined one session to share a schedule of elective Zoom classes he offers his students and to remind the group that the off-task conversations used to build relationships in class have to be formed more intentionally now on Zoom.

Teachers also welcomed Dr. Chris Emdin, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University and New York Times bestselling author, who encouraged the group to “stay loose” and “keep dancing” in regards to their flexibility in teaching during the pandemic. He reminded participants that everyone is struggling to do their best and teachers are no different.  

“I wanted this PLT to be both an uplifting book club and place where important conversations could be had with MƒA teachers about ways we are making an impact in our classrooms and communities. Having the chance to continue with high-quality elective professional development like this, while many of the other opportunities for teachers have disappeared, has been a huge support in sustaining us throughout the pandemic,” Dwaina said. 

To learn more about MƒA’s virtual PD opportunities, check out the MƒA 2021 Winter/Spring PD Catalog