"Getting Centered—Assessing Cultural Knowledge Through Shared Personal Practice" Chapter Five (Lindsey et al, 2009)
—Schmoker, 2006, p.29
The above quote from Schmoker (2006), conveys some of the change that is necessary for professional learning communities to be effective in today’s environment. Professionalism at my school site is still undergoing a transition from a site where differences in practices and learning outcomes were often ignored and where classroom visitations were not always welcomed to a site where teachers are inviting others to visit and the sharing of new practices and differences is welcomed and embraced. The school climate over the past year has become more relaxed. Teachers are experimenting with various organizational structures and instructional strategies, and there has been an increase in self-accountability and monitoring, as well as, more teachers taking on leadership roles. Much of this I attribute to our new Principal, who was formerly a teacher at our site.
In terms of professional success and challenges shared among teachers, administrators, and other community members, much of this is done through a Friday Focus email, horizontal teams, monthly Principal Chats, and recognition of student of the month for each grade level. The student of the month is selected through horizontal team online discussion and is not always a top achieving student. Teachers having the selected student usually provide a write-up unique to each student and the student’s names are shared over the PA system monthly. The student recognized also gets a certificate and their picture taken and it is displayed in the front office.
Assessing Cultural Knowledge Through Shared Personal Practice
Questions Guiding My Personal and Professional Work
1) How do I conduct individual and group assessments?
2) In what ways do I learn about the cultures of my students?
3) In what ways do I clarify my own beliefs about culture and diversity?
Area for Growth: In what ways do I develop peer-to-peer support toward specific goals? This is an area if developed more, I might see greater accountability and self-monitoring of students, as well as collaboration.
Questions Guiding Growth Experience for my School Site
In what ways do we learn about the organizational cultures that exist within the school? It was pointed out at a recent staff meeting that although as a staff we are making an effort to get to know our students and the culture at our school site, we often do not focus on the existing staff-faculty culture and the role it plays.
Three Key Lessons:
1) Including parents and students in the learning community creates opportunities for new perspectives, shared understanding and recognition.
2) Ways to assess cultural knowledge and improve cultural proficiency
3) How to turn barriers into opportunities
Three Key Quotes:
1) “When issues of culture, diversity, and equity are added to school-based discussions, personal insecurities and opportunities for cross-cultural miscommunication are often heightened” (pp.62-63).
2) “Barrier questions usually result in shutting down the conversation and inhibiting positive thinking” (p.65).
3) “Data collected at the end of the semester indicated that the policy was not decreasing tardies” (p.66).
Three Key Questions:
1) How do we close educational gaps through the use of cultural, linguistic, learning, and communication styles?
2) How do we change outdated ineffective policies to reflect the current culture at our site?
3) How do we get our learning community to implement more inclusive practices?
Overall, the information in this chapter makes me reflect more on my own practices, as well as learn about the culture of my students. As a World History teacher, I focus on multiple perspectives and cultural identities and appreciate the goals outlined to go deeper with cultural proficiency. In terms of my school site, we are on our way to becoming more culturally proficient but this is still a work in progress.