Helen Anderson is the Manager of Curriculum and Research at Harmony Movement, a not-for-profit organization that delivers educational programming on equity and inclusion to youth, educators, and social service providers, empowering them to become leaders of social change. Helen completed her Ph.D. in Theory and Policy Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, focusing in her research on social justice and anti-racism education. She has taught at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and has worked with numerous community service organizations to address issues such as racism, food security, gender-based violence, youth violence, and homophobia.
What is it that stands in the way of truly empowering educational experiences? Fear. Fear of who we could be and fear of who we are. Fear that others will misjudge us. Fear that their judgments will be correct. Fear of losing power. Although fear may make school equity movements feel slow and fruitless, hope can remind us of the powerful tools we have at our disposal that make a difference in youths’ lives.
At a time when educational equity is clouded with fear, I look for hope. I found that hope recently at a conference on education that transformed the way I think about teaching and learning. The Lost Lyrics Symposium, was a conference focused on creating an education system from the ground up, guided by the needs and input of young people, parents/guardians, and community members. It highlighted the need to address the disconnect between the lived realities of many students and their experiences of school. Read more
Clare Okyere is currently the Teacher on Assignment at Herrera School for the Fine Arts and Dual Language, prior to which she served as a fifth grade teacher in the same school for five years. During the past few years Clare oversaw the Teacher Assistance Team at her school to ensure teachers were supported and well informed in implementing the Response to Intervention framework to better meet the needs of all students. Clare was recently selected as a grant recipient for a fully funded Master’s program based on her leadership skills in her school district. She began her coursework this summer in Educational Administration & Supervision in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. In addition to her work and studies Clare is also a co-founder of Twenty-Nine Eleven Productions, a publishing company through which Clare has served as a book editor and more recently published her first children’s book Bluebird, Bluebird. While Clare’s roles have shifted over the past few years, her commitment to serving all students with high standards remains constant.
I was recently asked a simple enough question, What is the role of the teacher? Initially, I thought, That’s easy enough. That’s who I am. It’s at my core. Of course I can answer that question.
But then, I started reflecting, like teachers are prone to do, and that seemingly simple question became much more complex. My role was constantly changing through my experiences as a teacher. For instance, when I was still in college the role of the teacher meant we focused on pedagogy—how to teach the children. I was prepared to go into my first job and rise to the challenge of teaching students to use inquiry to learn the secrets of simple machines, to use questioning to create mathematical conjectures, and to facilitate literature studies that would allow children to “read the world.” When I became a full time teacher the reality of a classroom context dramatically stretched my understanding of my role. My focus on pedagogy was not enough to meet the demands of teaching. Thirty students with different life histories, cultures, languages, educational strengths and struggles, family dynamics, reading levels, attendance patterns, socioeconomics, and more entered the classroom. In order to meet their needs I had to reconsider my role.
In fact, give me a multiple choice question, and I’d probably think my way into getting it wrong.
Question: What is the role of the teacher?
Cynthia has a passion for teaching and working with school leaders and teachers as they address issues of equity in schools. As the Assistant Director of NIUSI-LeadScape, she works closely with principals and teachers to engage in professional learning that leads to making schools inclusive of all students. Cynthia worked as a teacher in elementary and middle schools in Phoenix for thirteen years before deciding to continue her learning at Arizona State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy.
Recently, I’ve taken on new endeavors that have opened my eyes to things I haven’t noticed before…namely the power and privilege that is associated with being a white person and the marginalization I sometimes experience as a lesbian. I grew up as a relatively privileged person and I still am in many ways. I come from a middle class home, with both parents as career professionals who possess graduate degrees. Thinking back on my childhood, I can’t even remember a time that I felt marginalized. Even as a tomboy who would rather play touch-football than have to even LOOK at Barbies, I rarely felt like I didn’t fit in. Maybe I was just oblivious, but this indicates to me that privilege was certainly present in my life. You don’t think about privilege when you have it, only when you don’t. Read more