Teaching for Student Success

Justin Darnell, the 2010 Colorado Teacher of the Year, is making a series of videos about educational equity and effective teaching.  His first video, available here, addresses a number of the fundamental aspects of teaching for educational equity including the importance of avoiding labels, positive teacher expectations, fostering strong personal relationships with students, and reaching out to parents and the community.  

After watching this video, consider the following questions:

  1. At the beginning of the video Darnell says, “the first thing is to get rid of the word ‘at-risk’.”  It is important to consider the impact of the labels and related stereotypes we use to describe students and their negative impact.  As Herbert J. Gans points out in his book, The War Against the Poor, “Labels are primarily used to designate people as ‘deviant,’ different in a negative or pejorative sense because ‘these people’ or some of their actions and beliefs, and beyond the pale of our own or even ‘mainstream’ values.”  Though a word like “at-risk” may start out as merely a term to encapsulate a certain population and their specific needs, it is easy for such terms to take on a negative connotation and be used to disparage and oppress certain groups.  What are your thoughts on this aspect of labeling and stereotyping?  What are some other commonly used labels that educators should eliminate from their vocabulary and what are the subtexts of those labels?
  2. Darnell spends a lot of time talking about the importance of strong personal relationships with students and his expectation that all his students will succeed.  Research shows that close relationships with educators and high expectations have a major impact on student success.  Why do you think this is so important?  What are some examples of this from your own experiences?
  3. In discussing how to engage the parents and guardians of students, Darnell asks the question “what have you done to engage them?”  He points out that “the best thing a school can do is go out and get those parents.”  How is this different from the attitudes and strategies you have seen regarding parent involvement?  What are some effective ways educators can reach out to families and the community so they feel welcomed and valued?
  4. What else stood out to you about the video?  What are you going to change about how you work with students based on the suggestions made in this video?

To read Justin Darnell’s blog and watch for future videos by him go to http://coloradotoy.blogspot.com/.

Below are some lessons and activities you can use with students to help them learn about some of the topics covered in Darnell’s video:

Teaching Tolerance: The Power of Words
Ed Change: Inclusion/Exclusion
Ed Change: Student Fishbowl

Thank you for subscribing to our weekly discussion, feel free to forward it to your friends and colleagues or encourage them to subscribe here.  Please visit the Center for Culturally Responsive Urban Education (CRUE) website at www.cruecenter.org for more information and resources on educational equity.




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