“Our kids need an education that is reflective of them, that challenges them, and helps them to better understand who they are in the world.”
Last April, I was able to take advantage of an opportunity to explore this powerful idea. My team and I were able to travel to New Orleans to attend a Teach to Lead Summit. Our hope was to bring the perspectives and ideas we have on education from our various sites (Denver, Rochester, Boston, Baltimore) and turn them into well…something. Not only did the summit allow us two days to work on and develop how to address our idea for culturally responsive instruction and emancipatory pedagogy, it also gave us time to come together and create something not only professionally but personally.
My team consisted of five like-minded individuals, and we were able to share a priceless experience. We grew up with a similar experience of schooling and life, and all of our passions for education brought us together. The fact that we had this similar connection of being Black male educators in this world, instantly created a brotherhood that we will not soon forget. As young men, we were all surrounded by elders who wanted to “give us the lives and opportunities that they never had”.
Now, we all teach in Title I schools and serving urban schools with student populations that are predominantly students of color and where at least 75% of students are on free and reduced lunch. We consider ourselves gifted with the opportunity to teach “those kids” because when we were in school, we were “those kids”.
The summit started with our critical friend, a third party advisor to our group who provided us with insight and challenged the way we were thinking about our idea. She made us truly understand the “why” to our idea, and once we had our rationale down, we were off to the races. Our rationale follows:
“Culturally responsive instruction (CRI) and an emancipatory pedagogy (EP) eliminates damaging colorblind approaches to teaching and learning and brings student identity to the foreground. Not only does CRI and EP meet all students where they are but it communicates high expectations and generates positive perspectives of parents, families and communities, thus increasing equity for all students.”
We left the Teach to Lead summit charged up because we would have the chance to pay it forward and help craft an educational life for our students. We were ready to see how we would be able to turn this incredible experience into action. Nick and I returned to Denver where he is the principal and I am a teacher/teacher leader. With our work in hand, we began to plan for implementation in our school for the upcoming school year.
We were able to create and implement measurable, prioritized, and ritualized trainings in CRI and EP practices. We had students start the year with two weeks of relationship-building instruction that allowed teachers and students to get to know each other. We created professional development for our staff — a Teachers College that allows teachers to understand our students not only through CRI, but also through student data and outcomes, equipping staff with a human and academic face to our students. We also created a Manual H.S. Institute model after the Aspen Institute. It is a space dedicated to enrichment for our students, giving them the chance to learn more about themselves, the world, and their ability to change it.
It all started with a leap of faith by five educators who wanted to make a change, and a Teach to Lead summit that pushed us to turn our ideas into a reality.
William Anderson works at Manual High School in Denver as the school AVID site-team coordinator, teacher leader overseeing equity, and social studies and AVID teacher. A Colorado native, he attended Metropolitan State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in history along a secondary teaching licensure. He also earned a master’s in Education, specifically curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix, and is currently a University of Colorado at Denver student studying to earn his principal licensure and an Ed.D in policy and administration. He is a dream chaser, reader, runner, and lover of history, music, and junk food.