The Education Nomad: One Year Later

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A year ago, I started the Education Nomad project to learn firsthand what it is that teachers are doing, figure out what’s working (and what’s not), and share the voices of the teachers I meet while traveling around the United States. Here is what I learned along the way:

It is not easy creating your own curriculum from scratch.

I sat down with many educators and asked: “What are you struggling with?” The focus of the response normally centered around the creation of their curriculum. Many teachers spent hours a day tweaking the curriculum; losing valuable time that could have been spent on diving deep into pedagogical content knowledge or building relationships with the students. Adopting an aligned curriculum is a technical fix that will allow educators the time to lean into implementation and the adult learning aspects that often get neglected while trying to create a curriculum. We recommend adopting an aligned curriculum.

It is essential to know the text before you walk into the classroom.

ELA educators, it is so important to know the content of the text you’re using in a deep and meaningful way before walking into the classroom so students can thrive. What should we know?:

  • When selecting complex text, is it a grade level text? These two blogs go into more detail about qualitative and quantitative features of a text as well as the most common questions teachers ask when selecting a grade-level complex text. Selecting Complex Text Pt. 1 Selecting Complex Text Pt. 2

  • When planning, how are you anticipating the misconceptions or challenges your students will face while reading? This question requires that you know the standards, the purpose for reading the text, as well as the students that sit before you. Intentionally planning ahead will ensure that you have the necessary supports to help students access grade-level work and push them from where they are to where they need to be.

  • During the lesson, how are you keeping the text at the center of the lesson? Check out 5 Recommendations to Help Teachers Craft Effective Questions which outlines how to use questions as a bridge back into the text to analyze the meaning, language, knowledge, and structure of the text. In order to create meaningful questions, we must know the content ourselves.

The work we do, as educators, is adaptive.

I noticed that everyday educators were striving to make a change in their school communities. Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping something sticks; it doesn’t quite work. Many of the changes we make in our schools tend to be technical fixes like providing students with a tangible copy of the text, adding more time to the school day, or adding more professional development days to the calendar. An essential piece to doing this work is knowing that this work is adaptive; it involves shifts in beliefs and values, which begs for heart work, hard work, and constant reflection to make the change we seek for our students.

While working to make adaptive change, it is essential to examine how our biases enter the classroom and alter the learning because that could be a detriment to our students. In our endeavors to reach high expectations, for both ourselves and our students, we should bear this question, from an Interview with Mariama Sesay-St, Paul, in mind: “Is what you are doing in the best interest of you, or is it in the best interest of your students?”

The work we do requires a focus on equity.

As educators, we must become knowledgeable of the standards AND equitable educational practices. Equity should be intertwined in our curriculum, instruction, and systems because according to Mark Etienne, it is “what students need to be successful.” Click here to examine how three of my colleagues define equity and what it means in their school communities.

You can also learn more about how the Standards Institute gives educators the opportunity to explore the intersection of standards-aligned curriculum and equitable instructional practices, as well as find the tools to confront bias within themselves, their instruction, and the systems they serve.

Look out for part 2 of this blog series, as I dive deeper into how an aligned curriculum and rigorous instructional practices created equity in the classrooms I visited. And continue following my journey! For more information follow me, @EducationNomad on Twitter and @TheEducationNomad on Instagram.

Don’t forget to register for the next Standards Institute, which will be held in Los Angeles, California, February  11–15. Looking forward to seeing you there.