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How to Teach Culturally Responsive Social Studies When Everything Is Controversial

How to Teach Culturally Responsive Social Studies When Everything Is Controversial

Date of the Event: November 10, 2021 | Dr. Tiffany Mitchell-Patterson, Brianna Ross, Dr. Lawrence Paska, Dr. Daryl Williams, and Vanessa Williams
Teacher Using Interactive Whiteboard During Lesson Show Notes:

At a time when it may be considered controversial to teach about the experiences and histories of diverse populations, it is more important than ever for teachers to support their students with culturally responsive pedagogy and practice. MAEC’s third segment of the Reflecting, Reimagining, and Reforming Education series focuses on how social studies teachers can embed culturally responsive teaching practices into their curriculum. Expert panelists identified practices, norms, and activities and reflect on the importance of culturally responsive education for all students.

Nikevia Thomas:

Good afternoon everybody, welcome. We are glad you are here. My name is Nikevia and I am the virtual event planner at MAEC. Welcome to our webinar How to Teach Culturally Responsive Social Studies When Everything is Controversial. Will you please take a moment to type in the chat and let us know where you’re from? And we’ll get started.

Nikevia Thomas:

Lima, Ohio area. Nice to meet you. Stacy’s from Bayport in Wisconsin. Diangelo’s ...

Nikevia Thomas:

Good afternoon everybody, welcome. We are glad you are here. My name is Nikevia and I am the virtual event planner at MAEC. Welcome to our webinar How to Teach Culturally Responsive Social Studies When Everything is Controversial. Will you please take a moment to type in the chat and let us know where you’re from? And we’ll get started.

Nikevia Thomas:

Lima, Ohio area. Nice to meet you. Stacy’s from Bayport in Wisconsin. Diangelo’s in Charlotte. Katie is in Henderson, North Carolina. Kristen, Cincinnati, I think. Kara, Cleveland. We have people from Silver Spring, New York. Martha, Columbus, Ohio. Baltimore County Public Schools. From Pittsburgh, nice to meet you. Spark Hill, New York? Oh wow, Alaska, welcome. Southern New Mexico, wow this is amazing. Welcome everybody. Okay. So can we go to the next slide please?

Nikevia Thomas:

So before we get started, here is webinar etiquette we have. Please use the chat box to engage with other participants. We recommend that you click on the chat icon on the bottom or top toolbar of your screen. We are not using the raise hand function, please. So please don’t use that. We use polls, polls will appear in the center of your screen. Please click on the appropriate button and the results will be read by the moderator. There will be a Q & A towards the end of the webinar. Please put your questions that you want the panelists to answer in the Q & A box. Next slide, please.

Nikevia Thomas:

We also have live caption. To enable and disable it, these are the instructions. Step one, live auto caption should show up on your screen by default. To turn them off, use your webinar controls at the bottom of your Zoom window to select live caption or close caption button. Select hide subtitle, to view them again, repeat step two and then select show subtitles instead. Next slide.

Nikevia Thomas:

And like anything, it takes many hands to put on a show like this. So we have a wonderful webinar support team, and here are some of the webinar support members that we have today. Gracie Cortez is the evaluation intern at MAEC, and she is our chat box support. Kathleen Pulupa is the communications coordinator at MAEC and she will be working the Facebook Live and doing post-webinar support. Claire Ruhlman is the evaluation associate, and she will be working the operations and tech support for the webinar. And then there is me. My name is Nikevia Thomas and I am a senior specialist at MAEC and I work as the virtual event planner for this webinar. Next slide please.

Nikevia Thomas:

And we have our amazing facilitator, Dr. Daryl Williams. He is the associate director of CEE at MAEC and he will be facilitating our webinar today. And Daryl, I introduce you to take the reins.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Thank you. Thank you, Nikevia and MAEC team. Good afternoon to everyone from near and far, from across the country, in locations close by, maybe even across the world. We welcome you to this great, great opportunity we have today. I feel like I should have some theme music going on, Nikevia. You know, we are going to be putting on a show here. And we’ve got an excellent, excellent group of individuals that are going to share a great opportunity with each and every one of us around this topic of how to teach culturally responsive social studies in this environment that is so, or at least we tend to think of it as being controversial. So let me introduce our panelists real quick and get this party started. Let’s go to the next slide, please. I still wish we had some music.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

So it is truly, truly an honor and a privilege to introduce these wonderful people to you. I’m going to start with Ms. Brianna Ross, who is the Maryland Teacher of the Year for Social Studies. She’s a teacher at Deer Park Middle School in Baltimore County. She is a very, very passionate educator who will share with you just the joys of her work, her work not only as a teacher, but also her pursuit of her doctoral degree in Urban Education Leaderships from Morgan State University. And she’s a writer, she writes social studies curriculum, highlights more diverse perspectives. She connects historical content to current content. She coordinates some of Transition Programs, and she’s just one of the great leaders in the New Leaders Council fellows program. And so we welcome Ms. Brianna Ross to our panel.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Next, and I have to switch screens because I want to make sure I’m doing this in the correct order. I’m going to introduce Dr. Lawrence Paska. Thank you, Dr. Paska. He is the executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies. He began his career as a middle school, social studies teacher. Yay for those middle school teachers. You know I wanted to be one, one time in my life, but you know, the great ones are there and so I get to stand on the sideline. But Dr. Paska is an experienced manager, facilitator and presenter whose professional vision is anchored in collaborative leadership and constructivist teaching. He’s taught social studies education methods at the university level. He holds a permanent 7-12 Social Studies Education and school district certifications in New York. Welcome. He also has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Albany. Welcome, welcome. We call him Larry. So welcome Larry.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Next. It is truly a pleasure to introduce Dr. Tiffany Mitchell- Patterson. Whoo whoo, Dr. Patterson. She is a PhD and Manager of Social Studies with the District of Columbia Public Schools. A former assistant professor, Secondary Social Studies at West Virginia University in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Literary Studies. She has taught social studies at the middle school level for 10 years in Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia. She’s earned a doctorate in Multi-linguistic and Multicultural Education and Education Policy at George Mason University. And her research interest includes racial and social justice in education, education activism, critical civic education and teaching Black and underrepresented narratives in social studies.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Welcome to an- oh wait a minute, you know what? The best is for last, my sister in name Ms. Vanessa Williams, whoo whoo. Program Manager for DC Area Educators for Social Justice and Teaching Change. And we are so pleased to have her here. Let me tell you a little bit about her. She is a student and practitioner of all things, critical pedagogy with a special appreciation for social studies. She owns, she has developed her own curriculum in geography, world history, civics, economics as a middle school and high school social studies teacher for the past six years. And serves as a writer and auditor of K12 social studies curriculum. She has published works in education post and has served on the Levine Museum for New South’s Young Professional Council. And she is working toward building a more just world. We need more people to want to build a just world. And so thank you, my sister, Vanessa Williams, and all of the panelists for being here today. Let’s give them a virtual round of applause for being here today. Whoo whoo.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

And so again, I thank all of you for being here. I’m telling you, we’ve got people here from as far as Alaska. That’s amazing. So panel, you got your work cut out for you because we are going to be talking to people whose experiences are not within a certain bubble or a certain frame. We’re going to be looking at diversity and equity and inclusion and cultural responsive education across multiple, multiple geographic, social, economical, cultural areas. So it is truly a pleasure to have us all here. Let’s go to the next slide please.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Our theme, champion of innovation, collaboration, and equity. That is what MAEC and the Center for Education Equity stands for. Next slide. So let me give you just a little bit of information. Next slide, please. Just a little bit of information about who we are. Again, I am the associate director for the center of education equity. We call ourselves CEE. We are a project under MAEC Incorporated. MAEC houses the CEE, which is one of four regional technical assistance centers funded by the United States Department of Education under Title Four, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We are partners with multiple organizations but we highlight the work that we do with WestEd and the American Institutes for Research.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Next slide. As you can see, we share our vision, mission, core values and areas of work, and I’m not going to read all of it, but our mission is to envision a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. And we highlight that word “all” because we don’t just say some students, we don’t just say those students or my students. We say all students, regardless of your racial, cultural, language, whatever characteristics you bring. Identity, gender identity, whatever you bring in terms of who you are, we envision this world where you are visible in our vision.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Our mission is to promote excellence in equity and education to achieve social justice. And we do that at all levels, K-12. And we work with state Departments of Education. You see our core values, excellence, equity, integrity, innovation, and synergy. And then some of the areas that our work is really grounded in. And so we have a very, very broad spectrum of work that we put our footprint on, in terms of equity and excellence in education.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Next slide. We work with school districts and state Departments of Education in a number of states and territories. The map, I hope we’ve got some geography buffs out there who, where I don’t have to say exactly which state is which, but we’ve got them listed on the side. So our states range from as far west as Kentucky, and then we go northward up to Maine, and so those are 13 states, inclusive, and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. So that’s the territory in which we provide technical support and assistance to ensure equity in schools.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Next slide. So I think we are ready to get into the meat of why we are here. So you can see our agendas. We’re doing a welcome, an introduction. We’re going to talk about what is culturally responsive pedagogy. Why is culturally responsiveness important for social studies? Forgive me, I had a little something on my eyelid. Why is culturally responsiveness important for us now? What are the best practices and strategies teachers can use? And how can we respond to any pushback? There’ll be a period of questions and answers. And then we will close. Give you a minute to just sort of let that digest. Please be sure that you use the chat box for any questions. We will have staff that are monitoring the Q & A’s in the chat box, or any points that you’d like to contribute. And I’ll do my very best to get to as many, if not all that I can. Remember, we are not using the hand raise button. And so with that, let’s move forward.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Our objectives today, identify and describe culturally responsive teaching practices. We want to help equip teachers with the tools and language to teach culturally responsive social studies. And we want to identify and demonstrate strategies and best practices to embed culturally responsive teaching into the social studies curriculum.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Next slide. Okay, so let’s begin. So one of the things that is important in this conversation that we are going to have with you is to think about where are we as a nation? Where are we as a society? Some would say that we are at a crossroads. We’ve got the pandemic that has struck us in a mighty, mighty way, worldwide. And we are at a crossroad in terms of just what’s going on in education and what’s going on in society. So there’s this debate that we tend to be following. And I got three points that I want to list as I get ready to ask the questions.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

So the debate starts with where educators find themselves right now. I think they find themselves struggling, at a struggle point in what they want to teach, what they want to teach. But there’s all also this point in which we have to teach the standards. State standards, curriculum frameworks, good teaching practices. We’ve got to teach to that. But then we are also facing this situation where across the country, there are a number of entities, states, localities that are creating an atmosphere of resistance in what teachers can teach. Resistance around culturally responsive education, around racism, around sexism, around American history. And these things are important for what we want to engage in our schools. So let’s begin with that backdrop into this question of just what is culturally responsive pedagogy. And so I’d like to start that question. I think I’m supposed to assign that. My team needs to help me with my next place. I think we are assigning that to Ms. Brianna, is that correct?

Nikevia Thomas:

It’s teaching for change, next slide.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Okay. Teaching. All right. So here we go.

Vanessa Williams:

Perfect. Thank you for that wonderful introduction there, Daryl. Yeah. So again, Vanessa here, I use she/her/hers pronouns and I’m the Program Manager for DCASJ or the DC Area Educators for Social Justice, a project of Teaching for Change. We wanted to [inaudible 00:20:17] that, when we were sitting down to do our thinking around this question or these series of questions, we wanted to invite connotation around still celebrating the many beautiful parts of culturally responsive pedagogy, but also invite people to be thinking about some of that as also pushing responsiveness into what we’re calling or what other scholars have called, and that we’re bringing forth to you right now. Culturally sustaining pedagogy will give you more insight into that. Give you some definitions about what these pieces are. And again, give you some more details about how it can be applied and give you some actual resources from Teaching for Change.

Vanessa Williams:

That’ll give you again, some more insight about how to be applying this into your pedagogy, into your classroom, your curriculum, all of that good stuff. But we have titled ours, and I love this, “True to this, not new to this.” Because if you are listening in or taking notes, jotting things down, I think you should start a tally mark of how many times we say it’s not just responsiveness, this work is ongoing, right? So, start counting now, maybe take some bets if you’d like to. But be tuning in to that, just what culturally responsiveness is, but what it means to sustain that type of pedagogy in your practice. Next slide please.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

So we are coming off of last summer where we really had this watershed moment, right? We saw across the country and across the world, we saw protests. We saw people rising up in name of Black Lives Matter, fighting against police brutality, but also tying in other systemic issues, right?

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

We saw schools saying, “Oh, we want to embrace anti-racist pedagogies. We saw people tweeting, doing books at the protests.” And so that energy caused some winds to shift, right? But we also know that we’ve been here before, when those winds have shifted, when there’s this higher level of consciousness where people starting to want to engage in the work. There’s also the backlash, right? And we’re seeing a lot of that backlash with a lot of the bans, the bills that are being passed, even some of the ways it’s being done in the stealth mode, precursor to trying to take away teachers’ academic freedom and all of that. So we wanted to situate this as we know that we are here because of the moment that happened around globally in a fight against anti-Black racism in particular and in a number of other issues as well.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

The number of issues as well. Next slide please.

Vanessa Williams:

Good deal. So I’ve got here, the mission for Teaching For Change, or at least some of the language. There’s more language on our site, but if you read that, you’re going to see a lot of language around how teachers, students and their families are partnering together to help create a more equitable, what I’m sure even though it’s say explicitly here, a more just world using the approaches and the pedagogies that we’ve got with Teaching for Change. But I also want to direct your attention to our timeline. This is literally just a piece of it. Teaching for Change is a 30 plus year old organization and we’re partnering with a lot of different institutions and projects and similar type organizations that work independently but also we collaborate with them around a lot of different ways, right? Some programming is very consistent.

Vanessa Williams:

We’ve got year to year. You’ll see on there some parts of our timeline where we’re highlighting campaigns or events for the DC area, right? So we organize locally, again that’s the piece that I am mostly responsible for coordinating and managing but we also have other institutions and organizations that we partner with. Over time where we see needs that are raising both locally, nationally around people’s history and the ways in which educators need to be supported. Need to have resources around these topics and also events to go to or to organize around. So, wanted to highlight again, while Teaching for Change is a 30 plus year organization. We’ll give you more insight into the more direct pieces that we’ve got to address. Some of the backlash that’ll come out, but this is part of the ongoing work that we’ve been doing for a long time. And again, invite people to continue to participate in. But this is not new and our title and obviously the work predates Teaching For Change and I don’t want to make us seem as if we were, you know, the torchbearers but we’re certainly part of that greater conversation. That’s been ongoing for a very long time. Next slide please.

Vanessa Williams:

And again, so you know, I was talking a little bit about how Teaching For Change again has got a series of projects and there’s been a lot of our initiatives and campaigns ongoing 30 plus years where we can explicitly, you know, pinpoint different things that we’ve been doing. Right? But we’d be remiss if we didn’t, you know, directly respond to these concerted attacks on teaching the truth on these anti-history or as we we prefer to say anti-history, anti-truth attacks on educators that are really just doing what a lot of educators should have been doing a long – you know, well, a lot of educators have been doing, but too many have not been doing for a long time, right? So we have this #TeachTruth campaign and we had a couple different dates of action where we invited educators around the United States.

Vanessa Williams:

And I’m sure in our territories to really engage in taking action, right? Having, organizing events in their respective cities. We had more than 115 cities across the United States and enter territories, including the district of Columbia. You can see in that image right here at the African American Civil War Memorial, but it really was an opportunity to continue to lift up the work that has been going on for a long time but also an opportunity to say these attacks are ramping up. These attacks are not new, but we must address this in our Teaching For Change way, inviting people to take direct action against it. And in that way, it was responding to these concerted attacks and still situated within the stuff that’s going to continue to be important and has been important and been central to our work since we were established. Next slide please.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

Definitely. And there’s continued organizing happening around these days, but to take it back to culturally responsive pedagogy, we really want you to think of about this as a tradition, right? A tradition that continues to evolve. And we have the titles of the books there, the book covers, because this is something you really need to dive into. We cannot get into it in a couple of minutes. All of the tenets of culturally responsive pedagogy, but what we wanted to kind of show you is kind of this evolution of thought and deepening of practice. They do not work against each other, right? So sometimes they like to say, well, we’re not doing culturally relevant pedagogy. We’re doing culturally responsive teaching, or now we’re doing sustaining. No, they all are asset based approaches that deepen our practice around not just seeing and honoring our students. But I think sometimes we forget they also work to dismantle oppressive systems and deficit thinking. So that’s that second piece to this work that’s really critical. These are some key scholars, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Dr. Geneva Gay, Dr. Django Paris and Samy Alim. So there’s a lot of work that you can kind of dive into. Next slide.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

So I just wanted to put out here, we know it’s a lot of text on the screen, but just so that you can take a minute to see that much of the language is very similar. We’re about empowering students in all ways, not just socially but emotionally, politically, critically. We’re about examining curriculum that meets their needs and also where they not only just honor themselves, but they also think about how to fight for that just education and how to dismantle systems of oppression. And so sometimes when we think about culturally responsive, we think of holding high expectations for all students. Yes. But that also means thinking about what are those critical barriers where that has not happened, right? So it’s also this other work that goes along with it. Next slide.

Vanessa Williams:

So we wanted to also pinpoint a couple different ways. Well, this isn’t really pinpointing, but thinking about some of the ways in which you can start adopting some of this pedagogy into your practice. Right. And keeping some of these ideas at the forefront of it, right. We’re establishing a culture, like one of the big ideas that we certainly want to put forward. Right. Again, this is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve said it, and I’m going to keep on saying it cause it’s a broken record, but it’s a beautiful song. Not limiting your work to a response. Right. So of course you can say when something unfolds when something happens, right? It makes perfect sense for you to address it, like with your class, however you see appropriate, right? But the idea of taking on or piecing apart or unpacking injustice should not be when something goes down, right? But all these things are happening quite frequently, even when they aren’t in the news, right?

Vanessa Williams:

So let’s make sure we continue to lift up and to use our tools, our resources, our classrooms as one of the areas in which we can address these things, like with our students. Right. And thinking it’s important to be consistent, right? And not just again, addressing it when headlines are being dropped. Right? But when also on a regular Tuesday, right? When things may not necessarily be on the news around a certain issue. So that helps combat, you know, this idea that, you know, something happens in the news and all of a sudden, it’s like, you know, it’s no longer relevant. Like we’re past this, right? Because so many things again are ongoing and it’s really important to look at the ways in which they’re manifested differently and to also address them as well. And…

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

The core of it is the being youth-centered. So young people are at the center of this. We’re honoring their linguistic, their cultural frames, who they are, what they are, all parts of them. Their intersectional lived experiences. So that’s the key part. You have to know your students and know all parts of them. So next slide. I know we’re running out of time so we want to make sure that we have time for everyone. We wanted to just highlight some other resources that might be of help to you as you go through this. So we showed you Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and her piece, 1994. She actually just recently wrote a book where she’s saying, we’re asking a different question, so that might be something of interest to you.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

There’s other books out there, Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain. So these are other works, even Textured Teaching is really going at that culturally sustaining. So we just wanted to kind of highlight some of that. And of course, one of our projects, Social Justice Books, where you can find an array of book lists that can support you at all levels. Next slide. And so as we think about when other people start in this whole conversation that we’re having, because we’re inviting you into this conversation, what can a culturally sustaining teaching practice look like for you where we’re not just responding, but we are also honoring and sustaining who students are and then helping to support them to do work that dismantles oppressive systems. And then I think we’ll be thinking about that. I think we’ll go on to the next slide, I think is another question.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Didn’t I tell you, you’re about to go on a ride and experience. There were so many takeaways from that presentation. I’m sitting here, just scribbling and writing my notes here and I hope you’re doing the same thing too. I just want to highlight just a couple of quick points that I heard that I think resonates with me in no particular order, but not limiting justice work to your response. I thought that was really key. Sometimes we just are reactive in this world of trying to address the many ills and the many challenges that we face. But oftentimes we’ve got to be very about what justice work looks like, how we insert ourselves into it and what value we bring to that asset-based approach that reduces deficit thinking you couldn’t have said that more clearly to me and the audience.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

You know, we’ve got to continue to think about the positiveness of our approaches if we are going to tear down these barriers and these structures that tend to create… That tend to keep us boxed in. So let’s make sure that we think about that. I want to highlight one more I thought was really a powerful statement. It says empowering students in all ways how to handle and dismantle systems of oppression. And again, that sort of is a dovetail from the comment that I just made. So thank you for an excellent introduction to what we are doing today. So let’s go to our next question. Why is culturally responsiveness important now? And I’d like to turn that over to the National Council for the Social Studies.

Dr. Paska:

Thank you very much. And what I’d love to be able to do in the next 10 minutes with you is continue to push you towards a place where you are able to bring the big picture down to a point where it’s manageable in your teaching practice, in your leadership, in your scholarship. I want to turn to the next slide if you would, please. And yes, this work has always been necessary. And I want to share with you a little bit about our vision. So we, as a professional association of educators, we actually are celebrating our Centennial this year. We are a hundred years young and our founding in March of 1921, excuse me, was based on educators saying, you know, we have history, we have geography, we have economics, all these disciplines seem to share things in common, right? They’re about the study of the human-made world.

Dr. Paska:

What makes us human? What, what gives us, what breathes life into our humanity? Where do we similarities? Where are our differences? How do we overcome difference? How do we work towards the common good? That our educators a hundred years ago said, why are we going to history and geography conferences and economics conferences and all these program, how are we United? And we don’t have time in the school day for every subject as a separate subject, much as we may love that. I know as social studies educators, if we all could rewrite the school day, it would have social studies subjects the whole day. But, absent that, we got together because a hundred years ago we realized disciplines work better together. So I’m going to ask you for a moment to not think of yourselves as history teachers, as geography teachers, as a supervisor of an economics program.

Dr. Paska:

And instead think about yourselves as teachers of collaboration, teachers of communication, teachers of innovation, teachers of inclusiveness, teachers of influence and leadership. So these five circles are actually the strategic priorities of our organization. Many of you may have worked in, with your districts or with your organizations, in developing a strategic plan. And a strategic plan is often a really good moment for people to come together. Different groups that are affected by an organization, they build their priorities. They agree on what we need to share, what our common values are. And many of you may cringe because you may recall that when the strategic plan was released to great fanfare it then got buried somewhere, maybe on a website. Maybe, maybe your principal or superintendent talked about it. Maybe your CEO of your nonprofit brought it up at some point or your school board referenced it.

Dr. Paska:

But chances are, it may not have had a life of its own. When I came to NCSS five years ago, it was right when our plan was being released. And I said, I want to take these parities a step further, not just an action plan for our organization, but an action plan for educators that these may be the priorities for us as educators. That we value collaborating, communicating, innovating, being inclusive, influencing, being leaders, influencing leadership. And so I offer this to you to say one of the ways to teach things that may appear controversial and to be culturally responsive and culturally sustaining. It’s a term that I’m becoming more familiar with now myself and I’m already feeling like that term alone to be sustaining, to sustain something is to look at these historic priorities in total and say, this is what we will need to do to sustain.

Dr. Paska:

We will collaborate, communicate, innovate, be inclusive, influence, lead. So our vision for social studies is that all students are educated and inspired for lifelong inquiry. Another way we see that perhaps we can teach in a controversial time. In a time where we’re concerned that the voices of all are not being raised, where we’re not necessarily seeing equitable opportunities for all learners to see themselves in what they’re learning is to go back to the very purpose of social studies and that is inquiry. So I want to go to the next slide and based on where many of you are from, you’re probably familiar with, or you already work in a state that has either adapted, adopted wholesale or worked in some way with something called the C3 framework. This stands for the College Career and Civic Life Framework. It is intended to help districts and states when they revise their standards for social studies, use a process of inquiry to focus their social studies learning.

Dr. Paska:

Now, what I’m most proud of is that this framework’s taken on a life of its own. Many teachers use this framework directly in their own classroom practice. We love that. It wasn’t intended necessarily to be that, but that’s where we know it’s working well is if you feel like this is a model of structuring inquiry for your own classroom, then you know, in some ways, yes, let the state have the system for this. But you, you as an educator should feel empowered to structure inquiry and you hope that this is a good guide to do so. So let’s talk a little bit about what we mean when we say inquiry, because right now, if you’re saying I’m concerned about how to be, how to foster a sense of cultural responsiveness, culturally sustaining pedagogy in my classroom right now, it’s really difficult to bring a current event in because you’re just not sure how I want to take you out of that and say, let’s focus back on inquiry.

Dr. Paska:

Because inquiry is the way to do that. Please next slide. Again, those of you who already work with this framework, crash course reminder. Those of you that this may be new, I want you to think of these four dimensions as your guide to, to being able to be the educator in your heart, you can be. If you’re feeling under pressure right now, if you’re feeling like tomorrow could be a bad day because I want to test something and I’m concerned that it, you know, I don’t want my students to feel anything but just supported and embraced by my social studies program. And I don’t want my community to be concerned about what we’re doing. Let’s look at these four dimensions. Developing questions and planning inquiries. We’ve learned over a lifetime of being human, right? Our entire common humanity.

Dr. Paska:

We learn that all human beings have one thing in common. We ask questions, we wake up in the morning asking questions. They could be as simple as what am I wearing today and what am I having for breakfast? But all throughout our day, everything we do is about asking questions and trying to find answers. So the beauty is we don’t have to do anything differently. We just have to be human. Most importantly, our kids ask questions every moment of the day. And we know, especially as a former middle school teacher, a lot of those questions can sometimes be very simple like what’s my grade and what does that paper do? But the point is that kids are walking around all day, every day, asking questions about the world around them. They want to see justice and fairness in the world. They want to see themselves in the world.

Dr. Paska:

Most importantly, and my favorite part of being a teacher is they want to know where they can contribute. What am I going to do in life? Where do I make my mark? So step one, let them ask those questions and better yet frame your instruction around those very questions that they have as learners. Second dimension is applying those disciplinary tools and concepts. So I talked to you about a hundred years ago educators came together saying, wait, all these disciplines share things in common? We agree they do. And sometimes the questions they ask are really rooted in history and historical understanding. Sometimes they’re rooted in geographic reasoning. Sometimes they’re rooted in understanding how civic learning happens. Pick and choose those that work for you. Dimension three: sources and evidence. It’s all about the evidence. It’s all about the sources we use and to be able to present history factually, truthfully, and give room for students to understand that not everyone sees those sources in the same way.

Dr. Paska:

How do I help you understand the different ways those sources are viewed and help you to use them to draw conclusions that help you answer your question? The last dimension for us, communicating conclusions and taking action, is really important because this is where we celebrate student learning. Not always as the five paragraph term paper, but how can students demonstrate their learning through visual means … videos, social media, blogs? How could they learn about ways that they might become active in their community? Or if they see something that is a challenge for them to overcome in life, what, as they emerge into adulthood, what are things they could do? Are there certain occupations they may take? Are there certain ways they can engage with members of their community to solve issues? So the next slide, please.

Dr. Paska:

Think about all of social studies through the lens of an inquiry arc and the questions asked. I’m going to share this really fast. This is one of my favorite inquiry questions. Does where you live matter? What makes a good inquiry question? A kindergartner could ask it, a 12th grader could ask it. You could ask it at a staff development retreat, right? These are questions that are timeless, they’re universal. Depending on your age level, you may approach the answer in different ways but what I love about a question like this is it draws perfectly from more than one social studies discipline. And you really could look at it from a historical perspective, an economic perspective, a geographic, a political. When we talk about communicating conclusions and taking action. Again, this is a common question. All of humanity asks this question, does it matter where I live. So right there, the controversy is no controversy. We all ask this as, as human beings, every single day, the question becomes, how do we answer that question?

Dr. Paska:

So an example is how do we understand what that question means? What are some opportunities or limitations between communities? Can I compare communities? And many of us may live in areas, especially if we live in urban areas where there are many towns and villages crammed together in a county or in a small place. Does it matter where I live? That can have again, some significant issues in terms of thinking about culturally sustaining learning, it could have issues for how I vote. It could have issues for the cost of living, how I can afford where I live. And so when students get to assess this again, as adults, we all have to make these decisions. When we decide on a place to live, we have to ask ourselves, is the schooling appropriate for my needs? Do I have opportunities to do the kinds of sports and things I like to do in my free time?

Dr. Paska:

Do I have access to food? Do I have access to other resources? So teaching our kids how to help assess now as young learners puts them on the path to success for civic readiness, because civic readiness means when I grow up in the world and I’m out there going to college, getting my first job, I can assess an answer to this fundamental question I’m going to ask. Especially when I move out of my dorm room or my house for the first time. Acting, action can be sometimes something as simple as plotting a course for your life. Like, what job will I take? Sometimes acting could be inviting a local official or someone into a class to talk to me about this issue. But again, the heart of social studies is in …

Dr. Paska:

But again, the heart of social studies is in controversy is how do you frame a question in a way where the question may help solve and address the controversy, but it’s timeless, it’s universal. It’s about our common shared humanity. So I’m going to leave you at this for now, and we’ll come back to a little bit more later, but I’m hoping through our time today, I want to just go back really quickly to Teaching for Change’s mission statement, because the mission really resonated with me in thinking about the whole idea that it’s all about the question and how we go about answering the question. So when your mission is directly addressing that regardless of where your state or district is in terms C-3 framework, please think about the inquiry process and the idea that our sole goal is to help kids be empowered to answer their own questions and do so in a way where they have the tools they need to be successful.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Thank you very much. So just quick points that I got from that I, and again, I hope people are, are really getting something from these presentations because as each panelist shares information, think about where you are in your world of social studies. So for me, it really is resonated with that very first statement, “All students should be inspired for lifelong inquiry.” That has to be the genesis of where we are in this world of cultural responsive social studies. Then from there, I wrote down that there needs to be a priority in terms of what we embed within our teaching. Those priorities are around collaboration, communication, influence, inclusiveness, and innovation.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

If your teaching isn’t built on those tenants, I really don’t know what you’re doing. That’s just me. But I would think that every teacher should have established within their repertoire of teaching these type of inquiry priorities. Then educators should be empowered to foster inquiry. That means administrators; that means curriculum deans and curriculum directors. You have to allow teachers that space to create inquiry within the classroom, and that also lends to how students see the world. So, fantastic. Thank you very much for that. I tell you my hand is hurting. I’m writing down so much and writing down so fast, but I’m keeping up and I’m learning a lot. So let’s go on to our next slide. Oh my.

Brianna Ross:

So I’m going to go ahead and jump in.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

That graphic. [crosstalk 00:49:11]. So I’m just going to let you jump right in. I’m going to let you jump right in.

Brianna Ross:

Yes. I’m going to jump in. I don’t know if there’s anything left to say, because my wonderful friend said so many good things, but I’m going to try and tie what they said together, because I’m going to bring in the educator perspective from this. I also want to say, Dr. Williams, just in case you get upset, now the other day, we had a conversation and Dr. Williams said we could go there, so I’m going to go there-

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Go there.

Brianna Ross:

I’m going to say some things that we haven’t said yet.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Go there.

Brianna Ross:

I’m going to go there.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

All right.

Brianna Ross:

So I want to just bring us back to the title of today’s today’s session, which is How to Teach Culturally Responsive Social Studies When Everything is Controversial. I think we need to address this idea of why everything is controversial. So I don’t know if y’all had the 2020 that I had, but my 2020 was crazy. Dr. Mitchell-Patterson was 1000% right that it was a watershed moment. One of the reasons why is because we started talking about race and we haven’t said that yet today, but I think it’s really important that we talk about that, that one of the reasons that this year has been so controversial and for those of us who are sitting in this space together and who our history teacher are, somehow, unfortunately for us, we have gotten caught in this crossfire of this really crazy controversy.

Brianna Ross:

One of the reasons why is because we are now talking about race, but people are afraid to talk about race. We do not like to talk about race. It is the humongous elephant in the room that is totally silent, and so for the first time in this last year-and-a-half, we have been talking about race and people don’t like that. I think when we talk about culturally responsive relevant, or sustaining pedagogy, I think at a basic level for people, if you haven’t really dug into those wonderful resources provided by Dr. Ladson-Billings, or by Geneva Gay, those are excellent, excellent books. If you haven’t dug into them, but you could just know the name. You know culturally relevant pedagogy or culturally responsive teaching. What we tend to think of is like being understanding of our students’ culture and their backgrounds. We tend to think of culture first, but being culturally responsive is also about being culturally responsive to the culture.

Brianna Ross:

What is the culture today that our students are experiencing? So if we think just about what they experienced in eight months, in eight months, our students watched a man be lynched on television. They watched insurrectionists storm the Capitol building. They watched politicians argue over whether $1,400 was enough to support communities who have been economically and socially depressed for generations. They watched their family members, their friends, their community members literally suffocate in hospitals, right? So they experienced a whole lot and it was controversial. The whole year was controversial, but part of what lies in the center of that controversy is race, and that’s the thing that we don’t talk about, right? Can we go to the next slide? I think what’s important for us to recognize is that if we don’t talk about these things, if we’re not being responsive to these things, how can we not, if our students are sitting there, they’re experiencing it, especially in a world where they sat at home for a year?

Brianna Ross:

Most of our students in most parts of the country sat at home for a year and experienced these things and experienced this world in this way. So we can’t not be responsive to these things and at the same time, also conceal the history that explains how we got here in the first place. I think when we really talk about history, because that’s what we’re here for, we’re here for social studies and we’re here for history. For those of us who are history lovers like me, what we all know is that history is just a matter of storytelling. That’s what history is. It’s just different accounts of stories, but what it’s become and what the controversy has recently become is about whose story are we telling and what truth are we choosing to tell? I think that’s what we really want to be able to move to and I know that’s what all of us on this panel are talking about. That’s what Teaching for Change does. I saw that hashtag teach for truth, and I was like, “Yes! Teach truth all the time.”

Brianna Ross:

That’s the thing that we’re supposed to be doing, and that’s what we want to do for our students is teaching them a truth, a truth that’s not always told, and that’s what we’re seeing and that’s what this controversy has become. Particularly, the controversy has become, and I’m going to say it, I’m going to whisperer it y’all, but y’all know it’s really become about critical race theory, which we don’t necessarily do in classrooms. But the tenants are really there, because what we do want our students to understand is how we got to this place. The only way we can do that is by telling them the truth about where we are and who we are as a society and as a country. I think the other thing, one of our goals as history teachers, I know one of my goals as a history teacher, what all of us would love is for our students to go out into the world and become these activists and change agents to go and work for the National Council of Social Studies, or go be social justice educators at Teaching for Change, right?

Brianna Ross:

That’s our goal as history teachers and that’s our goal as educators, but the people who are on this, who are not me, the other wonderful people on this panel, what they do is tell the truth, and that’s what we want our students to be able to do. I think the other piece around this, because the question that we’re at, I think, in this part of this segment is, why is cultural responsiveness important right now? The real reason, I think, beyond all the other things that have been said is that our students need it and our students want it. We don’t have any greater power to leverage than the power of our student voice. So that’s what I want to share with us a little bit today. So I had the really wonderful opportunity and my work with Baltimore County is to do some work with students and to just really ask them, “What do you want? What do you want to see in your classrooms?”

Brianna Ross:

The conversation really was around culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy. “What is it that you want to understand, and what do you want to see?” So one thing that came out of our conversation, and these are student quotes that you see on the screen, is that our students really want to understand each other. I think, especially, in this past year where the dynamics of race, they just surged. We understood race in a different way and we understood the experiences of non-dominant populations, particularly Black and Brown populations in a way that we never have. Our students are sitting like, “We want to understand. I want to understand the person who sits in class with me.” What we also know is that many of our school districts, my school district, most of the school districts across our country, the majority of our students are the students who sit in the margins, and our students want to understand what each other’s experiences are.

Brianna Ross:

So what they’re asking of their teachers is, “I want to read stories and I want to read books and have conversations that are going to expose me to a different perspective. What I want even more for my teachers is that they can ask me questions.” This is one of my favorite things is to do counter narrative or counterargument, “I really want my teachers to help me put help put me in another person’s perspective. I really want to understand each other.” One of the critiques that we’ve heard is history teachers over this last year, is that when we talk about race or when we have the uncomfortable conversation that we’re encouraging and promoting division, and what our students are telling us is that it is just the opposite. Having this kind of conversation, doing this kind of teaching is exactly what they need. It doesn’t encourage division, it really is promoting unity and it’s helping them see themselves and see each other in a much stronger light.

Brianna Ross:

So one is that our students want to understand each other. Can we go to the next one? The other thing that often happens, I think, when we are talking about, “Should we talk about race? What happens if we do it in our classrooms?” One of the things that we don’t always like to say, but that is true, is that we think if we talk about race and if we have these conversations, “Someone’s going to identify me as a racist,” or, “I’m going to say something that doesn’t feel right, or I’m going to say something that someone perceives as wrong.” What our students are telling us, again, is that this is exactly the opposite. This particular student is asking, “We want to have conversations where we are talking about the uncomfortable topic.” They want to address the elephant in the room. My favorite thing to say to my teachers is that we have to lean into this discomfort. That’s what our student are asking of us is to lean into the discomfort.

Brianna Ross:

It doesn’t feel right, but the more that we do it, the better skilled we are at it, right? It’s like building a muscle, right? Having these conversations and doing this work is really just building a muscle. So they want to have, not just the one conversation when Black History Month comes, or maybe when we decide to recognize Indigenous people. We want to have the conversation all the time, and especially in our history classrooms. There’s opportunity every day to talk about the other perspectives, to talk about the thing that we don’t typically talk about, to bring in that counter narrative piece. So they’re asking for us not to just do it once or do it twice, or do it when the landmark events come up, they want to have these conversations all the time. Then, can we go to the last one? Then, I think the last thing that comes up for our students, and I think Dr. Pascalari mentioned this, is that what we want our students to be able to do is to equip them, which is why I am a very big fan of inquiry.

Brianna Ross:

I love the inquiry arcs, and I love the assess and act. I really love that piece. They really are trying to understand who they are, and especially if any of y’all are middle school teachers here y’all know that middle schoolers, they’re a new person every day and every day, they are trying to figure out who they are. History classes are the best place for them to do this because it is the place for inquiry to occur. It is the place for conversation and discussion and this shared collaborative learning and engagement to really happen. So what they want to be able to do is have these discussions. I can speak for myself in working in a school that it’s 95% students of color, 85% of those students are Black. They are trying to understand, “Who I am when I leave building? Who am I when I leave this space? How do I navigate this world outside of the four walls of this really cushy classroom? How do I do this and how do I interact and navigate and figure out who I am?” That’s what we want to be able to do.

Brianna Ross:

Doing this kind of teaching where we’re responding, not just to their culture, but the culture as well, that is what’s going to help them understand how, “How do I get the tools? How do I do the inquiry? How do I take the analysis? How do I build the critical skills so that now, I can understand my place in the world?” but hopefully, that they’ll go out into the world and make a better one than we’ve left for them, because things don’t look so great right now. But what I know what we do in our history classrooms, what I know our social studies educators are capable of is equipping our students those skills to go out and forge a much, much better path than what is already there. We do that by having the tough conversation and just, essentially, by telling the truth and speaking the truth. So that’s what we really want to be able to do, and that is what our students are asking for us to do. That’s it. I tried to wrap up what all y’all said in a different way.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

I’ve learned as I have aged that sometimes when you listen to the truth, you just got to take a minute and be quiet. I’m glad I didn’t have a rocket on my chair, because I was about to hit the ceiling when she started, and I am so glad that we are having this. So two words: promoting unity. That’s what students are saying. They’re not afraid to talk about race, adults are. They’re not afraid to inquire, to communicate, to collaborate, to learn about different perspectives, to, as you say, lean in; the adults are. The adults are holding our future back by not allowing the future to hear the truth.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

I think I’m going to shut up again for a minute and let that resonate. Wow. Let’s go to the questions. Those are the questions. There’s some questions in the chat room, so I’m going to go ahead and we’re going to push that right now. I think we’ve had some of these answers, but let’s talk about it a little more. “What kind of teacher preparation, professional development or district-wide is required to undertake culturally sustaining curriculum for local areas of diverse populations and households?” So you can see that that’s a question in the chat room, and I invite one of my colleagues, any one of my panelists, let’s just jump right in and talk about this.

Dr. Paska:

I’ll start just with a broad overview. The kind of teacher preparation is [inaudible 01:02:03] teacher preparation. There has to be a commitment right at the board level, right down to a school building level, that there’s a plan to support all teachers in a sustained professional development program. We’ve seen this for years, that professional learning gets cut the first chance you go through a budget cycle. If it gets restored, often, it doesn’t get restored at the full value of where it was before. Again, I represent an association, of course. We have our conference next week, as you see. We certainly encourage educators to come to events, to be engaged. But professional learning is also more than just coming to a conference. It’s being invited to participate in sharing knowledge through publications, through blogging, through connecting and contributing with others, through setting up online communities or offline communities, but it has to be a sustained commitment. Too often, what we see is it’s the first thing to go and it’s often the last thing to come back.

Dr. Paska:

When that happens and especially, and I do want to speak, Brianna, to your point about what a year this has been. Of course, as we’re all separated and we’re all doing schooling online and we’re not even connecting with our kids and we’re worried that they’re not even present with us in school, we don’t know where they are, we haven’t heard a lot of stories of teachers are getting a lot of professional development or if they were, it was around how to do online schooling, but it wasn’t necessarily as to, “How do I do inquiry well? How do I do inquiry online? How do I address some issues that I think to all of our points today, these are only controversial because we’ve allowed as adults, these to be really challenging issues?” The kids still have these questions. So I would just start off by saying, kind of preparation is we have to start with the focus of preparation. In too many places, there isn’t even that focus and that’s challenging to us.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

Yeah. I was going to jump in and say that this really is a multi-prong problem. Teacher education or teacher preparation at the university level is also equally under attack as well, in terms of state-funded programs and state schools in terms of CRT. We also know that teachers don’t really get, as they’re preparing, a lot of support in teaching these narratives in doing this work. They’re focused on student lesson plan, “Let’s do this, let’s do that,” and they may have one diversity class. So there’s some systemic issues within the teacher preparation programs. Then, they get into the classroom, then we don’t have that sustained. What about inservice teachers?

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

So some of the things that we like to do at Teaching for Change, we do provide professional development. We do work with our partners in terms of NEH grants. What we’ve seen is a lot of teachers finding opportunities, paid opportunities, in many cases, where they can do their own work. In terms of local communities, I want to be careful in how we think about that. What I tell my students is all classrooms are diverse. They may appear homogenous, but they’re not. Every student is bringing multiple identity. These intersectional experiences to spaces. We don’t want teachers to just performatively be involved in their community. If you are going to be in a community and wanting to learn from students, you need to get down with the community.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

So one of the things when I moved to D.C. was, even I opened up with my students, “What do you think people told me about the D.C. and this neighborhood? What can you interrupt for me? What can you disrupt about? What should I know? What are the sources?” Then, we were able to create a lot of community mapping. We were able to bring in the GIS and say, “No, these are the resources that are here, and this is why we love our community. These are some of the bright spots there.” That’s just a teacher-based example, but then also there’s the getting down with organizations, like D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice, being able to get with like-minded educators, because you might be the only one in your building.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

You might be just a few, even if it’s just two or three, starting with that, and really understanding who parents are, families are, caregivers are, which requires you to be vulnerable, which requires you to be open, which requires you to continually check your bias about what you think about that community. We’re not talking about saviorism. We’re not talking about communism. We’re talking about honoring, that culturally sustaining, honoring what’s there. We are invited into this space and how can we learn from it and be a part of helping to the culture that exists and/or if there’s things that need to be disrupted, be in solidarity with young people and communities and families to do that work?

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Thank you. Wow. Thank you. Powerful, powerful statements. Let me jump to a different question, one that’s not in the Q&A, but it came in the chat. So I’m just trying to balance how we respond. So there was a question that says, “How do teachers teach for change and truth in classrooms with students’ primary truth, worldview or learning lens is faith-based from families where there exists no other truth than religious doctrine? That’s a whole lot there. So I challenge any one of you all to unpack that and provide a response about truth.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

I’ll kick off a little bit, because when I was in West Virginia, I was in a rural space and I also would teach classes in local classrooms, high school classes. What I can also to you is that those students were very curious about understanding about what’s happening with BLM. It really started with their misconceptions. What have they heard using that inquiry-based model really allowed you to have almost any kind of discussion, right? But we also invite students to impact their worldview. So what is your world view, and do you recognize that you as a young person, get to decide that, right? So also when I taught as a teacher, it was one of my things, I said, “Uh-oh, I’m really doing this radical work. Am I going to get the phone call?”

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

What ended up happening is I was very transparent about my practice. Back-to-school night, “This is the type of work that we’re going to do here. This is rooted in history. This is rooted in the standards. This is the work that we are learning about.” I also did that understanding the sacrifice that I may get fired. I think we also have to think about when we’re doing justice going into work, you have to be bout it bout it all the way. I understand people have families and all of that, but if we’re thinking about what our leaders, our activists that we teach about have lost as a part of their work, we have to be-

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

Teach about have lost, as a part of their work. We have to be also mindful of that as well. I have found you’re not going to shift all mentality. But you at least give them a chance to hear something different. And it’s not about, oh, you know, this is your idea, this is how you see the world, but understand other people see the world differently and have different experiences. And that is valid. And we’re going to also have some hard lines. The Holocaust is real, we not playing that game. Enslavement happened, we’re not playing this game. So it’s also interrupting some narratives. What I found is a lot of students only heard bits and pieces. And when they got to dive into primary sources themselves, when they started to do the research themselves, they began to say, oh, well, maybe I do. And young people love rebel stuff.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

They love learning things that are not, oh I don’t know, let me close the door. So those are just some ways to think about how you do this work in certain communities. And I understand the risk that that also takes, I do want to acknowledge and name that. But I’ve found when parents have confronted me, well, you’re teaching this and I said, okay, well you teach at home what you believe, this is what we doing in this space. So affirm your beliefs to them at the dinner table and they’re like, oh, okay. So I think there’s some of that willingness and that truth telling and radical and boldness that accompanies it, but I will be quiet so others can answer.

Brianna Ross:

I’m going to piggyback you. You said a lot that I was like, okay, yes, you started it off because you activated my thinking, so thank you for that. I’m going to definitely piggyback on this and one of the things that Dr. Mitchell Patterson said was around understanding students have to understand their worldview. And I think one of the things that’s really important and I can speak from a middle school perspective, but certainly middle school and high school and across the grade levels. One thing that I think is really important for our students to be able to do, but also for us to do as educators is to really recognize the role that our identities play when we show up in the classroom. And that’s important, especially for us as teachers, who are you when you show up in this space? And I think this part about understanding what your hard lines are.

Brianna Ross:

I saw someone put something in the chat earlier that in trying to have some of these conversations, you were told that you’re forcing the political ideology on students. And I think we sometimes think that being a history teacher or being a teacher for justice means that you have to be neutral. And I feel very strongly that that is not a real thing. Neutrality does not exist here, right? Like we are not neutral. We don’t take neutral stances on things. We usually do show up to a conversation either here or there maybe, or somewhere in the middle, but being neutral doesn’t work, especially when we are trying to teach for justice and teaching for the right things. So neutrality is not, it doesn’t exist in that space. But I think what’s important for students and then in a community like that, where it is a faith-based community and especially where ideology can be very, very steep.

Brianna Ross:

And often religious ideology is some of the strongest ideology. I know that as a Christian and I know that as a history teacher, religious ideology can be very powerful. It can also be very dangerous. And so I think in recognizing that it’s important that we create space for our students to first understand, like let’s see who we are and why do we show up with these perspectives? Oftentimes our students, especially when it comes to religion or other ideologies that they’re bringing that come from like a family or community space, they don’t always fully know where they’re coming from. They know that I believe this thing, my family believes this thing, but I’m not quite sure why. And I think in this space where they come into classrooms, classrooms are the best space to explore who you are.

Brianna Ross:

And to understand like, what is it that I believe, what don’t I believe, what feels right, what doesn’t feel right? And I think starting from a place of understanding our identity makes it much, much easier. One, it creates a sense of community in the classroom where we can all just be open and honest about what our identities are and how they shape and impact how we enter a conversation. But two, it really does allow for that counter narrative to now take place for like, you may have a truth that is true to you, but this is someone else’s truth. This is another truth. This is an alternative story that maybe you don’t know. And I a hundred percent agree that sometimes what our students really have is just bits and pieces and they don’t have a full story. And sometimes when we help paint a full story for them, they can still hold onto their religious beliefs or they can still hold onto whatever they’re coming with.

Brianna Ross:

But also it helps them understand a different perspective because what we’re not trying to do is change anyone. We just want them to be aware. We want them to have a full, complex story. And sometimes those stories are ugly and they’re not very pretty and they’re really convoluted. But we want our students to know what they are. So coming from a place of understanding who you are, what your identity is, absolutely knowing your hard lines, knowing that neutrality does not really exist, but creating a space for the conversation. It’s okay to have it because we know how we’re all approaching it here. I know I’m approaching it as a woman of color. I know I’m approaching it as a homosexual man. I know I’m approaching it as a non-binary person. When we know how we approach a conversation, then it’s much, much easier for us to come to common ground. And it’s easier to hear those stories that we might not be comfortable with.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Wow. The passion that is just elevated in this conversation is something. We got to make sure we do more of this. And in an addition to this, let me give you all, come on, jump in Vanessa, Lawrence, if you want to, if not, we’ll go to another question. I want to shut up and listen.

Dr. Paska:

You push my thinking just now, because now I’m thinking, neutrality is the same as being passive. Like there’s not really, you really can’t hide by neutrality. And so I’m thinking one of our tenants in social studies is that we prepare for active participation in civic life. So active participation is not, I’m here to change your mind, it’s to understand that others have beliefs. And our job as members of a larger community or a smaller community is how do we help it so that you can walk through the world, withhold that your faith is okay. I’m not here to judge your faith. But what I am here to do is to help you understand others have beliefs, others have perspectives and worldviews. And but yeah, to your point, certain things are just truth. We’re not going to debate a perspective that is damaging to human sight.

Dr. Paska:

But this whole notion of we can’t be neutral, part of it is acknowledging what you have and then helping you to see how others in a community also have their worldview. Also have worldviews, perspectives that are there to embrace. We talk in social studies a lot about embracing the dignity and the worth of every individual. We talk a lot about the obligation we have and I’m quoting directly from one of our statements, which is our code of ethics. So we have an obligation as educators to recognize, foster respect for the diversity of cultures.

Dr. Paska:

And that word obligation seems really heavy. But I think the question is asked is really important that when a child comes into a classroom saying, I think this, or I think, I think this. Great and there are lots of ways that people believe in the world or their structures of how they believe are framed. And our job is to help open you up to all of them so that you can work towards a better world. But yeah, so you’ve really moved me forward in thinking about the concept of neutrality as equal to being passive and therefore that right there is the challenge.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Come on, Vanessa. I feel like you got something to say. I just feel it. Just keep [inaudible 01:16:21]

Vanessa Williams:

Tossing some ideas around my head. I just think about some of my experiences, like when I was teaching, my first play teaching experience was at a, oh, what kind of school was it? It was a Episcopal school. Yes. I’ve only been gone like a year. And it kind of deviated because of the way that the school marketed itself. And I can talk about the performance and the way that they value diversity and or claim to have. But we’re going to go there. But there were definitely instances of different times when people would waive that. And people, the way that the Episcopal faith and the framework whatever, was made out to be was just this inquiry, I mean very much like credit somewhat inquiry and really being able to investigate and think about how to create a much better world than we have right now, what have you, but still people hid behind that.

Vanessa Williams:

This is my belief, this is my doctrine. And I’m not going to shift over that. So I mean, I guess I just think a lot about how it is that I find when I’m faced with that challenge of somebody who is going to be a more obstinate or a bit more stubborn in it and find that common ground. And my assumption and maybe this is flawed thinking. But my assumption is that with this conversation around religion it’s really more about white evangelicals. And that doctrine, it’s that group in particular, that’s most beholden to or waiving or hiding behind this view of their religion and calling it anxiety or calling it whatever.

Vanessa Williams:

I think it’s really important to find the, you know, to say, would your God or would God promote racism or a lot of these other injustices that are happening? And I don’t think so. Find that common ground and then be able to pinpoint, like these are the ways in which your beliefs around this practice are flawed, and this is how it contradicts God’s word or the text that you claim to at least ascribe to. Sorry, I kind of rambled. I just, there’s a lot that I’m still processing about it and I think it’s a good question.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

I think because the information, the challenge, there’s so many different aspects to, that we’ve got to cover, we’ve got to reach, we’ve got to touch, we’ve got to dismantle. It creates a very… There’s no straightforward answer because one’s perspective of religion, faith base is certainly going to influence practice. It’s going to influence family life. It’s going influence how I see my neighbor. It’s going to influence who I decide to sit next to in a classroom. I just find it amazing that families may feel inclined to let their identities play that role in shaping lives outside of school. But children spend so much time in school and we fight so hard about how helping them shape their identities and education.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

And so it’s, you know, I understand the challenge of trying to respond to some of these very pointed questions where we just struggle to get to open the can and Ms. Ross opened that can for us, but we still know that all of this is grounded in a fear race. It’s grounded in that fear and so the fear creates misinformation. It creates, who I’m with, what I believe, what I do, and so I understand all that. So thank you all. I mean, wow, we’ve got like a couple of minutes left. I want to get to another question here in the chat. I’m trying to combine two questions.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

What resources exist for empowering culturally responsive practices in a virtual space, virtual schools. We still have kids that are in virtual schools. We may go back to that in totality and yet we still need to be responsive to the experiences or the space that people are in. I love that, earlier speaker talked about the different spaces that we’re in and even during the time of out of person school experiences. So how do we create this responsiveness? How do we empower these practices? And at the same time, that might lead into some thoughts around training in the social studies curriculum that districts can embrace. So that’s a mouthful for me, jump in anybody and just give me, give our panel, give our audience a response here.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

I just wanted to quickly share, we didn’t have time, but we were going to actually share a lesson that can be done virtually and in person. It is a lesson that was written by a DC teacher, award winning teacher on where she had students do a people’s tribunal on the Coronavirus. It was the people versus like who is to blame. And so students had to unpack and think about, was it racism at the core of this? And race supremacy. Was it capitalism? Was it climate justice? Was it access to healthcare? So they were able to answer this question of who is to blame for this current pandemic? So it connected to what their lived experiences were, like what they were experiencing at the time, but also helping to elevate some of the key issues. And so in that lesson that I just put in a chat this also was done virtually last year.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

So as an example of how you can also do this, but of course you want to make sure that you have set that culture and that community before diving into that. So they have to be able to do this work when it’s sustained, they’re doing this all the time. And then there was a quick question to me about just speaking a bit more to, how do you do this? Know your curriculum, usually districts have policies around teaching controversial topics, read it, use it to your advantage. I would definitely look at the standards. I knew them standards better than the people that wrote it.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

Because when someone came in and said, well, you shouldn’t be talking about indigenous history. Well actually here is the Trail of Tears at here. And so that’s why we’re now also talking about Standing Rock and Settler Colonialism. So being able to know your standards to be able to then push forward different conversations is very important. So that’s why I said, it’s also about your planning and thinking about pedagogical tools that can help you do this work, where students are really unpacking high level issues. So it’s not just talking about the issues, it’s your instructional practices as well.

Daryl Williams:

And when we do part two and I invite the three of you back here, we can do that demonstration lesson first and make sure we get that in so that participants can see exactly how they can embed that into a virtual space. Any other comments, Lawrence, Brianna, Vanessa, any other comments?

Dr. Paska:

Well for that part two. In a way, just to kind of frame things or a takeaway for each of you tonight, one of the other things that’s a deep concern to us is the overall silencing of social studies in the curriculum in general. And so we’ve been tracking that for a long time, especially at the elementary level, it’s taken a lesser priority to other subject areas. We know that many of you as educators are stressed by that as well. That’s hard, especially when students do ask questions about background, their community and race. They’re not able to address these because it’s not been part of the curriculum. I’d like to just basically say that the silencing of the subject and the curriculum as well also does not give us an opportunity to just tackle head on inquiry in the very issues that we’re talking about today.

Dr. Paska:

So I often call it the supermarket challenge. I just ask you when you are in the supermarket or in a community setting, you’re with someone you know, ask the question, how is social studies taught in our school? Start that conversation, start it in small ways, start it in big ways, get involved with organizations like those here today, and others that support social studies and civic engagement for kids. The more your voice is elevated in these spaces. The more our kids have a chance to be engaged in the very things we’re talking about today.

Dr. Paska:

And I did notice that I say it’s a supermarket challenge, because it literally happened once. I was in a supermarket and asked the question about, is social studies happening in the elementary school? And it suddenly spawned a whole, I don’t know, I’m not sure, is it? It should be. Start there, if nothing else, please start there. Because that’s how we will be able to address the equities that we need to see in our school system and help our kids to engage in the very questions and challenges that they want to engage in.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

30 seconds, Ms. Ross, 30 seconds.

Brianna Ross:

He put me on the spot.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

I know I did.

Brianna Ross:

Yeah, you did. I wasn’t prepared. I was like really? I was listening to what Larry said.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Get ready, Vanessa.

Brianna Ross:

I think in terms of those resources, I really love, I just was looking through what Dr. Mitchell Patterson shared. I want to just hop back that piece about inquiry. I think as much as we can give those inquiry, I think C3 offers those Inquiry Cycles and they are phenomenal. If you are a history teacher, the C3 Inquiry Cycles are amazing and we love to do them in my school and especially with my eighth graders, they really, really enjoy those. And again, I think as much as we can give our students the opportunity to do that inquiry and even those questions like what Dr. Mitchell Patterson mentioned, I wrote it down.

Brianna Ross:

When you said like, what do I know about your neighborhood or your community and what can you interrupt from me? As much as we can use our students knowledge as leverage for what we are supposed to teach, they’ll tell us. So as much as we can use what they want, what they are interested in and what matters to them, because a lot more matters to them than I think we give them credit for. And I think as much as we can leverage that in our instruction, that is the place that we want to start from. That is what it means to be responsive. Digging into what they want to dig into. And social studies really is the best place to do that.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Close this out, Ms. Williams.

Vanessa Williams:

No. Yeah. So I just wanted to touch on some of the things that we didn’t get a chance to. I mean if you’re serious about that part two, I’m definitely down cause there’s so much more I wanted to say. But I would just encourage educators to be effective in their practice. And the question that’s sitting with me right now is, how are we making these culturally sustaining practices transferable to a virtual experience. And I wouldn’t just challenge you to say it’ll still be as intense and all and still be as committed and dedicated to transforming your classroom experience, or [inaudible 01:28:30] they got a little experience with that as well. I’m not saying it’s easy, I was also in the classroom during the pandemic and had to make that shift over a weekend and figure out how to do the same type of committed work as I did before, when we’re meeting in person.

Vanessa Williams:

So I can show you a whole bunch of more resources that we offer and can also provide more insight about that. But I would still just say, you had the same mentality, had the same commitment, the same practice virtually as you were doing in person. And that’s all I have.

Daryl Williams:

All right. Thank you. What a phenomenal, phenomenal panel. I just want to thank you all so much for all that you’ve provided and shared to the participants. Thank you. Make sure you fill out the evaluation. There’s a Survey Monkey link. There’s never enough time to talk about this, but we definitely have to do this again and we got to make it happen soon. Keep this momentum going, speak the truth, talk the truth, engage in the truth and build that level of inquiry. Thank you, Brianna Ross. Thank you, Lawrence Pacsa. Thank you, Tiffany Mitchell Patterson. Thank you. Who did I miss?

Brianna Ross:

Your cousin, Vanessa?

Vanessa Williams:

What’s up man. I [crosstalk 01:29:55]

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

Your cousin.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

I always do that. I did that purposely. I do it purposely.

Vanessa Williams:

Okay. I’m going to hold you to it.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Thank you all so much. Thank you team. Have a wonderful, wonderful evening. Let’s stay in touch. Be blessed.

Vanessa Williams:

Thank you.

Dr. Paska:

Thank you.

Dr. Mitchell-Patterson:

Thank you. Peace everyone.

Dr. Daryl Williams:

Peace.

 

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