How can you be sure that your school is implementing culturally responsive teaching practices? Read on to find out!

I was in the first cohort of the Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI), a collaboration between The National Education Association, the Center for Teaching Quality, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, whose goal was to develop a new generation of leaders within the teaching profession. As a result of my work with TLI, I continue to receive a variety of opportunities and invitations – usually through email. In November 2015, I opened an email, which told me that the Montgomery Institute was hosting a four-day session in January to share Montgomery County Education Association’s groundbreaking model for culturally responsive teaching. There were scholarships available to cover the cost of the three and a half day workshop, the hotel, and two meals a day for five participants.

My school had recently started several initiatives to ensure culturally responsive teaching in our classrooms, and I knew this would extend that work. I forwarded the email to my principal, and on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, he told me to apply for the scholarship. The only problem was that the application was due the following Monday! I would have to find five people to attend, and I would also need the president of our state association to send a letter of support.

With this challenge accepted, I dashed off an email to Massachusetts Teachers Association President, Barbara Madeloni, asking for her help (and hoping that she would read her email over the Thanksgiving holiday), and then I began working on the application. I found four amazing teachers who wanted to attend the program with me, and I worked to complete the application and scholarship. I was delighted when, on Sunday night, I received the letter I needed from the MTA President, and on Monday morning, I submitted all the materials. We were thrilled to find out a few weeks later that our application had been accepted, and that we had also won the scholarship!

I have been teaching for twenty-one years, and I have experienced a great deal of professional development, but I have to say the MCEA training was one of the most well-organized, useful, relevant, and powerful workshops I have ever completed. Every single minute was informative and beneficial. My colleagues and I worked together towards a common goal, and we learned so much from the other participants and from each other.

There were approximately 50 teachers from all over the country attending the session, and their teaching experience ranged from 1 year to 44 years. The atmosphere was collegial and convivial, and the two facilitators, Ellen Holmes and Linda Manny, were absolutely masterful. Each day was packed with information, activities, sharing experiences, and food – lots and lots of food.

Not only did we receive effective techniques for implementing culturally responsive teaching in our schools, each group was tasked with creating an Action Plan to further continue the work when we returned home. Our group’s Action Plan focused on taking the work from MCEA and crafting a half-day PD for our teachers. We also wanted to create more community building activities in our school, so that students are able to take ownership of – and feel more connected to – their school. In addition, we planned to continue work on our “Humans of Revere” project which featured photos of our students and their stories, and we made arrangements to have a funk/R&B band play an all-school concert, so students could have a fun, bonding day after state and Advanced Placement testing.

My colleagues and I left Maryland energized, inspired, and eager to continue our work, which we know will positively impact our school. MCEA offers a variety of workshops for teachers, and scholarships are always available. If you are looking for a ways to implement culturally responsive teaching in your school, I highly recommend this experience!

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