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    Cultivating a Culturally Responsive Workforce with a Foundational Coursework
    Posted on 03/05/2020
    Teachers sit together in a conference room during a workshop

    Cultivating a Culturally Responsive Workforce with a Foundational Coursework

    As of 2019, teachers new to the profession in Seattle Public Schools take foundational coursework to understand and support their culturally responsive practice. Culturally responsive instruction recognizes and celebrates the unique gifts and backgrounds of each student and improves learning for all students.

    Ensuring Seattle Public Schools teachers are culturally responsive practitioners is a priority of the district’s five-year strategic plan, Seattle Excellence. By collaborating with families, creating lessons that connect to students’ culture and daily lives, and actively building anti-racist practices in the classroom, a culturally responsive practice helps reduce gaps in opportunity for students and creates a welcoming environment for all students to thrive.

    To help build this practice, Seattle Public Schools offers foundational coursework, Seattle Teaching 101, 201, and, 301 (beginning in 2020-21), to educators in the district.

    Seattle Teaching 101 is tailored to new-to-the-profession educators and explores essential skills and practices to foster culturally responsive classroom environments.

    Seattle Teaching 201 explores SPS beliefs about racial equity and culturally responsive practice in order to build effective instruction across Seattle Public Schools.

    Seattle Teaching 301 is an opportunity for experienced educators to learn how to be an effective, culturally responsive leader in their school community.

    Teachers new to the profession in the district complete Seattle Teaching 101 in their first year and are expected to complete 201 within their first three years of teaching. Seattle Teaching 201 will also be offered to experienced teachers wanting to build their culturally responsive instructional practice and take on leadership roles.

    All foundational coursework is grounded in Seattle Public Schools’ Foundational Beliefs for Supporting Student learning, which detail the district’s commitment to educational equity and justice. Throughout the sessions, learning is grounded in the Foundational Beliefs to support teachers in building a culturally responsive classroom.

    The Foundational Beliefs are:

    1. Teaching is intellectually complex, difficult, and demanding work, and the development of skillful teaching requires deep collaboration and non-defensive self-examination of practice in relation to student results.
    2. By collaborating with families in authentic partnerships, we create a path for students to reach their highest potential, engaging with families as the first and lifelong teachers of students.
    3. Intelligence is not a fixed, inborn trait. All children come to school with cultural capital and intelligence, and all have the raw material to learn rigorous academic material at high standards.
    4. By recognizing and cultivating the gifts and strengths of every student, we can get each student to believe in themselves and deconstruct any of their own internalized stereotypes.
    5. Racism in our society exerts a downward force on the experiences and achievement of students of color that must be met with active countermeasures.

    Last month, first-year teachers from across the district attended the fourth of five Seattle Teaching 101 sessions this school year. The 101 session topics ranged from equitable classroom management to analyzing grading and assessment practices as tools for racial equity.

    “As educators, your job is to remove barriers so that the learning can happen,” Lisa Anderson, a first-year teacher of English language learning at Sandpoint Elementary, said during last month’s 101 session. “It’s never the kid who is wrong, it’s probably our approach that’s wrong. And, I really appreciate looking at it from the kid’s eyes instead of top down.”

    Teachers in Seattle Teaching 101 are also paired with a consulting teacher who provides 1:1 mentoring and coaching work across the year. The Consulting Teacher Program provides an environment where educators can openly explore their successes and struggles, authentically articulate their thinking, and bravely take risks to improve their teaching practice.

    In Seattle Teaching 201, teachers are able to dive deeper into the Foundational Beliefs with peers to lay out a vision of what effective, culturally responsive instruction means and looks like in Seattle Public Schools.

    “We’re focusing on racial disparities here and taking a look at the data and bringing that lens as we craft our lessons,” Ryan Austin a science teacher at Garfield High School said of 201. “Talking with my colleagues who are coming from different schools with different experiences brings it more to life.”

    Teachers who complete Seattle Teaching 101 and 201 will enact the Foundational Beliefs in the classroom to ensure all students in Seattle Public Schools feel safe, valued, and ready to learn.

    Learn more about the foundational beliefs.

    Learn more about the Culturally Responsive Workforce strategic plan priority

    Learn more about our five-year strategic plan, Seattle Excellence.