Tag Archives: inclusion

Social Justice Study at AREA

I was once again thrilled to attend the AERA conference this past week.  It is such a remarkable opportunity- so many knowledgeable and committed educators from around the world.  Quite inspiring.  At the conference this year, one consistent theme emerged in the sessions I attended: Know your students. One particular study in a session entitled Preparing Preservice Teachers to Teach for Social Justice, resonated with me quite profoundly.  The study was called Candidate Change in a Community -Engaged Teacher Education Program and was led by Patricia Clarke from Ball State University.  Patricia maintained, ” a good teacher must understand the context in which a child lives grows and learns.”

Her team conducted a study which examined: preservice teacher candidates’ attitudes towards diversity and community, and how they changed over the course of a semester-long community-engaged experience. As teacher candidates came to know the community in which they were working, their expressed attitudes and beliefs changed from explicit statements of bias and stereotype to ones that sought community involvement and social action. 

This teacher education program at Ball University emphasized community involvement by holding classes in local community centers (as opposed to the university).  Student teachers also attended the local church on Sundays to be part of the community gatherings.  The teacher educators arranged for “community ambassadors” to welcome the student teachers to their neighborhood and guide the student teachers throughout their weeks in the school.  The results were remarkable.  The student teachers moved from “being nervous” and “afraid” in the neighborhood to feeling like a community member.

Patricia closed her session with a sweet anecdote shared by one of her student teachers, which I will share with you here. The student teacher was working in a class of grade two students and asked the children to share the markers.  She handed the basket of markers to the child beside her who seemed a bit confused.  Remembering what she had experienced the previous Sunday when she  attended the community church with the children, she said, “pass the basket like you do at church.” The child nodded, and said “Hallelujah!”  all the of the children immediately responded with “Praise be the Lord!” and they promptly passed the basket of markers around the circle. The student teacher was somewhat surprised by the response, but because of her inclusion in the community completely understood why the children responded they way they did.  She smiled, nodded, and continued on with the lesson.


The commitment of the teacher educators in this program was outstanding and quite inspirational.  I sincerely hope teacher education programs worldwide can learn from not only this study, but the model of teacher education Ball University has implemented.

Wonder is Wonderful

I (Cathy) download audio books from audible.com onto my Ipod nano and listen while I walk, garden or cook. I just finished the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio. It is a very touching juvenile fiction novel about a ten year old boy with severe syndromes that dramatically alter his facial features. The story takes us on his journey surviving his first year in a public school as a grade five student. I cried a lot. This wasn’t so bad when I was in the kitchen cooking or even in my own back yard planting and digging. But walking?   Hmmm. People notice. Oh well. When people asked me if I was all right, I just said, “It’s the power of great literature,” smiled and thanked them for their concern. This is a must read my friends, but keep the Kleenex handy and warn the family in case they ‘wonder’ about you!


The Power of Introverts

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi


At a professional development session I (Pooja) attended this week, I joined a conversation about the power of introverts. The conversation was framed around Susan Cain’s book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. We live in a society where extroverts are the ideal; we value personality over character. This presentation, given by some of my quieter colleagues, was  powerful because it forced me to reflect on ways I engage and include introverts in the classroom. The presenters explained that introversion and extraversion is not a black or white matter; rather we all fall somewhere along the continuum depending on the situation we find ourselves in. I also learned that introversion is not to be confused with shyness- a mistake many people (including myself) make when speaking about introverts.


I mostly identify as an extrovert. Knowing this is important because it can influence how I design my  course to be more inclusive for all my students. As a more extroverted person, I walked out of the session with practices to consider revising in my classroom. Here are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Mindful of airtime- I often become uncomfortable in silence, and so I will fill in silent moments with talking or engaging only the most vocal members of the class in discussion. Silence can be a powerful thing; these are the moments where reflection occurs.
  • Independent Work vs. Group Work- I try and put my students into pairs and/or groups every chance I get. I now am beginning to realize this is not the optimal working condition for all. I need to find a balance of group work and independent work.

Learn more about the power of the introverts here: