Our conference keynote speaker, Michelle Knight-Manuel, co-authored the book Classroom Cultures. This book not only provides practical strategies for addressing equity, but also a clear connection between equitable classroom practices and fostering career and college-going identities for our students. In this context, career and college discussions move away from end-of-term activities and become a part of what we do everyday from the point-of-contact through program completion. This book contains so many practical strategies that can be implemented seamlessly. It is definitely worth a read.
What is unique about Knight-Manuel & Marciano’s work is that it seeks to move beyond discrete equity trainings and have educators look at their craft as a whole. Their inquiry-based model has teachers consider inequities that are woven in the fabric of the school as well as connected systems and the greater community. It is not just about incorporating cultural stories into lessons (although those ideas are included), but also looking to provide wraparound supports that students need to see themselves as worthy and successful learners, and engaging activities that have students empowered as players in the social arena. Knight-Manuel and Marciano’s book is filled with practical strategies for teachers to support students’ strengths, build productive teacher-student relationships, facilitate culturally relevant peer interactions, and promote college and career readiness (Knight-Manuel & Marciano, 2014). Each one of these areas discusses interventions from the perspective of curriculum and instruction, school culture, and building college identities. Most equity training has an inherent call for justice, but this short book captures how any teacher on any day in any subject can perform small acts of justice.
Even though we work with adult students in an adult education setting, creating a culturally relevant and responsive program can make a huge difference with our population and our greater community. We know that we are in the business of helping families out of poverty through education and career training. Understanding and connecting with our students as people from culturally diverse backgrounds will help us better reach the communities we serve and increase engagement in our programs. Providing access to higher education and career training options is an equity issue for many of our students. Culturally relevant support strategies discussed in Knight-Manuel and Marciano’s book include access to information, access to financial aid, understanding the benefits of higher learning, promoting asset-based thinking, and creating college-going identities. Many of the strategies used in this study can easily be applied to any level of education. This book has many grab and go nuggets that can be implemented tomorrow, as well as topics for deeper discussions and discourse with faculty. This book provides an excellent starting point for campus discussions on equity and building college-going cultures.
Or see our LARAEC resources on building college-going campus culture https://laraec.org/teacher-resources-CT/