Building the Culturally Responsive Classroom: Session Review

On Wednesday, November 10th, GVASCD proudly hosted Building the Culturally Responsive Classroom. More than just changing the curriculum and resources! This virtual session was led by Lanni Maszerowski, a 5th grade teacher at Brighton Central School District, and Becky Wiggins, a High School English teacher and instructional leader also from Brighton CSD.

One of the main messages from this session was that relationships matter! As educators, we know this, but are we truly modeling this belief day in and day out with our students? Lanni and Becky shared some great strategies to try like, empathy maps, greeting students at the door, remembering to praise the effort and not only the outcome, plus many others that our participants could implement right away! These simple, yet effective ideas can work to build psychological safety in one’s classroom. When students feel safe and seen, it builds motivation for learning and improves behavior.

Another area of focus in building a culturally responsive classroom that our presenters focused on is being ready for difficult conversations. Once your classroom is a safe space, students will likely feel comfortable asking questions and posing topics for conversation that may challenge other’s thinking. The biggest advice shared for this was to plan for these moments. During lesson planning, teachers should think about scenarios that might come up and then how to work through them. One resource shared to support this work was Matthew Kay’s book, Not Light, but Fire.

This session helped bring to life the goals outlined within the NYS Department of Education’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework. In particular, Becky and Lanni provided practical strategies for creating welcoming, student-centered learning environments that affirm identities and prepare students for rigor and independent learning. In response to the great feedback from this session, GVASCD hopes to bring Lanni and Becky back for another session to help us continue to go deeper with this important work!

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