Join Upper School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Brandon Woods, Middle School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Jennifer Nabers and Lower School Spanish Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Kasey Taylor for a discussion about the Learning for Justice standards at Latin.
Brandon Woods (00:14): Making sure we all have a common set of standards. I would also just like to say, in terms of new families and new students in the school, having a common language and a common set of standards eases that introduction into the community.
Kasey Taylor (00:30): Well, I think the, the great thing about the framework the social justice standards are actually the same for all age groups and divisions. However, it's the manner in which students engage with the content that looks and sounds different.
Jennifer Nabers (00:48): The way the outcomes are written in the social justice standards, you know, it says things like "I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of a group." And so it's very empowering to students themselves if you know, and it, it also, as a teacher helps remind me like that this, this is for children, right? This is what I want kids to be able to do. And the way that these are written feels really revolutionary and visionary in that way, because you know, start as you mean to go on.
Kasey Taylor (01:23): Hi everyone. I'm Kasey Taylor. I am lower school Spanish for junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, first and second grade. So the "littles" in the lower school and also lower school diversity coordinator.
Brandon Woods (01:37): My name is Brandon Woods. I am an upper school English teacher currently teaching ninth and tenth grade. And I am also a diversity coordinator and I focus on curriculum JK through 12.
Jennifer Nabers (01:48): Hi everyone. I'm Jennifer Nabers. I teach seventh grade English and am one of the middle school diversity coordinators.
Kasey Taylor (01:56): What are the social justice standards? They're based on the work of Louise Derman-Sparks who gave us the four goals of anti-bias education and they're centered around four domains: identity, diversity, justice and action. And these became the domains that the social justice framework was based around. And then they're broken down into a set of anchor standards, which includes five per domain.
Jennifer Nabers (02:27): One thing that's worth mentioning is that the name of the organization who hosts these standards has changed. It used to be called Teaching Tolerance, and now it's called Learning for Justice. And one of the things that I, I think a lot of us are excited about is, is we've talked a lot about how tolerance is a pretty low bar. And so when they kind of rebranded the standards as Learning for Justice, it felt like more, I don't know, like a really cool way to say, like, this is what we really care about and what we're working for, which should be more than just tolerance, tolerating each other.
Brandon Woods (03:05): The standards are an offshoot of a project started by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. And that was Teaching for Tolerance. And they had a goal of helping teachers in schools really teach students how to interact and be a part of a democracy - and a democracy that is anti-bias and anti-racist. So the standards came out of that initial project from the Southern Poverty Law Center. When did Latin adopt this framework and has it changed over time? So the first time Latin adapted the standards was in 2017, and initially, they were adapted in the lower school. And then the following year, they were adopted by the middle and upper school. And the standards themselves have not changed over time. What has changed over time is our implementation and the expectations of that implementation across all three divisions.
Jennifer Nabers (04:02): Why is it important for the standards to be incorporated into the curriculum? This is a great question. I think it actually goes to why are there standards anywhere in education, right? Because it's, you know, there's millions of teachers in the country at, you know, hundreds of thousands of schools doing this work. And so standards are just a really key way of communicating baseline assumptions about what we think is important for our, for kids at every grade level, right. So you can't really build a curriculum without standards. You can't have a scope and sequence of what you're trying to cover without those. So they're kind of, they kind all go together and create - one of the ways to think about it is like - a safety net almost, right? Like if we can name what it is, we are trying to teach kids in the classroom, if we can sort of, and then, so then we have a more like a higher likelihood of achieving it. And then I would also say if we can point to standards, this is what we're trying to achieve. And these are how these things are, you know, supported by best practices. It's sometimes easier to onboard new faculty to explain why these are important to like librarians or other kinds of support staff and to get parents and other parts of the school community on board.
Brandon Woods (05:21): In terms of new families and new students in the school, having a common language and a common set of standards, eases that introduction into the community and which they can see online - these are the goals we have, these are our aspirations. And sometimes new families, new students can get lost in the lingo. But this is a kind of, not necessarily universal lingo, but certainly a language that a lot of schools are adapting. So I'm always for making those transitions smoother.
Kasey Taylor (05:57): Thinking about the pluralistic world that we live in today, that students need to really know how to, to thrive in this world. They need to know how to connect with their place in the world, how they move through the world, and how their identity shapes the way they move through the world and how other people's identities are also impacting the way that they move through the world. So Jen had mentioned along the lines of, you know, one of the goals is prejudice reduction, but then also the standards help us move into taking that knowledge and moving into action. And which is a really important part of the social justice piece - that we're moving towards collective action and knowing what it sounds like, and looks like to be supportive of underrepresented and marginalized communities and, and moving to solution-oriented practices.
Brandon Woods (06:50): What do students take away from this framework of teaching? Well, there are a number of things they take away, but I would say one of the things that's most important is a sense of agency. It is hard to tackle a problem unless you can identify it. And one of the difficult things about this work is how do you identify the problem? And then how do you break it down in an age-appropriate way in a developmentally appropriate way where you can imagine these kind of targets that students can reach. And as we were talking about with the last question, really making sure they understand our expectations and how they should be acting towards themselves, cause this is about being kind to oneself, but also to one another. And so, in that way, I just wanted to echo what Kasey was saying in the last question about what does bias or prejudice reduction, and anti-bias actually look like on an institutional level. And I think that's one of the things that the students gain over the scope and sequence of the standards.
Kasey Taylor (07:56): How does the framework differ in each division? The great thing about the framework: the social justice standards are actually the same for all age groups and divisions. However, it's the manner in which students engage with the content that looks and sounds different. So this is due to, you know, cognitive and social-emotional development. The different ages that are represented at our schools, especially a K-12 school. There's quite a span there. Basically, the framework offers standards that are being achieved in all three divisions. The fundamental concepts are exactly the same as a matter of fact, but the scaffolding that's helping the kids learn how to interact with these standards - that's what looks and sounds different. So one of the great things about the social justice standards from Learning for Justice is that they also have included student outcomes and school-based scenarios that help teachers implement practices around this, that give them an idea of what this is going to look like and sound like at every age group. And there are four bands of age groups. The first band is K-2. The second band is 3 through 5, grades, three through five, and then we have the middle school years and then the high school years. So it really does sort of break it down and scaffold it in a way that helps teachers know how to implement the standards appropriately and in age-developmentally appropriate ways.
Jennifer Nabers (09:27): This is maybe like some inside baseball: one of the things I think is really cool about the way the standards are written is they're written from the student point of view. So if you look at, for example, like the Common Core Standards for English, right, they're sort of this, like they're very teacher-driven, you know, like you want kids to be able to do this. You want kids to be able to cite this and like, yes, it's like student outcomes, but the way the outcomes are written in, in the social justice standards, you know, it says things like, "I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of a group." And so it's very empowering to students themselves, if you know, and it, it also, as a teacher helps remind me like that this, this is for children, right? This is what I want kids to be able to do. And the way that these are written feels really revolutionary and visionary in that way, because, you know, start as you mean to go on.
Brandon Woods (10:22): One of the ways it can potentially look different in each division is the part that Kasey was talking about early in terms of action and what that action component looks like from lower school to middle school, to upper school. Right? So with upper school, the expectation is they're starting to internalize these standards and not only pushing back against us as an institution in the ways in which we may fall short of those standards, but their immediate communities, and if I may be so bold, the world. Right? So the idea is once they freely internalize these standards to look at the world in which they live in and see how they can apply them outside of our brick and mortar buildings.
Next Up (11:02): Next time on the Latin Learner Podcast...
Jennifer Nabers (11:06): How this like changed something I've taught: so when I looked at the social justice standards, it was then really important for me to think like, are there memoirs I can bring in where I can really implement these standards? And so this allowed me to really shape like some curriculum choices that I was making.
Kasey Taylor (11:26): Exploring identity is like a foundational element in the lower school environment. And this happens in a number of ways, but again, scaffolding the opportunities year after year after year allows kids to see how identity development evolves over time.
Brandon Woods (11:44): Our goal of inclusion and the word I would use along those lines is belonging. And how do you gain a sense of belonging into a community? And I would say there are two possible vectors. One is being able to identify your own identity and your own needs, and what do you need as a person in the community to feel included, to feel a sense of belonging? There's also an obligation towards others.