The featured speaker started by making chant all participants: "Social justice", when: "Now". If not, "Shut it Down". He even said that after hearing what he was about to tell to the audience he would get kicked out of New Jersey. Jose Luis Vilson really tore down the House at GSE!
Among other things he stated that the way we see ourselves is not same as the way students describe our image. Teachers need to portrait a positive image to their students. Education professionals are to develop their own identity, it doesn't matter whether this is rap or its lyrics. Guess what played a great role on Jose Luis own motivation.
He spoke about some statistics and mentioned the unfortunate reality that urban communities are badly served by the disproportion of well-trained teachers and low budgets. He encouraged listeners to look for a much diverse participation not only in about the skin color but in their deep thoughts, as well. The author of This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education, was confident when saying: Being in the classroom is something you cannot replicate.
As part of the conference, there were some other workshops. One I participated was Restorative Practices and Shaping School Culture, lead by Jamie Gullota and Amy Pitucco. Working with the Restorative Circle and two techniques recognized as "Affective Statement" and "Fishbowl", participants were able to exercise the restorative practices for conflict resolution. Most importantly, it was stressed, you must build a positive relationship with your students and watch the words (feelings related) that you need to use when communicating with children.
And then, I had the pleasure to hear another great educator, Joseph Mathews. This teacher and author is a former disengaged student and a high school drop out. Referring to his book, Things I Wish My Teacher Knew About Me: Engaging the Disengaged Student, he made his case appropriately pointing that many students still feel that outside the school there are people who love you more.
Mathews as much as Gullota agree that in the school environment everything is about relationships. The former says that in order for a student to get engaged, he needs to trust the teacher. The latter asserted, before applying restorative practices a teacher has to listen to what are the students feeling at the time he is misbehaving.
All in all, after lectures, workshops and corridor conversations everyone agreed that teachers are not teachers only perse, they all are social agents that need to balance the space every one has, and look to rebuild the distrust that actually exists not only between teachers and students but feel not ashamed that certain people looks at you 'in a certain way'.
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