Dr. Shontoria Walker is a graduate from the University of Houston in Houston, Texas with a degree in Professional Leadership with an emphasis in Literacy. Her research focuses on using culturally relevant pedagogy to influence literacy achievement for middle school Black Male Students based on her experiences as a former 8th grade English teacher at an all-boys preparatory academy. She has also served on the Texas Teacher Advisory Board, a Teach Plus Policy Fellow as well as a Senior Policy Fellow with Teach Plus Texas from 2014-2019. During her time and beyond she has advocated for educational policy laws that directly impacted the classroom as well as contributed to policy briefings for the revision of The Every Student Succeeds Act and national policy reports such as If You Listen, We Will Stay: Why Teachers of Color Leave and How To Disrupt Teacher Turnover and more recently To Be Who We are: Black Teachers on Creating Affirming School Cultures.

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Show Highlights

8 minutes you must hear if you believe in tapping into cultural responsiveness in your schools.

Do something different with your teacher prep to provide a voice to your new teachers with learning opportunities, not just survival techniques.

Stop putting a bandaid on students falling through the cracks and give them authentic engagement opportunities.

Tips to create culturally relevant content that transfers ownership of understanding to provide opportunity to make meaning from the complex process.

4 domains to form strong community partnerships and responsive teaching to achieve Culture to the Max.

“Real Talk Friday” gives students the opportunity to elevate their voices and actually see each other.

Not classroom management, but culture management.

Gaps in preparing teachers for their students and building connections that transforms the learning process.

Read my latest book!

Learn why the ABCs of powerful professional development™ work – Grow your skills by integrating more Authenticity, Belonging, and Challenge into your life and leadership.  

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Read the Transcript here.

Culture to the Max

Danny (00:02):
How would you answer this question? And to set the context, you are a first year teacher. It’s your first class, first day, first minute. Now yes you are from the community, so you do have some understanding of where the students are coming from and what they’re going through. But the teacher prep program does not prepare you for this question where the students ask you literally the first thing you know, you wanna go into your, Hey, this is who I am and let me get to know you and you know, let’s set up some agreements for the class and the norms. Nope, none of that. Cuz the students ask you, will you still be here? Are you sticking around? How do you respond? Well, you’re gonna find out how Dr. Walker responded because that’s her story. Even though she was from the community and the first teacher I think ever from the community to come back and teach at her school. That was her experience. And yes, teacher prep programs didn’t prepare her for that moment, but she handled it brilliantly and she’s a master of culturally relevant teaching. And so we dive into that topic a lot today too. Hey, it’s Danny, chief Ruckus Maker over at Better Leaders Better Schools. And this podcast is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school now. And we’ll be right back after some messages from our show sponsors.

Danny (01:39):
Learn how to recruit, develop, retain, and inspire outstanding individuals and teams to deliver on the vision of your school in leading people. A certificate in school management and leadership course from Harvard Leading People runs from February 15th to March 15th, 2023. Apply by Friday, February 3rd, enroll by Thursday, February 9th and get started at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. Teachers use Teach FX to record a lesson and automatically get personalized insights into their classroom conversation patterns in teaching practices. See Teach FX for yourself and learn about special partnership options for Ruckus Makers @teachfx.com/blbs. All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning, whether that’s in a distance, hybrid, or traditional educational setting. Learn [email protected].

Danny (02:49):
We’re here with a Ruckus Maker, Dr. Shontoria Walker, a graduate from the University of Houston with a degree in professional leadership with an emphasis in literacy. Her research focuses on using culturally relevant pedagogy to influence literacy achievement for middle school black male students. Based on her experiences as a former eighth grade English teacher and an All Boys Prep Academy, she also served on the Texas Teacher Advisory Board, a Teach Plus Policy fellow as well as a senior policy fellow with Teach Plus Texas from 2014 to 2019. During her time and beyond, she’s advocated for educational policy laws that directly impacted the classroom, as well as contributed to policy briefings for the revision of the Every Student Succeeds Act in the national policy reports such as if you Listen, we will stay by teachers of color leave in how to disrupt teacher turnover. She also currently serves as the executive director of Education powered in her everyday work. She’s committed to collaborating with teachers, administrators, and district leaders to ensure that all students receive an equitable literacy education across the district. Graduating with Distinction as some KU of her doctorate cohort. Her passion and dedication to literacy education, equitable Education Policy Laws is I terminable. Dr. Walker, welcome to the show.

Shontoria (04:15):
Thank you so much for having me today. I’m so excited to be on the Better Leaders, Better Schools podcasts and I’m excited to just dive into the conversation.

Danny (04:26):
Let’s get to it. Tell us the story, Dr. Walker of getting this, the first teacher from the community to come back and teach at the school you went to growing up.

Shontoria (04:39):
Yes. I went to the University of Texas at Austin, grew up in Houston, Texas from a neighborhood, Trini Gardens, Houston, Texas. Never would’ve thought that I was going to be a teacher until I was offered the opportunity. And so I was given the opportunity to teach in the area that I actually grew up in. And like you said, they told me I was the first teacher to ever teach there that actually grew up in the community and the school had been around for over 20 years. And so that was something where I was like, look, I have to bring a unique approach. It was an all boys preparatory academy, eighth grade English teacher. And I was told that with their multiple, I keep calling it deficits, but I wanna call them opportunities at this point. As you can imagine, all boys, black and brown boys, had a large number of students listed as emotionally disturbed, listed as categorizing special ed, receiving special education services in the entire district. I knew I had a unique chance to change some of the narrative around them and their learning, especially in literacy and English, they projected them to be 50% passing. And what really brought me to them, what I noticed is that the students, my first day in teacher prep programs, they tell you, “Okay, you gotta do this and you gotta introduce yourself.” My first day, the students were like,”Honestly, we get everything you’re telling us, but are you leaving or are you staying?” And that hit me differently and I knew that was something where it was more than me just coming and teaching content. I had to meet them at a different level. And that meant when they were asking, it was around the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown Times, a lot of kids were coming in with a lot of questions that I felt like even as a black woman, I didn’t have the answers to, well let’s turn this into an opportunity, a learning opportunity.

Shontoria (06:37):
And so with the permission of the administrator and parents support of the school and the community, we actually for this specific group of young men, we actually retried the Trayvon Martin case. We did a mock trial and it wasn’t to change the outcome of what it was, but the students had so many questions about how this applied to me? How does this apply to my life? Where do I stand? Do people look like me? Going to see is this gonna be their fate? Also some students as black boys we talked a lot about seeing adults, seeing them as ad adults, seeing the students as adults and treating them as that. So in my selfish nature, I felt like I was giving them almost survival techniques to teach speech, to teach debate, to show you that school is more than just these four walls.

Shontoria (07:32):
How to survive in your community, how to give them wisdom, how to teach your family. So we tried the Trayvon Martin case, I had the students as judges, I had the students as Bay Love, I had them as the jury, everything. And some of the students walked away saying that they couldn’t have even imagined themselves as more than being the inmate or the person in the jumpsuit in the courtroom, which is kind of heartbreaking . Had to, had to give them something different. And that was the point where I was like, “Okay, I am doing something almost transformative in the classroom.” I know it’s something that’s out of the box, like you say with the Ruckus Maker piece. And we did that and that exposure allowed me to bring in text and literacy and all of that and really tap into cultural responsiveness. And by the end of that school year, those students ended up scoring 84% passing with 14% commended based on little things. That was just one project. But based on some of the little things that I was able to do to really bring in, allow them to use their background and their experiences within the classroom. So that’s something. Long story, but it’s a story that really grounds me in the work that I do.

Danny (08:50):
We’ll get back to the little things. A couple ideas that I wanna reflect back to the Ruckus Maker. One is just the power of reframing. So you talked about Dr. Walker says instead of deficits there are opportunities. It may seem like a small move as a leader, but that really says a lot and then when you’re communicating that to the team or to the students and that kind of thing, it has this huge ripple effect. I appreciate you sharing that. The other idea you said is almost transformational, no, it was a transformational experience, no doubt about it a hundred percent. You said, “it wasn’t about changing the outcome.” But I think what you mean is like giving students the inside of how the whole process plays out, having them have ownership of understanding it and that kind of thing.

Danny (09:39):
Allowing them the opportunity to make meaning from the whole complex process. Which is really pretty cool. And obviously it is sad. To hear them say, hey the jumpsuit thing, like you said, like that’s the only way they had seen themselves before. And the other thing, like for me. I never asked the teacher, “Are you staying?” That wasn’t a part of my school experience, so why would I? I’m wondering if we could go back there really quick? We’re gonna come back to the little things. Don’t worry. I made a note. I don’t wanna put anything, any words in your mouth. What do you think is going on there?They have students and they’re not super old at all and they’re saying things like, that’s how they’re addressing your teacher. You’re new here, are you staying? Like that’s basically the first interaction.

Shontoria (10:30):
My first interaction, first time meeting them, I wanted to give my bio and my introduction and I had the questions in mind. I think what was happening was a few things. That I had to really peel off the layers. We talk a lot in education about peeling back the onion layers. One of the things is that, what context is that the students had lost multiple teachers. And you can think about even now in today during the pandemic and we talking about after the pandemic or not, it’s not over, but you know, the shutdown allowed for a lot of teacher shortages, a lot of people leaving, a lot of teachers taking it upon themselves to do something else. And I feel like even this is then, and that was now what was happening to those students. Think about the footprint that leaves and what do students think when the teachers are leaving the classroom.

Shontoria (11:22):
Especially those that they are making deep relationships and connections with. I came in actually at a time when they had lost at least three to four teachers. I wanna say it was a while back within the English classroom. And the last teacher they had, they really enjoyed it, was a black male teacher they really enjoyed, but he got a leadership opportunity. And so you think about leaving for opportunities or if it’s just burnout or if it’s just pay, but that had left something within the students to where they were like, “Okay, cool, we know you gotta teach English, but what are you really here for? Because we’ve been feeling like we’re throwing away children and so we don’t wanna no longer feel like that again.” And knowing that once they found out I was actually from the community, that was a whole other thing.

Shontoria (12:07):
We got to talk about the local park and we got to talk about a trail for horses to go on trail rides. And so I think that was a different aspect of building relationships and community that I was able to tap into. But at that time I felt like I had to build up some confidence and some reassurance and some trust because they were like, “Okay, we get that everybody has done the same thing, but are you gonna be here long term or not?” So that is something that will forever stay with me since day one. And that was my first experience as a teacher or the first day.

Danny (12:43):
And like you said you didn’t necessarily feel like the teacher prep program got you ready for that kind of experience. Anything else do you remember like the chasm between teacher prep, what they said education’s gonna be, and then now you’re there, you’re doing the work, kids are like, hey you staying, were there any other sort of big rifts right between the two realities in the program prep program?

Shontoria (13:08):
Definitely. We talk a lot about this too when we are getting pre-service teachers in service, like even education majors within the teacher prep program, of course there’s a specific curriculum that you need to teach. I need to know pedagogy, I need to know instruction, I need to know my content to get ready. But what it doesn’t and didn’t get me ready and what I’m still seeing as a gap is the, which is we’ll go into the culture responsiveness, but I think that community aspect, those questions that weren’t necessarily within my deck to get ready for you introduce yourself, you teach this content, you know the standards but it is like, well if a student tells me he does not like to read, that was something I had to kinda fan for on my own. How do I get this student’s intrinsic motivation?

Shontoria (13:58):
Because the other factors are there are things that are going on in the media that he’s seen that doesn’t necessarily enable or make him believe that he can do. There are things that when he walks out outside of this schoolhouse that he’s being exposed to as a young man that I need to be able to leverage. That’s not in the context of my teacher prep program. Depending on where you’re going to school and where you’re teaching, some teachers in essence never really have to deal with that or associate with that. And we talk a lot about this in Houston, in different areas. This was North Houston. I grew up in a traditional public school. Of course this was a charter school so we had a little bit more autonomy, but it was still a resource piece that we needed. It was still an exposure piece that wasn’t possible, if you go a little bit further in Houston, Texas to the Bel Air area, they had a lot of resources.

Shontoria (14:49):
They had books for all kids. They had exposure to where they go. I just feel like in my teacher prep program, it got me ready to address the content, the English to teach, but it didn’t necessarily get me ready on how to reach, if that makes sense. And so that was something that was my journey into the doctorate that I ended up pursuing. My focus was using culture responsive pedagogy to influence literacy achievement for black male students. Of course based on that. But that was kind of my journey to say, oh okay, this is what it’s gonna take to actually reach a specific, not just demographic, but there are a lot of students still today who are still falling through the cracks that we are just kind of trying to put a bandaid on. And so that’s kinda where that kinda comes from.

Danny (15:38):
Just because it’s fresh in my mind. I just streamed with him right before you and his podcast release a little earlier. So for you and then for the Ruckus Maker watching or or listening, Will Juwando wrote a book about my seven Black fathers. And since we’re talking about black boys. Like that’s a cool episode and a great book to go back and look at. So that’s just in case you don’t know Dr. Walker and then for the Ruckus Maker, like definitely check out that show and his work too. And what I was gonna say your story really clicked for me for Ruckus Makers because the teacher prep programs, let’s let ’em off the hook a little bit in the sense that they might not necessarily know the context of your school.

Danny (16:21):
And they’re trying to prepare students for all sorts of schools. And my mom loves to tell the story of when I went through college I said, “I am not coming back to the suburbs mom.” And she was shocked. She’s like, what you, you were raised out here. It’s like a great school system, they pay awesome. Like people are set up for life. And I said, to be honest and looking back, I was still pretty much right but there was a little bit wrong. I said, those kids don’t really need me. I need to go where my talents and my skill set could be best utilized. And so I’m gonna, I’m gonna work in more challenging environments. Now there’s still kids that wouldn’t need me out there, but whatever. That wasn’t my story. And so that’s my long way of saying the Ruckus Maker listening, they’re an expert of their context.

Danny (17:10):
So did you have a teacher onboarding experience at this school? And that kind of thing cuz I’m willing to bet the principal knew you were gonna be asked, “Are you saying.” What does our onboarding look like for new teachers, even if they’re from the community to make sure, okay, they got the education, the teaching part, but you said the hard part, the reach. Can I connect with these kids and help them learn and open doors of the future? Like they, they could have set you up feeling a little bit better maybe. But do you remember, was there an onboarding experience? And I’m not asking you to bash ’em, I’m really just curious.

Shontoria (17:46):
No actually it gave me the, what you call it, the authority and the autonomy to put input. Actually, I had great leadership, I got it at the time. And so when they found out, they were the ones who told me I was the one that actually taught in the community. And when they found out they were actually as a brand new teacher, straight outta college ready to teach, they actually invited me to be a part of the planning of onboarding for all teachers. And one of the things was let’s do a community walk. You know, this community, this is something we haven’t gotten to do, so why don’t you give us input and feedback on the places we need to go. Let’s go and start making those actual connections. We’re gonna get you ready for school. And they sat me down and told me the reality cuz they were also like, you wanna stay? It was one of those things but it was such great leadership at the time and they were so supportive to where they included me in being a part of the onboarding process.

Shontoria (18:45):
So beyond all of the first year things that you need to know or the first school of the beginning of the school year, things you need to know, we also were able to include that and take the teachers. I was actually able to share a bit of myself but then also give them more context in the school in the students that we are serving. And so I think that really allowed me to say, “Oh I do have a voice” versus being a new teacher and I’m just taking a water hose of content and context without being able to actually share pieces of myself. So I think that actually catapulted a lot of stuff as well.

Danny (19:20):
Sweet. Dr. Chris Jones, I was commenting on your story and he just said, powerful move. The leaders to see just all the value you’re bringing. Dr. Jones here, he’s all about seeing your teachers. He has a book called Seeing the Lead, but it’s about being a teacher first building. If you take care of the teachers out of the abundance of them feeling cared for, they can give to the kids. So he’s highlighting how smart that was. I agree. Let’s get back to you saying your doctorate had to do with culturally relevant teaching and that kind of thing. And you said there’s a bunch of little things you did. We heard how you recast the Trayvon Martin trial and that was interesting. But what are some of the other things you did as a teacher or what are things that you recommend? The Ruckus Makers, especially at the classroom level. What are some culturally relevant things that they could do?

Shontoria (20:12):
I realized that I will be full transparency, I did not know it was cultural responsiveness when I was doing it. And when I start you, we say this and we say this a little bit in the book to, Culture To The Max, that what we were doing, we realized that other people had already paved the way. Of course we talk about Dr. Geneva Gay, Dr. Gloria Las Billings, we talk about all these people, but we realized we were just doing something out of the box Ruckus Maker. And then we realized, oh this is, this is something that’s actually, they actually have a name for this. One of the things that I remember vividly that I think built trust, which I think is really a piece, especially if you have a different cultural background than your students, is that in the literacy classroom, one of the boys kept saying, “I don’t like to read.

Shontoria (21:01):
I hate reading, I don’t wanna go near the bookshelf.” And one of the problems is, first of all, they didn’t see themselves as successful when it came to literacy and the English classroom. Another thing is that the bookshelf was torn, it was broken down. We had shelves that were broken. We had books that just did not look appealing. And so I told the students like, look let me try let’s see what we can do. One of the things, let’s say with the support of the administrator, we were able, instead of buying a new bookshelf, which at the time we really didn’t have the resources or the funds for, we were able to rebuild the bookshelf together to look more appealing. And when I say we, I’m talking about the students. We were able to design the bookshelf that looks appealing to the students, something you wanna go to.

Shontoria (21:45):
Another thing we did was if a student told me, I was like, well what do you like? Well I like to read. I like horses or bikes. Or I say, okay, well let me go find you a book that has something to do with horses and bikes. And believe it or not, a lot of the kids were just like, “Yo they got books out there like?” Like it was just really something that was really appealing to them to where they like, oh, okay, not only is she trying to teach us this content, she really is trying to get us to be not love literacy or interested in literacy, but seeing that we see something of ourselves in these books, whether it’s something that’s meaningful, that’s big in my personal life or big in this classroom. Because if a kid told me something as small as Oh this is my interest, this is something that I would go and research and look for another thing, we did something called Real Talk Friday. Where I was, I had the biggest classroom in the building at the time.

Shontoria (22:42):
I would invite all of the eighth graders. I was the only lady on the eighth grade team, shout out to a phenomenal eighth grade team. But we would all pile in my classroom and the men would give me, the brotherhood would give me the floor to allow the students and the young boys to talk about the plight of being a young black or brown male within society today. And that was so powerful to where we were able to bring in community leaders that led some of the discussions. We were able, and this was seven to, I wanna say 7 45 on every Friday. Something that took a little bit of time, but that was so powerful. The kids were able to see each other in a different light. They were able to really listen and really connect on a deeper level versus just sitting in a classroom and getting everything from the teacher.

Shontoria (23:35):
I was able to lead it, but they carried it. And I think that’s something that I encourage even through my, I was an instructional coach, I was a campus instructional specialist. I worked in the districts. We have to give students the opportunity to elevate their voices and actually see each other. When you think about event organizing desks, the way I would set up real talk Fridays is we sat on the floor but we set to where we’re facing each other. I actually see you for who you are. And I’m not just facing the front and never really aware of what’s around me. I think those are, I call ’em small but impactful pieces that I remember doing that I still encourage until this day because it’s so many times where we are just going to school. It’s a monotonous thing. Everything is the same. We get in, we 

Danny (24:30):
Yeah, and the way to bring it deeper, I mean in the simplest way is just understanding where the kids are coming from and meeting them there and providing them avenues, right. And pathways to continue to amplify their interests, which you did through the bookshelf story or or through finding the books on just topics they care about. And obviously having discussions on the black male experience even early in the morning. But you know what, it was important to them so they showed up. Super cool. I’m loving our conversation, Dr. Walker. We’re gonna take a quick pause to get in some messages from our sponsors. When we get back, I’d like to invite you to talk about your book, Culture To The Max:= Culturally responsive teaching and practice. And we’ll talk about the four domains found in that book. Well learn how to successfully navigate, change, shape your school success and empower your team with Harvard certificate and school management and leadership.

Danny (25:24):
Get an online PD that fits your schedule. Courses include leading change, leading school strategy and innovation. Leading people in Leading learning. Apply today at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. Teachers use Teach FX to record a lesson and automatically get personalized insights into their classroom conversation patterns in teaching practices. See Teach FX for yourself and learn about special partnership options for Ruckus Makers@ teachfx.com/BLBS. And today’s show is probably sponsored by Organized Binder, a program that gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning time and task management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more Organized Binders. Color coded system is implemented by the teacher through a parallel process with students helping them create a predictable and dependable classroom routine. You can learn more and improve your students’ executive functioning@ organizedbinder.com. And we’re back with Dr. Walker who has a book out that’s called Culture to the Max, Culturally Responsive Teaching and Practice. And we highly recommend that Ruckus Makers go check that out. Now Dr. Walkers, there’s four domains found in the book. Do you mind just sharing an overview of what those domains are?

Shontoria (26:51):
I co-authored this book with my business partners, David McDonald, Andre Ross, and Danielle Ross. And we believe that culturally responsive teaching is embedded within four domains. You need one for the other one, it is authentic engagement, community partnerships, social justice, as well as culture management. Not classroom management, but culture management. And we feel like we hear about culturally responsive teaching in theory as well as in practice. But you need these four in order to really make it. When we say to the max, we mean to turn it all the way up. And so those are the four domains that we have found as well as in the standards.

Danny (27:34):
Brilliant And all those are important to me. I do wanna dig into two before we sign off today, if we have time. One of ’em, I know all the Ruckus Makers listening, they’re always thinking about community partnerships. Can you give us something practical that they can do to form stronger community partnerships?

Shontoria (27:53):
Yes. So David McDonald, who is our founder and CEO of Education Power, that’s mainly what we did was we took a chapter. So that’s mainly his area, his chapter. But if I had to do a, not a but, and if I had to do a practical one, one of the things is one of the stories that I said, bringing in and finding out the background of your teachers and allowing them, especially if you do have a teacher that brings in a unique feature as if growing up in the community, allowing them to introduce the community aspect to the teachers, allowing that to be a part of the onboarding and ongoing professional learning. Knowing who your students are based on the surrounding community is too often that teachers drive to the school. And I know we tie it. I was there too. We drive to the school and we go home.

Shontoria (28:38):
But what local barbershops? Do you know what local community leaders are? Do you know what local advocates do? When I was in elementary school, one thing that we did have was a weekly person that looked like us, looked like the students that came in from community leaders, from a judge. We used to have lawyers, we used to have, and these people grew up in the community. Senia Thompson is still within the community and she would come visit my elementary school often and she is at the capital, she is in the she is people and the epitome of seeing what I could be based on who comes and who comes to talk to us. And that’s what David talks a lot about in his first chapter about actually allowing the community aspect. We have to protect the kids, we have to be safe cuz that’s a little bit of the feedback we get. But also there is no way that you can have a school with our community. We recommend that if there is a local barbershop, please go talk to those people. Please go see what they have done for the community. If there is a local advocate, if there’s a YMCA that is around the corner from your school, see how you guys can partner and bring them into the school or take your students there. If that is something that hasn’t been done, it needs to be done very soon.

Danny (29:55):
And a lot of times it’s just like it’s paying the vision for how you want the partnership between the school and let’s say the barbershop to occur. Inviting them to have a seat at the table to help co-create but the answer’s always no unless you ask. And you’re not gonna have that partnership if you never reach out and who knows what you can accomplish just by reaching out and saying, we need you. What could we do in collaboration together?

Shontoria (30:21):
I was gonna say the reason I use the barbershop is not just to get to know the head barber, but the student that you might think has the biggest issue or behavior problem. And maybe he don’t and it may not appear that he has a community and when he walks into the barbershop every Saturday morning, he probably has a net of people that praise him, that pull him close, that listen to his problems, that has generations of family history from that one local barbershop. And so you can learn so much more about that one student. And that’s just one example from speaking to just the head barber or somebody that’s been there over 30 years within the community that can give aspects of change versus just, okay, we’re gonna partner, but it’s a lot you can learn about this one kid that may cause problems that actually can transform how they experience school and how they experience their community.

Danny (31:14):
Well that’s about all the time we’ll have for digging into the book. But again, I’m going to recommend that Ruckus Makers check out Dr. Walker’s book, Culture To The Max: Culturally Responsive Teaching and Practice. Go get a copy today. So I wanna ask you the questions that I ask all my guests here at the end. The first question would be, if Dr. Walker could put a message on all school Marques around the world for just a day, what would your message read?

Shontoria (31:41):
We use a quote and with education power called where culture meets education. And at this point it shouldn’t be a separate piece. It should be culture and education as two, as one and together. And so it should definitely be something where culture responsiveness is not an, and it is how we teach it is what we are. And that is something that I would put on every single marquee if I could

Danny (32:08):
It’s the essence of what we do. Cool. And if Dr. Walker was building her dream school, right, and you weren’t limited by any resources, your only limitation is your imagination, what would be the way you built this dream school be The top three guiding principles?

Shontoria (32:27):
No, the top three guiding questions. I mean the top three priorities I think I would have is literacy, culture, responsiveness of course, and authenticity. I think those pieces are the, the biggest pieces where if you always tell kids if you can’t read, you can’t write, if you can’t read, you can’t do science if you can’t read, you can’t do social studies, math and all of that. We have to be able to raise those literacy pieces. We have to be culturally responsive and students have to be able to know that they can bring their whole sales within the classroom and not feel like they have to leave a piece of themselves or their identity outside of the classroom in order to be a part. And so that’s, those are my three biggest things.

Danny (33:07):
Great. And the last question. You know, we covered a lot of ground today, Dr. Walker, so if everything we talked about, what’s the one thing you wanna Ruckus Maker to remember?

Shontoria (33:17):
The one thing I wanna Ruckus Makers to remember, I’m gonna keep going back to that culture responsiveness. It should not just be a piece where I have to do one and do it. Definitely, like we say in the book, is from theory to practice. I just had a recent conversation that was like, well, we’ve adopted it, we know what it is, we know the definition, and over 10 years things haven’t changed. And my push is, but what’s the practice? What are you doing? Where can we help? What pieces? It has to go from the idea of cultural responsive education, culturally responsive pedagogy into the practice. Unless not only make it for the classrooms and put the heavy lift on the teachers, but how are we creating culturally responsive communities? How are we leading in culture responsive environments, and how are we ensuring that our students are fully able to bring their wholesale within the classroom? I think that’s something that I would leave as a lasting thought for our record makers because it is something that has been enlightening and I see the measurements, I see the growth, I see the test scores and all of that. We always wanna know that part, but then who are we allowing to be their best selves when they come in? And that’s the best for our students as well as our teachers.

Danny (34:33):
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast, Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at @alienearbud, and using # BLBS. Level Up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”



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