Monday, December 04, 2006

VASCD - Crystal Kuykendall

Kuykendall is a mix of teacher, advocate, inspirational speaker, and revivalist minister. She is an absolute joy to listen to. Her own personal stories about her life and her children are powerful and beautifully told. She reminded us in so many ways that it is the students who matter and that we can make a difference for any and all of them.
Her handouts were very basic and straightforward. One of the things she lists are factors which influence teacher expectations: prior student achievement, prior student behavior, prior student placement, socioeconomic status, language ability, physical attraction, gender, and race/ethnicity. It is almost painful for me to seriously consider how these factors contribute to my feelings about students, but when I am honest I know it is true. The factors around students' prior selves are so easy to be influenced by and to set up high or low expectations. It is so hard to start fresh with students, but it can make such a difference for them. The other factors are all out of their control, and yet play such a large role in their young lives. I am frequently reminded of how lucky I am to have been born in the country, economic status, family, etc. into which I was born. All of those factors contributed to my being who I am today and they were all just luck. Many of our students are not as lucky.
Kuykendall also writes and talks about climate variables in a classroom. She believes that physical proximity, courtesy, praise, affirmation, acceptance of feelings, and appreciation of differences build respect between students and teachers. If we as teachers stop to think about what we want from coworkers, peers, administrators, and family members it should be obvious to us what our students need. However, it is so easy for us to get caught up in the focus on instruction and teaching and forget that we are teaching children with all the related issues, emotions, and needs.

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