Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rebecca Wade - Learning New Lessons at the Minnesota Humanities Center Educators’ Institute

Rebecca Wade is a special education teacher currently working as the Coordinator of Professional Development for the St. Paul Federation of Teachers. Rebecca earned her B.A. in Language Arts, a 7-12 Secondary Teaching License, a K-12 EBD License, and a Master’s in Special Education from the University of St. Thomas. Rebecca has participated in the Educators’ Institute at the Minnesota Humanities Center as well as participated in curriculum development that incorporates absent narratives. Rebecca lives in St. Paul and enjoys spending time with her four daughters.

I’ve lived on the east side of St. Paul for 23 years and knew nothing of the Humanities Center for most of those years. About five years ago, I discovered the Humanities Center when they were collaborating with the Multicultural Resource Center on curriculum development. The curriculum collaboration was focused on the history and absent narratives of folks from the Rondo Community and the west side. At that time, I was teaching at Obama Elementary, which is located in the Rondo Community, and thought this looked like an exciting summer project. I had no idea that this project was going to open up so many opportunities for me to continue learning and working with the Humanities Center. Every single experience there has been filled with learning, collaboration, and joy, but the 2014-15 Educators’ Institute impacted and influenced me in ways I never really thought possible.

The Educators’ Institute focused on increasing student engagement, and as a teacher, I know that student engagement is vital for accelerating learning. But this kind of learning – about how to increase student engagement – was something new, something I didn’t learn in teacher prep classes or in any professional development I received while teaching.

Diving into absent narratives, the power of story, of place, and ways of knowing and being was energizing, invigorating, and challenging. I was forced to question how I allowed students to show up each day and how I let their voices be heard in the classroom. Were they able to be their authentic selves in our classroom?

And every day when I would walk into my classroom, I would think about the narratives and the story of each of my students. What did I know? What was I missing? How were their voices heard or silenced? And then my students would enter the classroom…and I knew. I knew that I was not fully honoring and valuing all the brilliance that they had within them, all the narratives and stories that were deeply buried that they so desperately wanted to share with each other.

When I reflect back on that year and all that I learned about my students, it is clear in my mind that the Humanities Center’s Educators’ Institute was transformational for my teaching and for me personally. As I continue on my life path, I am intentional in seeking out the stories of others and intentional in hearing and listening to the absent narratives of those that I connect with on a personal and professional level.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful examples of your own inquiries to this learning approach. Thanks. Rose