S.E.E.D. - "A" Grade Contract

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Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity

A Grade Contract

Shelby Dowty

At the heart of the S.E.E.D. Project lies nourishment for the student in ourselves and the student in our class, as well as the teacher in ourselves and the teacher in our students. Peggy McIntosh

The S.E.E.D. trainings provide faculty the opportunity for personal growth and to envision and create a framework for multicultural development and inclusive education. The seminars engage teachers in curricular and systemic change bringing issues of race, gender, class, and ethnicity into their classrooms. These trainings assist each individual to: 1) choose content that represents many different perspectives; 2) develop learning activities based on the contributions of those typically under-represented; 3) create classroom environment that is respectful of all people; 4) implement effective strategies that affirm diversity.

The Minnesota State Board of Education defines education diversity as follows:

Educational diversity means a teaching and learning environment that promotes conditions in which all persons are encouraged to receive and show respect; have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities; can participate in curriculum, instruction, and assessment that lead to maximum levels of achievement and attainment; can learn about the wide range of people and groups within the state and nation; and can receive information and experiences for future applications in a pluralistic society.

Since October, I have been co-facilitating S.E.E.D. trainings to 17 educators from ISD #361. In my opinion, this has been a wonderful growing experience. We meet every month for three hours traveling on our individual journeys, exploring all the isms, and creating diverse, inclusive learning communities.

In the month of January, which was mid-year, we sent out a survey asking for feedback on our trainings. We wanted to know what our S.E.E.D. participants enjoyed the most so far, what activity or reading they enjoyed the most, their feedback on the variety of topics discussed, and if the material given out was manageable to do with the amount of time given. Our surveys came back very positive. I would really like to share the results; however, one rule with S.E.E.D. is confidentiality.

In the month of April, our S.E.E.D. participants were asked if they would like to continue on with S.E.E.D. 2? Out of 17 participants, approximately ten will continue with S.E.E.D. next year. We are very excited about this! However, we are also very sad about the extension into next year because that means us two facilitators will have to break up. One will facilitate S.E.E.D. 2 and the other will facilitate another S.E.E.D. 1. We have approximately ten new participants in S.E.E.D. 1. This is all very encouraging for both of us who have been trained to facilitate our school district employees. The more teachers we can reach to develop a balance of self-esteem and respect for the cultural realities of others, then there is more of a chance their students will develop the same balance. As I stated in a past paper, if teachers are to take students seriously, then the teachers themselves need to experience and learn what it feels like to be taken seriously.

Each S.E.E.D. training is opened with a welcome and restating of S.E.E.D. rules. They are: 1) No put downs (Say ouch!) 2) Personalize knowledge use (Use I statements, if that is culturally appropriate for you.) 3) Respect (Do not interrupt someone, nor monopolize the air time.) 4) Confidentiality (Whats said here, stays here.).

This past January, I was fortunate enough to be able to team facilitate small group at the State S.E.E.D. Mid-Year Conference in Minneapolis. This was a great opportunity for me. At first, I was going to decline the invitation of small group facilitation. After I thought about it for awhile, I decided that if the S.E.E.D. Executive Committee had the confidence in me to team facilitate, then I should return the favor to them. The whole process only enhances the S.E.E.D. journey I am on in my life and working with this group of people has been a very empowering experience.

In the month of January, our local S.E.E.D. training continued on racism from the month of December. Our participants watched The Color of Fear. This is a film about the pain and anguish that racism has caused in the lives of eight North American men of Asian, European, Latino, and African descent. Out of their confrontations and struggles to understand and trust each other emerges an emotional and insightful portrayal into the type of dialogue most of us fear, but hope will happen sometime in our lifetime. This was a very emotional film. This was the second time I watched this film, and I heard different voices as well as different understandings.

In the month of February, our participants were to read the book, Two Women, by Velma Wallis. This book is based on an Athabaskan Indian legend passed along from mothers to daughters for many generations on the upper Yukon River in Alaska. It is a story of survival told with suspense and wisdom. We reflected on the book at our training session which was followed by the movie, Everyday Heroes. This video was inspired by the true story of teachers in Deer River, Minnesota. These teachers worked to move their district to develop inclusive curricula. This story realistically portrays the resistance to change within districts and celebrates the heroic efforts of some of the teachers.

In the month of March, as participants were arriving, we played a Cultural Bingo Game. Participants were asked to have fellow participants sign in Bingo squares in which they were able to answer the question in the square. Some examples of questions were: 1) Who has attended a Pow-Wow? 2) Who has lived on a farm? 3) Who has attended a Cinco de Mayo celebration? 4) Who knows who June Jordan is? 5) Who speaks a second language? There were 25 Bingo squares and participants could Bingo horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. After the game, we were honored with the Native American speaker Andy Favorite. Mr. Favorite spoke at our week S.E.E.D. training in St. Paul last summer. He is very open and positive about the past and present lives of Native American people. He is very down to earth, easy to listen to, and always ready to answer questions.

In the month of April, participants were asked to read the book, The Education of Harriet Hatfield, by May Sarton. The book deals with a 60-year-old woman who opens a feminist bookstore in Boston and tries to bridge the gap between gay and straight communities. Participants were asked to reflect on their feelings of the book by finishing one of the following: I felt...... I thought........ I wondered........ I questioned....... I liked......

For the month of May, we will be discussing readings that the participants were given at our April training. In May, we will be discussing homophobia/heterosexism, equal opportunity to gay and lesbian students, and possibly will be honored with a speaker.

I really cant say enough about this S.E.E.D. process. What we are doing as facilitators is planting the S.E.E.D. and watching it grow and grow.

-- Anonymous, May 09, 1999

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