Are students coming to your class lacking focus, having difficulty connecting with you and their peers, falling behind, or acting out when you instinctively feel they could do better? Do you sometimes feel like you don't have the capacity as a teacher or school leader to give students the support they need to learn and thrive?
This book makes the case that societal realities--such as poverty, racism, and social marginalization--result in depleted cognitive resources for students and for those who are trying to help them succeed. Each of us has a finite amount of mental bandwidth, the cognitive resources that are available for learning, development, work, taking care of ourselves and our families, and everything else we have to do. These "attentional resources" are not about how smart we are but about how much of our brain power is available to us for the task at hand. When bandwidth is taken up by the stress of persistent economic insecurity or the negative experiences of racism, classism, homophobia, religious intolerance, sexism, ableism, etc., there is less available for learning and growth. This is as true for young children and youth as for their parents and teachers.
The first half of the book makes the case that poverty and these "differentisms" deplete the bandwidth of students, parents, and teachers.
The second sets out concepts and strategies that help people recover the bandwidth they need to learn and thrive. Cia Verschelden describes strategies that can help students recover bandwidth, including acknowledging the "funds of knowledge" of students and their families, promoting growth mindsets, using reflective practices to build a sense of belonging for all students, fostering peer collaboration, and implementing restorative practices in lieu of punitive measures to deal with problematic behavior, as well as a rich selection of Ideas in Practice contributed by experienced teachers and school leaders.
Cia recognizes that many teachers are working in schools with inadequate support systems and facilities and with scarce materials, and may be spending their often inadequate pay on school supplies for their classrooms and food for their hungry students. She offers practical ideas for creating moreteacher-supportive systems and addresses how principals and administrators can harness teachers' ideas and energies to create inclusive and successful learning environments for all students.
The book includes a case study of Rochester, New York - where the economy has been decimated with the closure of major employers - and how its financially strapped school system worked with colleagues at the University of Rochester to use the distributed leadership of its teachers, with the active support of principals and superintendents, to revitalize its schools to better serve its diverse and low-income student population.
This book is for teachers, parents, school leaders, and members of communities who are interested in the well-being of children and youth and the education of all our children. All of us have a stake in a public school system from which students emerge as fully-formed learners and thinkers and who believe in their ability to affect what happens to them and their communities.