Faculty and staff in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction kicked off the school year with their annual retreat, but the topics of the day were not the usual plans and announcements. Instead, the department sat down to discuss the departmental climate as it relates to race, bias, and diversity.
The conversations were facilitated by Samuel D. Museus, Director of the National Institute for Transformation and Equity at Indiana University, Bloomington and Kimberly Truong, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
“We hope that this will be a transformative experience and lead to an even stronger and more cohesive community within the department,” Museus wrote.
After the retreat, the staff and faculty are prepared to continue working on bringing topics of race and bias to the forefront and plan to address areas in the curriculum where equity can be more deeply interwoven into the instruction. “As as an outcome of the retreat, the Second Language Education program has begun process for systematic review of curriculum so that the goals of social equity, multilingualism and racial justice are highlighted throughout coursework and program planning,” notes Professor Kendall King.
Many in the department expressed optimism for the coming year after the constructive dialogues.Teaching Specialist Linda Buturian noted that “when we share our stories, when we feel heard, it makes things lighter.”
The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) created the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI) in 2010 to better prepare teachers for the challenges they face in a 21st century classroom. In the seven years since TERI began, CEHD has made important changes to the teacher preparation curriculum. One of these changes is a new emphasis on teaching “dispositions,” which describe the relational skills that teachers need to connect with their students, families, and communities.
By teaching relational skills, helping teachers understand the impact of their own racial identity on their students, CEHD helps teacher candidates develop the knowledge, skills, and mindsets they need to foster educational equity in their classrooms.
Fadumo Mohamed, a senior in the Elementary Education Foundations program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction received the CEHD Student Multicultural Recognition Award this year. The award is given to a candidate who has made outstanding multicultural efforts to the CEHD community in community outreach as part of their extracurricular or professional work.
Mohamed was nominated by her McNair Scholars program advisor, Lori Helman, on the strength of her many outreach activities. She worked as a literacy mentor in Pratt Community School as part of the America Reads program where she became interested in creating an effective mentoring program for Somali-American youth in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.
The existing government programs designed to support positive extracurricular activities were transforming into programs to monitor youth for potential future terrorist threats. This was creating a divisive and mistrustful atmosphere in the community, so Mohamed urged the community school to not take the government funding for these programs that offered tutoring and instead to let her provide tutors with the support of the Young Muslims Collaborative (YMC).
In support of that effort she trained almost 40 mentors over two years that were paired with unmotivated or disconnected students. By training mentors who have had similar life experiences, the students are given emotional and strategic support for setting life goals. This is in contrast to programs that attempt to see these youth as potential deviants.
“Fadumo shares the importance of knowing who you are- the values of dual identity, dual language, and works to develop a curriculum that highlights this,” says Helman. “It has been my great honor to work alongside her and learn from her as she gives her full effort toward ensuring equity and positive identity formation for Somali Americans.”