Put down your textbook. Lay aside your attendance log. There is a classroom full of complex lives with biographies and histories that thrive or languish outside your classroom.

Kids with cultural and linguistic identities, waiting like pearls, to be pried open. Kids with grandparents and divorced parents. Kids from other nations. Kids who’ve never left their neighborhood. Kids who possess a growth mind set and those who are primed to pass tests. Kids for whom English is not their first language yet speak multiple ones at home. Kids who only speak English. Kids who can become the next Duke Ellington’s or Rachel Carson’s. Kids who fall asleep in the back of the room but can take computers apart. Kids who write poetry on the side and mix it digitally.

What do you know about them? What does it mean to run a student centered classroom, if those names whom you check off every morning, are seen instrumentally as students who do homework and hand back double spaced assignments? Over and above the common core, the standards, the test scores, the rankings— history, culture, and social context matter. And you can be sure that the curriculum specialists and coaches and district officials and trustees and policy makers, will not tell you that.

More than content area specialists or grade level teachers, we need to become anthropologists: students of culture motivated by curiosity, the propensity to view things from multiple perspectives, connoisseurs of worldviews and diverse values. we build a sense of community giving students a sense of belonging, and the unshakable desire to learn.

The lives you impact require it. Global students don’t arise out of textbooks but through daily interactions and exposure that enable them to grasp the plurality and plenitude of the world. Put the grade book down. There is a room full of burgeoning lives needing all the challenges, love and support they can get. This is why we are midwives. Above all else.

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