My name is Derek Gould and I am a 7th and 8th grade ELA teacher at Edgebrook Elementary School. This year, I will be starting my 11th year with CPS. I think my experience as a learner has greatly influenced how I approach student ownership in my ELA classroom. As a learner, I always did well in school. I read the books my teacher asked me to read and completed all the assignments that accompanied the books. I would say that I was not a very empowered reader - I didn't read on my own and I definitely didn't do anything with my reading. As an individual, I was also struggling a lot to figure out my identity and I definitely didn't see it reflected in the books I was being asked to read.
My experiences as a learner made me realize that what was interesting, engaging, and relevant to one is not interesting, engaging, and relevant to all. This has shaped how I approach curriculum design and is truly what has brought me to providing students with opportunities to take ownership their reading and learning. I want my students to see themselves in what we are doing in class and feel empowered to use their voice to create change in the community.
My equity challenge and how I work on it
My capstone project, Disrupting Book Clubs, is inspired by the core principles of #DISRUPTTEXT and the work of Julia Torres, Dr. Kim Parker, Lorena Germán, and Tricia Ebarvia.
Through this project, I aim to push beyond just reading and disrupt the traditional routines of book clubs. The work of this project equips students with the skills they need to interrogate their own biases, develop their critical literacy lens, and work alongside others to create communities that are inclusive.
This ongoing project culminates with students creating their own capstone project that is a representation of their learning throughout their 7th and 8th grade years. To accomplish this, students will identify a topic or area of need in the community, research that area of need, and take action. Students will share their takeaways in a Ted-inspired event.
Follow on on this journey at empoweringreadersandwriters.wordpress.com
Quote/motto or one piece of advice for a teacher who is thinking about doing this work
A piece of advice: Start small. Even one small change that promotes student agency can empower students.
I always think it is important to note that so much of empowering students has to do with the relationship that has been built between a teacher and a student. And I think those relationships are built when a teacher takes a listening stance. I think it is important we start by listening to our students - their stories, their interests, their challenges, etc. From there, we curate curricular resources, and design tools, that are built off of their identities as learners. I think this is the foundation for empowering learners.
Resources used to drive equity work
Facing History and Ourselves has been a resource that has really driven my equity work. Their scope and sequence provides a structure that has informed my units and supported me in moving students from thinking about their own identity to thinking about how they choose to participate in society. Within the Facing History resources are tools that encourage student voice and promote agency.
180 Days by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher. I come back to this book often when I want to think about ways to promote agency in my ELA classroom. It provides resources that have supported me in thinking about how I can structure my classroom and design my classroom around student voice and how I can empower my students to use literacy as a way to leverage their voice.
Point-Less by Sarah M. Zerwin. This book has really made me examine the way in which my grading policies (and the policies in CPS) are inequitable. It also provides steps teachers can take to move away from a more traditional grading system towards a system that is more equitable and one that puts student voice and student learning at the forefront.