My name is Maribel Rodriguez. I grew up in the Brighton Park neighborhood and I attended Chicago Public Schools. This year I will be starting my 13th year as a CPS teacher. Growing up in the southwest side of Chicago, I understand what it is like to have limited resources but still expected to be able to meet the same expectations as other students that have more resources available to them. Growing up, I found that some of my teachers often taught content at grade level without assessing the abilities of their students. Some students were ready for the content, however, other students had no background knowledge thus, making it inaccessible to them. Occasionally, I fell behind in school and I wish I would have been more vocal about my concerns and for my teachers to have stopped and checked on me. I have found that many believe that content goes along with age; however, not every child develops at the same rate and many other factors impact their success in school.
Why I choose to engage in equity work
My main goal as an educator is to support my students in every way possible. I feel that the earlier we provide interventions and address the needs of students, the better equipped they will be to reach their full potential. All children have different needs and as a teacher, it is very important to examine the whole child, the physical health, mental health, social emotional development, identity development, academic development and cognitive development of each student. Understanding the whole child will help us better support our students and address their needs. As a teacher, I always advocate for the various needs of my students. If I ever have a concern about a student, I document and then reach out to the necessary people to advocate for their needs and I don’t stop until a plan is put in place to best support the student. As an educator it is essential for me to meet my students where they are at and provide necessary support to help them meet the academic/social target.
My equity challenge and how I work on it
An equity challenge I have is to get the entire team to understand the whole child and identify the root cause of the problem. A full analysis of the problem is needed in order to fully assess the situation and fully implement a plan that will help the student reach their full potential. Often we tend to focus on the problem without fully understanding the entire situation that has led to that issue. Moreover, another equity challenge is teaching my kids they have a voice and that they can advocate for themselves. I am currently doing research on how I can empower my own students to advocate for themselves. My goal is to have my students reflect at the end of each class so that they progress monitor themselves. I want my students to be able to tell me what is working for them and what is not and how they can be best supported.
What sustains me when equity work stalls, how do I stay motivated when the work gets hard, and how do I push myself and others to advance equity
I stay motivated when the work gets hard by focusing on the students and only the students. I always bring myself to think about what the end goal is. When I get push back I don't take it personally and try to keep it in the forefront that this about the student and their needs.
Equity work is a team effort especially when it comes to students who need tier 3 supports, students with an IEP, and English language learners.
Resources used to drive equity work
The entire staff at Shield Middle School is a resource. A combination of resources that I was introduced to during undergrad and graduate school have shaped my equity work. Also, practices/strategies introduced by the network/district have helped me. A specific tool is the graphic organizer on the problem solving process (PSP).