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Sycamore Schools Focuses on Culturally Responsive Practices

Over 400 Sycamore Community Schools teachers and administrators have undergone Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP) training to raise awareness and foster a more welcoming environment for all learners and families.

Staff members participated in training and discussions during the first Professional Development Day of the 2018-2019 school year. The theme for the day was, “Empowering our CommUNITY of Learners.”

“Over the past 10 years, the population of our students has changed, so our environment must change with them,” said Karen Naber, Assistant Superintendent. “Our goal is to respect the growing diversity of our community through culturally responsive practices and to help all learners feel included every day.”

Every staff member attended a keynote speech by Ryan Wynett, manager of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center “Open Your Mind: Understanding Implicit Bias” exhibit. All staff was also required to attend a session on privilege and implicit bias led by members of the district’s CRP Team.

Other breakout sessions included:

  • Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind
  • English Language Simulation & Workshop to Develop Dynamic Accommodations
  • Self-Awareness of Biases
  • Supporting African American Males in the Classroom
  • Movement & Mindfulness for Students with Behavioral and/or Emotional Needs
  • Education Systems Around the World
  • Students Stressed by Conflicts Due to Culture
  • Working with Parents of Students with Special Needs
  • Unique Challenges with Students in Foster Care
  • Zones of Regulation in the Mainstream Classroom,
  • Understanding our LGBTQ+ Students
  • Understanding the Religions Around Us
  • Understanding the Needs of Gifted Children and Families
  • Behavioral Challenges
  • Braking Biases: Reducing Bias Through Disrupting Habits

Staff members were able to provide anonymous feedback about the day’s topics and sessions.  Among their takeaways were increased empathy, awareness, and keeping an open mind. Some of the feedback from individuals and departments included:

”We need to keep in mind our students might be coming to school with things from their past or at home that we don’t know about.”

“We appreciated the keynote speaker and his ability to show us that while we think we keep an open mind and interact with others without prejudgement, we need to stay aware of the reactions and judgment we are not always aware of showing.”

“Our goal is to use a variety of resources and literature to represent all of our student population, intentionally celebrate differences and uniqueness among students, have a mindset that is open to everyone’s different, and to intentionally focus on empathy.”

Training and professional development for all staff members, including classified staff, will continue throughout the year. All buildings and departments in the district have set goals related to Culturally Responsive Practices for the 2018-2019 school year.

Sycamore’s CRP Team of administrators, staff, and parents was created in 2017 to examine the district’s culturally responsive practices and to help students, families, and staff feel welcome and accepted in their environment. The group’s goal is to help others learn to interact effectively and instruct through culturally responsive practices.