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Culturally Responsive Learning and Teaching

Preparing educators, counselors and leaders isn’t easy during a global pandemic that requires social distancing and masks. As part of TCU’s Connected Campus Plan, College of Education faculty and staff have been training and planning for high-quality online and blended instruction for the fall semester.

Steve Przymus TCUAssistant Professor Steve Przymus designed his Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Field Experience course for the fall to strengthen TCU’s relationship with the Fort Worth Independent School District’s International Newcomer Academy (INA) for immigrant 6th-9th grade students. All Early Childhood-6th Grade Education majors take the course during their junior year in the cohort and the students’ placements this fall as virtual teaching assistants with INA will count for Texas Education Agency approved field experience hours.

Przymus designed the course so that groups of five TCU students will work with teams of five INA teachers for the semester. TCU students will complete two-week rotations working with each content teacher on their INA team, serving as virtual teaching assistants for the first week and then helping teach a small group of INA students, via Zoom breakout rooms, during the second week of each rotation. After completing five two-week rotations, the juniors will have worked with teachers from all content areas. For the first time, they’ll also attend weekly Professional Learning Community meetings to gain more insight into INA teachers’ needs and goals.

Another first for the cohort will be a culturally responsive book study with TCU students and all INA faculty, guided by discussion questions developed by school principal Angelia Ross. TCU’s Alice Neeley Special Education Research and Service (ANSERS) Institute funded the purchase of the book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Przymus will measure the effectiveness of the book study on his students’ culturally responsive learning and teaching with a goal of sharing his findings for the benefit of other educator preparation programs and PK-12 schools.

“What we’re hoping is that INA teachers and TCU students will share a common language and goals around culturally responsive teaching and that it will deepen their relationship,” Przymus said. “My goal would be that this is a success for INA and that it provides an even greater field experience for our students than the typical instruction.”

He has reached out more to his students since the pandemic ramped up in the U.S. and sent video messages to reassure them, provide information, and to be vulnerable and honest. He wrote and performed videos including parody songs of the Hamilton musical’s “My Shot” and “Everything is (Not) Awesome” from The Lego® Movie. Przymus said his student surveys have been positive and he’s been able to focus more on the most important parts of his teaching.

“The content’s important but taking the time to create relationships makes a difference,” he said.

TCU faculty are committed to providing an outstanding academic experience for students, whether courses are online, in person or a combination of both. For more information and resources for fall 2020, visit the TCU Connected Campus site. 

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