Monday 25 May, 2020

A T.R.E.A.T. for Young Teachers on World Teachers Day

A recent T.R.E.A.T. Event

A recent T.R.E.A.T. Event

Nea Onnim No Sua A, Ohu: He who does not know can know from learning. These words of wisdom from the West African Adinkra symbol that represents the continued quest for knowledge is literally at the center of Teachers Ready to Educate, Advocate and Transform (TREAT). Created as a response to the overwhelming number of teachers who leave the profession within the first five years, TREAT celebrates the profession, honors the work of amazing young teachers and community partners, promotes lifelong learning and builds community to keep effective teachers in classrooms with children who need them most.   

For the last year and a half, this Brooklyn-based Professional Learning Network has been providing opportunities for teachers to meet, network and collaborate in order to discover and share novel ways to enhance teaching and support student learning. Guided by research that asserts that students benefit and make strong academic gains when they see their cultural backgrounds and lived experiences reflected in the classroom, the heart of TREAT is using children’s culture to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education. From discussing how hip-hop can be used as an educational tool to conversations about incorporating Caribbean art into lessons, TREAT’s quarterly mixers promote innovation and creativity in the classroom. By connecting with other educators on a quarterly basis, TREAT participants are able to access and explore diverse perspectives as well as develop deep cross-cultural knowledge.       

One of the highlights of TREAT is recognizing young teachers who use their children’s culture to support teaching that empowers, engages and inspires students to learn. These teachers receive a ‘Cultural Innovator’ Award from TREAT and are invited to share teaching strategies with their peers and explain why they make particular instructional choices in the classroom.  Teaching is often a thankless job, so this award recognizes the work and contributions of young teachers to this profession. Many of TREAT’s Cultural Innovators have shared how important it was for them to share their voice with others. 

This academic year, TREAT’s programming will include education on equality and awareness-raising as outlined in the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent. Last month, almost 200 people filled an auditorium for a talk by international reparations and genocides expert Dr. Jermaine McCalpin entitled Unfinished Business: Reparations and the Politics of Avoidance in America. During and after the event, young teachers expressed their desire to learn more about reparations and other sociopolitical issues that impact their students’ learning. In the pipeline are events to prepare teachers to use Reggae music as a tool for social justice and cultivate the entrepreneurial genius of our students as well as teach-ins to celebrate the achievements and contributions of people of African descent.

In addition to the quarterly mixers and upcoming programming, each month TREAT contributes to a US based Caribbean magazine dedicated to telling the stories of the Diaspora. The monthly, education themed articles are written to motivate teachers and offers strategies to strengthen teaching and learning. Topics covered include lessons learned from visiting the Motherland, culture in education, nurturing our children’s spirits, social justice, the impact of trauma on learning, and dismantling colonial systems of education built on white supremacy and racism.Although based in Brooklyn, TREAT recognizes the importance of global citizenship and has made donations to support teaching and learning in Jamaica, Barbados, Ghana and Vienna.        

Teaching is the greatest, most noble, and most sacred profession, and TREAT understands the role of teacher preparation programs on the future of teaching. As gatekeepers of the profession, TREAT has partnered with a School of Education to provide programming and professional development for teacher candidates and alumni to ensure that they are adequately prepared to meet the diverse needs of allchildren. TREAT plans to work with Teacher Colleges across the Diaspora. 

TREAT was created to be relevant and responsive to the needs of teachers. In less than two years, TREAT participants have reported that TREAT has inspired them to become better teachers, helped them become brave enough to take risks, and provided support when they needed it. At the one year anniversary celebration, a TREAT participant said, “TREAT revives the spirit within…and every time I come to TREAT there is someone or something that’s said that uplifts my spirit to remind me when I go back to work on Monday what it is that I am actually doing.” As teachers’ needs grow, TREAT will continue to evolve. TREAT is committed to the success of new teachers and educators and, ultimately, the success of an entire generation of students.  


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