Home Curricula Professional Development teens stories as Mirrors and Windows: A Culturally Responsive Professional Development Series

Professional Development

teens stories as Mirrors and Windows: A Culturally Responsive Professional Development Series

Based on True Stories by Teens


Our young people deserve to have learning spaces that center and liberate them, where they can be deeply engaged, develop empathy for all people, exercise their own voices, and succeed academically. Research tells us that culturally responsive education not only acknowledges students’ experiences but welcomes them as an integral part of learning communities, ultimately resulting in greater academic success.1

Through reading and discussing true stories written by Youth Communication’s teen writers, educators will be given mirrors (stories that reflect their own experiences) and windows (stories that provide insight into another’s experiences) through which they can better understand themselves and the youth with whom they work. Educators will examine their own identities,  identify and interrogate and challenge oppressive practices, and focus on building community in their classrooms and school buildings that honor the experiences and strengths of their students. Developed by teachers and youth workers, this program will add to educators’ pool of resources and leave them reinvigorated, empowered, and equipped to build supportive, culturally responsive learning communities.  

Our team will meet with you to determine your school or organization’s goals and readiness. Together, we will build a personalized program that works to meet your specific needs.  

1 LeBlanc, Gess, et al. “Why Cultural Responsiveness Is Crucial for Teachers.” Who’s in My Classroom?: Building Developmentally and Culturally Responsive School Communities, Jossey-Bass, Hoboken, NJ, 2021, pp. 20–20. 

The sessions described below are each centered on reading one or more Youth Communication stories. (See a sample list of stories below). Each session also focuses on practical changes and actions teachers can make to better support their students.

SESSION DESCRIPTIONS

We offer the following sessions to support a culturally responsive community at your school. Please contact us to talk about which workshops are the best fit for your community.

TIER ONE: Who’s in My Classroom?: Foundations for Understanding Oppression

Session

aDDRESSING RACISM: JUSTICE EVERYWHERE

Description

Our students are forging their identities in a time of racial reckoning. We will read true, teen-written stories that serve as case studies and guides for how educators can continuously improve positive youth racial identity formation by creating justice-focused classrooms and schools. We will review the difference between race, racism, and internalized racism, as well the impact racism has on education and a student’s sense of belonging. Participants will leave the session with a deeper understanding of how racial identity develops and learn to identify and address racism in the classroom. 

Session

Addressing Gender Discrimination: Breaking the Gender Box

Description

From birth, children are taught to connect behaviors, activities, or interests with being either masculine or feminine. In this session, we will read stories by young people of many gender identities to understand how a strict gender binary—and all of society’s expectations that come with that binary—can harm adolescents. We will review the difference between gender-assigned-at-birth, gender identity, and gender expression, as well as what it means to be cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of how gender identity develops and how to support their students their students’ gender identity formation.

Session

Addressing Homophobia: Queerness as Strength

Description

According to the 2019 National School Climate Survey, 86.3% of LGBTQ+ students experienced harassment or assault at school. To best serve LGBTQ+ youth, particularly those of color, we need to listen to their stories and carefully curate space for them to see their whole selves represented.   

In this session, we will read a true, teen-written story about being an LGBTQ+ student and discuss how to see these identities as sources of strength. We will review key terms like queer, homophobia, as well the difference between sexuality, gender, and sex. Participants will leave the session with a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ students and actionable steps they can take to support them. 

Session

Addressing Transphobia: Visible and Vital

Description

According to the 2019 National School Climate Survey, 84% of trans students felt unsafe at school because of their gender. Compounded with issues of racism, transgender youth of color are more likely to subjected to racial discrimination than their cisgender peers. In this session, we will read a true, teen-written story about coming out as transgender and discuss how to create a healthy environment where trans and gender expansive students can thrive. We will review key terms like cisgender, transgender, gender queer, and nonbinary, as well the impact transphobia has on education and a student’s sense of belonging. Participants will leave the session with a deeper understanding of trans and gender expansive students and actionable steps they can take to support them.  

Session

Addressing Ableism: Different, Not Less

Description

Differently abled students often face discrimination in the very schools meant to encourage and protect them. In this session, we will read true teen-written stories about being differently abled and maneuvering a world that considers that a flaw. We will review key terms like disabled, differently abled, neurodiversity, and ableism, as well as how education systems can perpetuate stereotypes about people with disabilities. Participants will leave the session with a deeper understanding of their differently abled students and actionable steps they can take to support them. 

tier two: Shifting Mindsets and Making it Personal

Session

Breaking Implicit Bias

Description

Every member of a school’s faculty and staff brings their implicit bias to their work with students. The most effective educators name and interrogate those biases, including confronting how they impact students, and actively work toward breaking them.  The best way of breaking our natural impulse to generalize about people is to get to know them as individuals. In this session, we will read and discuss excerpts from stories by teens about how being known by their teachers—or, at a minimum, having their teacher communicate that they want to know them–has benefited the writers socially, emotionally, and academically.  

Session

Setting High Expectations

Description

Balancing high expectations of students with understanding students’ particular circumstances (e.g., housing insecurity, poverty, racial trauma) is an important skill in closing the opportunity gap in schools. While we want to be understanding about the real challenges students face, we don’t want to send the message that we don’t believe they are capable of academic success. In this session, we will read and discuss teen-written stories about how teachers communicated the combination of empathy and high expectations to their students. In addition to the strategies the writers outline in their stories, participants will discuss what high expectations and empathy looks like in their schools. Teachers will consider one of their students as a case study to practice this balancing act.   

Session

Student Stress and How Schools and Teachers Should Change  

Description

Our students experience stress as a normal part of the school experience. Those students who are equipped to handle stress through a solid set of social and emotional learning skills are those most likely to make and achieve their goals. In this session, we will examine the difference between stress, chronic stress, and trauma, and read true, teen-written stories to illustrate each type. Participants will examine their own teaching practices with a lens to what stressors their students might be facing as a result. If the stress is unavoidable, we will discuss how to grow students’ social and emotional learning skills to deal productively with the stress. If it is avoidable, we will discuss alternative approaches that will be healthier and more supportive of students.  

Session

Adolescent Identity Development From the Adolescent Perspective

Description

“Who am I?” It’s a question that all adolescents wrestle with. Educators can play a major role in helping young people develop healthy identities. We will read true stories by teens about how they developed a positive identity for themselves, what resources they used to do so, and how teachers and other adults helped them. Participants will leave the session with an understanding of the connection between social and emotional learning and positive adolescent identity development, as well as a set of tools for developing both in their students.  

Session

Practicing Love: Building Compassion and Community in the Classroom 

Description

Black feminist writer and educator, bell hooks wrote, “When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other.” The pandemic and compounded weight of racial trauma have made the past two years distressing for many of us. Students and educators have not had the space to begin healing. We will read true stories by teens about coping with trauma and engage in a communal journaling practice with the goal of building a space of compassion for educators and students. Participants will share tools on how to utilize writing and reflection to build loving environments in their school.   

tier three: Creating Institutional Change

Session

Radical Healing: Reparations for Educators of Color 

Description

Contact us to learn more.

Session

Restorative Justice: Rewriting the Rules

Description

Contact us to learn more.

The lessons provided in the YC program was well-organized and thought-provoking. I appreciated listening to and reading about my students view on how to address the circumstances of the stories we read and for how they were not judgmental of the authors or each other while engaging in student-led discourse.

— TEACHER

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