“Creating School Cultures that Promote Academic Excellence”

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By Carson Bolding

If your garden’s not growing, don’t blame the veggies.

That was the lesson at the core of Dr. Pedro Noguera’s lecture this past Monday as part of Hayles Educational Incorporated’s Professional Learning Series. Noguera, the Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, has spent his career researching the influence of social and economic conditions and demographic trends on schools (Pedro Noguera). He understands that the majority of students don’t learn best in a traditional classroom structure.

“The schools we have now were designed to obtain the current results,” he emphasized throughout the lecture. In order to improve, schools must adjust to students, rather than expecting students to conform to the classroom. That can only be accomplished by looking at the various factors that influence a child’s learning.

When you plant a garden, you have to make sure to use quality soil, provide an appropriate amount of sunlight and irrigation, and keep out the weeds. Each plant requires attention and care. Similarly, when seeking to understand a student’s academic achievement, you must consider the various factors influencing that student’s growth. A child’s race, gender, socioeconomic status, or home life is likely to affect the way they learn. Assuming that every student learns the same way only creates barriers to learning.

“We should not be surprised by the diversity of our children,” Dr. Noguera explained. If schools are committed to deeper learning and equity, “educators should seek to understand each child’s individual learning needs” (Noguera, Darling-Hammond, and Friedlaender). When teachers and administrators take the time to build relationships with students, those students receive the attention they need. This personalized learning keeps kids invested in their education and community.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” (Audrey Hepburn)


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