It has been twenty years since I took my first Project GLAD training. After I left that impactful week of training, Project GLAD became the foundation of my teaching. Over the years, I have witnessed how Project GLAD has had an impact on student achievement, student engagement, and teacher collaboration. I have countless experiences and stories that reinforces the effectiveness Project GLAD has on students and teachers. However, one overarching theme that is consistent with Project GLAD is culturally responsive teaching. Twenty years ago, before this topic gained momentum, Project GLAD embedded this practice into the research/theory and the actual strategies that are implemented into many classrooms across the nation.
Culturally Responsive teaching is embedded throughout Project GLAD. Home school connections, cooperative learning, writer’s workshop, and the cognitive content dictionary are some strategies that provide an avenue for students to express their home culture and their history. Every student offers a piece of their identity to the classroom. Project GLAD allows students to share who they are as an individual. Many times, I have witnessed my second grader’s eyes light up when it was their turn to share a folk tale, a family tradition, or a custom. Project GLAD creates a culturally responsive environment by allowing students to read, to write, and to communicate in their native language. During my time in the classroom, my Bosnian and Russian students used their native language to write books, speak with other classmates, and educate our classroom about their culture. This type of teaching communicates to the students that they are safe and acknowledged in the classroom. It creates a positive learning environment where students’ ideas and experiences are acknowledged, incorporated, and respected by the teacher and their peers.
Culturally Responsive teaching includes the three personal standards. The three personal standards do not norm student behavior. Traditional education system has a long list of “rules”, which norms student behavior. Going back twenty years to my first year of teaching, I had created a long list of “rules”. However, when I took my first Project GLAD training, I abandoned my rules and implemented the three personal standards. These three standards allowed my students to take ownership of their behavior. Five years ago, during conference time, a parent came in for her child’s conference. She wanted to know where I discovered the three personal standards because she saw a positive change in her child’s behavior. The parent continued to explain that her daughter would use the three standards with their teenage son. These standards support students with extreme behavior. I had a student in my class who struggled with self-regulation and explosive behavior. At the beginning of the year I was committed to helping him navigate the standards. The standard that was most useful for him was, make a good decision. He began to see how his actions impacted his interactions and relationships with others in the classroom. Slowly but surely, he would make the decision to change his behavior. As we progressed through the school year, he began to understand that the three standards were his decision. He began to take ownership for his behavior. Carpet time was his favorite time because he knew that was the time to earn a literacy award or become a scout. I saw a dramatic and a positive progression with his behavior, all based on the three personal standards.
Implementing Project GLAD has been profound in my development as an educator and in my transition into the administration role. Now, my platform is educating and supporting GLAD trained teachers and helping them develop a culturally responsive classroom. I have made a difference by implementing culturally responsive teaching based on the research and theory of Project GLAD. I believe in the model and the effectiveness of all the strategies. Project GLAD provides an equitable opportunity for students and teachers.
– Jessica Vigil