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NNER May Webinar: Messages of Dialogue and Reflection

                On May 6th, 2021, Dr. Namulundah Florence of Brooklyn College presented for the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) First Thursday webinar series. Dr. Namulundah Florence discussed her recent book Adapting to Cultural Pluralism in Urban Schools, which focuses on how varied the school experience can look in relation to culture and values. In this talk, she highlighted her life experiences with learning, the outlook of varied conversations and dialogues, and the impact of self-reflection in teaching practices.
                Part of Dr. Florence’s book and the discussion was a narrative of passion when it came to learning and teaching. She highlights the importance of learning as an immigrant teacher who came to the United States to continue learning in the ways of teaching. In this way, she mixes varied worldviews and experiences to better support students in recognizing the importance of learning and the privileges of learning that some may not be fully aware of in their community. This experience also highlights the roles of family and community members in ensuring the success of students who are wishing to learn and to meet their respective goals. When thinking about her book, this is a crucial piece to the framework of what is presented as there are sections highlighting the varied roles of student, educator, parent, and community.
                Another piece to the overall discussion is how the urban classroom often has varied experiences among the populations present. For instance, many urban classrooms have a large percentage of white and middle-class teachers who may not fully comprehend the various racial and socioeconomic experiences of the students. Even when presenting training to educators, there may be some elements that are not transmitted such as the values of the distinct neighborhoods present and the intersection of life experiences that each student holds. This is part of what it means to recognize the differing elements of culture when it comes to a school, but also the importance of the values that are present among many groups of people. Educators can provide space for students to also educate them on where they are coming from, and they can also begin weaving an understanding on what is valued in the classroom.
                The last piece to this conversation was a challenge on better supporting students by examining the current climate and pieces to the school or district. A large portion of this book focuses on self-reflection and the crucial nature of this for educators. As educators, it is necessary to recognize the varying experiences and consider the needs that are being addressed by various agents in the classroom and administration. One benefit to self-reflection is that it allows for change and that, according to Dr. Florence, is one important asset for teachers to be willing to embrace. If educational professionals are willing to embrace change with new information and current trends, it is possible for students to also embrace such a mindset of flexibility and adaptiveness. Within the final moments of the group discussion, people discussed what they felt could be changed in their districts and the ways they were working to this or hoped to compel change. This works alongside the message of NNER to act as change agents and to examine educational renewal with a focus on equity, justice, and opportunity in school settings.
                Dr. Namulundah Florence shared a presentation that highlights what it means to bring life experience, professional understanding, and passion for teaching. For participants in this discussion, it also highlights the power of continuous learning as a means to instill change in one’s educational settings and success for one’s student population.
                Please check out the WSUP Facebook page for more information on the next First Thursday webinar. For information on Dr. Florence’s book, the publisher’s link is provided: Link.
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