By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
I hope the start of the school year has been smooth and positive so far! The theme of the first CASDA newsletter of the 2019-2020 year is student engagement, the importance of which to academic and social emotional growth cannot be overstated.
Thinking back to my days as a middle school and high school teacher, I intentionally planned activities for the first few classes that were designed to build rapport, a positive classroom culture and to get to know my students. This month’s Hanover Research brief, “Best Practices for Student Engagement,” points to three domains of engagement: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. The studies cited recommend utilizing strategies addressing all three domains and emphasize that relationships between students and teachers are the foundation of meaningful student engagement. Educators who successfully connect with students also create emotionally, intellectually and physically safe learning environments, present academic content in personally meaningful and relevant ways and provide equitable, culturally responsive and rigorous curriculum and instruction.
On the topic of culturally responsive and rigorous curriculum and instruction, a must read is Zaretta Hammond’s “Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students.” In chapter five of the book, Hammond describes her early years of teaching and the self-discovery of what she calls a “learning partnership,” which is made up of three interdependent components. She describes this partnership as an equation: rapport + alliance = cognitive insight. The learning partnership is grounded in what Hammond describes as “...an unshakeable belief that marginalized students not only can but will improve their school achievement.” For a deeper discussion of Hammond’s work and other studies on student engagement, tune in to my first podcast of this school year as part of the new series called “It’s Intentional.”
And, as a reminder, in order to better engage with CASDA member districts, we have secured multiple locations throughout the Capital Region to host workshops and other CASDA events this year. In addition to CASDA’s new home office in the University at Albany’s newly refurbished School of Education Catskill Building on the main campus, we are excited about the limitless possibilities to engage with member districts to the north in our new satellite office at the beautiful WSWHE BOCES Ballard Road Conference Center, and our centrally-located satellite workshop space within the offices of the New York State Association of School Business Officials at 453 New Karner Road, Albany.
I look forward to seeing you at the many workshops, roundtables and events CASDA will be hosting throughout the year. Plus, make sure to follow me on Twitter at @Piccirillo_Mike. Have a great year!