Saline Area Schools To Host Culturally Responsive Instruction Information Sessions


What is the best way to get a student to engage with the curriculum that they are being taught? The best way, according to Saline Area School’s culturally responsive teaching consultant Channon Washington is to tailor schoolwork to culturally resonant facts of daily life that the student experiences outside of the classroom.

“It is an old best practice policy in teaching,” Washington said. “It is the idea that one of the ways kids learn is when their culture is connected to what they are learning. Being able to make connections to what a child is experiencing at home, in their community and connecting that to what they’re learning in the classroom has always been considered a best practice.”

Washington has been involved with the district since 2018, but was formally hired in her current role in 2021, to formalize the practice. Washington will be explaining the districts’ formalized approach to culturally responsive instruction in a series of information series with parents between now and February.

The first series will have three sessions from November 9 to 11. The first will be from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Liberty School and the second will be at the same location from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A third, virtual meeting, will be held over zoom from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., to accommodate parents working schedules.

“Students learn best in an environment where they can see themselves within the curriculum, [like] mirrors, and develop an understanding of different cultures and perspectives, [like] windows,” Superintendent Steve Laatsch said in an emailed statement to the Sun Times News. “This is what Culturally Responsive Instruction, in a more systemic manner, will provide. We feel very fortunate to be partnering with Channon Washington as we engage in this work.”

What is being taught in American public schools, and how, has become a hot button political issue in communities right across the United States. Washington claims that the truth is that this sort of instruction has already been in effect in districts like Saline for years, and that all the district is doing is formalizing existing policy. One issue that has been especially fraught in recent times is a politicized argument over critical race theory, a theory that is taught in certain masters and doctoral programs, but not K-12 education. To be clear: culturally responsive instruction is not critical race theory.

“I plan on attending as many as I can. I think Channon Washington is a wonderful addition to the SAS staff. She is a personal friend and I support what she is doing and the initiatives of the school district,” FSAS Executive Director Annherst Kreitz said in a statement by phone.

The first series in November will be purely an information session where no questions will be answered. Washington said that she will be “demystifying, clarifying what it is and what it is not.” The first session is designed this way so she can present information clearly and take as many questions as possible. That way, she said she will have answers to the most frequently answered questions available when the second session takes place next January.

While some questions may be simple to answer, Washington said she wants to have the time to research complex questions properly before answering. These sessions will be purely Q & A sessions between the district and parents. Parents will be able to submit questions through a Google document ahead of time either anonymously or in public.

“The reason that there is not going to be time for questions in the first session is that I want to give good answers. I don’t want the answers to be knee jerk answers. I want to sort through every question parents have and make sure they’re not redundant. I want to categorize them.

“One of the best practices in a politically charged climate is to have a cooling off period,” Washington said, in explanation of why the sessions are spaced out the way they are. “It’s a time for reflection. It is a time where parents can go and do their own research and we will provide resources for them to do so.”

The third session will take place in February. This session will be about how culturally responsive instruction fits into the larger educational system in the school district, local library system, public safety, and parks and recreation. It will also emphasize how culturally responsive instruction is designed in response to trauma-based instruction, and the all-encompassing nature of the curriculum. Washington is planning on inviting people from the district’s teaching and learning team; as well as the public library, public safety, the city’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, and the city government to speak at February’s sessions. Those sessions have not been firmly confirmed however, and so it has not yet been established who will speak when.

Parents can sign up for any of these sessions on the Saline Area Schools website,

Image Credit: Scot Graden, former Superintendent of Saline Area Schools.

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