Collaboration as a Vehicle for Critical Inquiry & Engagement in Literacies (Part 3 of 4)
How does collaboration promote critical inquiry and engagement in literacies for educators and students? This is the common question introduced in my first blog post of this series, which connects three practitioner spotlights (parts 2 thru 4 of the series). The spotlights read like an interview with questions and responses. In last week’s blog post, readers were introduced to Karen Martin of Denali Borough School District in Alaska.
This week, I’m honored to introduce you to Ayana Bass. Ayana is a certified Elementary, Special Educator in Rhode Island and Education Partner at The Equity Institute. Check out her full bio below!
Describe a collaborative activity/model/design that you have been involved in or led that was connected to literacies.
As a beginning educator, I had the honor and privilege to join fellow educators and peers in the Beginning Educator Professional Learning Network (BE-PLN), facilitated by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to support beginning RI educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed and challenged me to think differently about all student learning experiences, including my own. By participating in the BE-PLN, I was provided with dedicated time to support my personal and professional growth through engaging and meaningful content and discussions that promoted opportunities for growth as a lifelong learner. Additionally, in a sub-group of elementary educators, I had an opportunity to continue a shared learning experience with educators where we collaborated on inquiry-based work. We specifically focused our protocol work around developing literacy tools to support educators in their efforts to address bias and anti-racism with students, promoting collective growth and a pathway to support students, families, and the communities in which they live.
How did collaborating help you to grow as an educator?
Collaborating with various experts in the field of education, seasoned and highly qualified RI educators like District Teachers of the Year, and fellow beginning educators has supported my continued growth personally and professionally as a certified special educator. I would leave each session feeling more prepared as a facilitator of learning, and I felt supported and heard when we talked about our shared experiences and challenges with peers. A session that I reflect on frequently was when we shared in community with Malika Ali of the Highlander Institute as she discussed culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy. Themes like a pedagogical theory of change, cultural awareness, community building, and the learning pit resonated deeply with me and directly connected to how I actively work to create learning spaces while setting high expectations and challenging students. The learning and growth that occurred for me as an individual and educator throughout the BE-PLN series keeps me wanting to dig deeper, learn more, and continue to challenge my own thinking.
How did collaborating benefit your students and their literacy learning?
Through a growth mindset and student centered approach, I am eager to share what I have learned throughout my BE-PLN journey. I consistently work to bring equitable practices to all facets of my work, and I am excited to deepen my understanding and educational practices in the area of liberation through literacy. Through sub-group work with peers, I came across research work focused on equity, acceleration, and personalization to improve student learning. In my master’s program, I hope to explore additional research related to liberation through literacy and then bring my experiences and learning full circle by sharing it with the students and families that I serve as an educator and community member.
What were some "lessons learned" by collaborating? Anything you would share or recommend with other educators?
One particular lesson that I have learned is the importance of continuous self reflection on how I have been socialized in the world, and how that shows up in learning spaces for myself and others. Through collaboration with educational professionals, I have had an opportunity to examine my own learning and thinking processes, question my understanding of concepts, read and explore alternative approaches to support student centered learning, pushing me to bring different lenses of understanding to conversations amongst personal and professional discussions. I encourage all educators to challenge their thinking and understanding of concepts, examine your own biases and how they show up in your work, continuously self-reflect for positive growth, and continue to center student voice and choice in all of the work you do.
Thank you to Ayana for making her collaboration and literacy teaching and learning visible to us in this post! Ayana has participated in and helped lead a number of collaborative educational efforts in Rhode Island -- see her bio below for full details. Give Ayana a follow on Twitter at @AyanaBass10.
Be sure to come back next week for a final practitioner spotlight!
Happy collaborating (and reading, too, of course!),
Ayana Bass is a lifelong Rhode Island resident and a certified Elementary, Special Educator. As an adult-learner, her academic journey took her on a non-traditional path through a traditional program at Rhode Island College where she completed her bachelor's degree at the age of 39. As a student researcher at RIC, Ayana explored her passion for education through work in the areas of equity, access, and diversity. More specifically, as a young researcher she was able to conduct a research project with a focus on paraprofessionals and how access to an alternative pathway (in RI) can contribute to the conversation around teacher shortages, increased diversity, access, and equity within the teacher workforce. Her research work and understanding of pedagogy and educational practices allowed for a natural pairing to join the EI team. As an Education Partner at The Equity Institute, she focuses on alternative educator pathway programs for school support professionals to address teacher shortages and diversity within the teacher workforce.
Ayana is an active member of the CEEDAR RI State Leadership Team, as well as a member of RIDE's Educators of Color Committee. She sits on multiple subcommittees within each organization as a means to deepen her understanding and commitment to education and students of all ages. She is excited to be continuing her own educational journey as she works to obtain her master's degree at Brown University in the Urban Education Policy Program, where she will continue to examine and participate in research projects that align with her current interests within the field of education.