Part Two: Finding community partners to support your cultural competency efforts

 “Our staff and residents need to know why inclusion and community are important. We have to operate with clear assumptions about race, power and privilege.

  — Randall Lahann, Director, Nashville Teacher Residency

In this two part series, NCTR spoke to Nashville Teacher Residency (NTR)’s Program Director Randall Lahann on his team’s work in ensuring their residents are culturally competent and focused on inclusion at all levels. This is what he said:

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Why did we choose Conexión Américas as your cultural competency partner?

My staff is small, just two people – including me. Our third staff member is joining us during the summer of 2017. There is a large and growing immigrant population in Nashville – particularly Kurdish and Latino immigrants – and we expressed our need for our residents to understand the immigrant population in the city. We know we are the local experts on teacher education, but are not experts on culture or inclusion. Our goal is to work collaboratively with our community culture and inclusion experts, and it made sense to choose a partner that was excited about working together–Conexión Américas.

Their eyes lit up when talking about what teachers should know about their communities and about the work we wanted to do with culture and inclusion. It was clear that we had a lot of overlap in the goals of our respective programs.

How did Conexión structure their competency sessions?

Conexión gave us the opportunity to learn from their experiences, lessons and stories. Our job was to help take that experience, connect it to the frameworks for teaching that our residents already had, and help them create practice-rich lessons backwards mapped from skills and knowledge we wanted our residents to have. We want to make sure the community experts training our residents are asking hard hitting, meaningful questions, “What does practice look like here? What is this going to mean for classroom work?”

The Conexión sessions began with PowerPoints and personal stories and moved to modeling a series of interactions. We used scripts that were originally written to teacher parents to advocate for themselves with authority. We read those scripts and rewrote them to think about their implications for teachers to be more opening and inviting to parents.

How will you know if your work with Conexión is successful?

We want to track our successes and opportunities for improvement in this and our work in resident preparation. To make sure we were able to gather to see how our cultural competency classes were preparing the residents for the classroom, we created a Community and Culture rubric drawing on the work of a lot of really smart programs, including the Memphis Teacher Residency. We’ll use it to assess residents lesson plans and teaching and inform the direction of future Community and Culture classes.

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As the Director of the Nashville Teacher Residency Program, Randall Lahann leads all efforts to recruit and train effective educators for Nashville schools. He is the former Director of Curriculum for the Match Teacher Residency (MTR), and helped the program earn graduate school status, coordinate and deliver coursework, and manage curriculum transition to the Common Core State Standards. In 2010, Randall completed his dissertation in Curriculum and Instruction at Boston College, where he taught classes in Special Education and Teacher Inquiry. Randall began his career in education in 2000 in San Jose, CA as a Teach For America Special Education/History teacher.