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Montclair Staff PD Focuses on Cultural Differences

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Two presenters mesmerize the audience.

On Mon., Feb. 12, Montclair Public Schools’ staff participated in a Professional Development workshop. Superintendent Ronald E. Bolandi opened the morning explaining the purpose of the ongoing PD relating to undoing racism. “We continue to address looking at cultural differences,” he said. “This is a partnership. We have to look at each other, and look within. We all have certain prejudices and biases and we have to worth through them because it does affect our students.”

The first speaker to take the floor was Susan Tolley, an educator with over 30 years of experience. Having worked at virtually every level in the public school arena, Tolley is an ambassador for public education. Now as a much sought after consultant and trainer, she provides professional development that is on-going, experiential, collaborative, and connected to and derived from working with students and understanding their culture.

“Children of poverty are hard to get back. All too often we lose them for good. We have to be proactive,” she said. “Research says the foundation for children in school is a strong adult relationship. A large part of a child’s waking hours is spent with you. Children will work hard to make you proud. They want to feel engaged and part of the process.

Tolley outlined five important things for teachers (and all staff) to remember: Smile; it makes you open, receptive and approachable; Greet students at the door; give them individual, positive attention. Praise the efforts as well as the results. Monitor your language; eliminate sarcasm and use words of respect like please and thank you. Sum up your class at the end of the day. She concluded with a final message: “Bring joy to your students every day.”

Dr. Adolf “Doc” Brown, returned to Montclair for a follow-up on his rousing “Real Talk” presentation he brought to staff last year which focused on insights into people, his vision to help educators and parents improve cultural competence and identifying ways to reach every type of learner.  Brown is an internationally renowned master educator, character education leader, servant leadership consultant, educational and clinical psychologist, author, researcher, entrepreneur, and an influential thinker/practitioner in the fields of education and human behavior.  He was once considered the youngest tenured full professor in our nation even after being the first in his family of five to graduate from high school. 

Brown used his “second backpack” concept (a backpack within a backpack) to illustrate how people – including students – may have a certain appearance on the outside, but are hiding personal baggage, things they don’t want people to know, on the inside. He said that while adults have the coping skills, students may not be equipped to deal with the emotional things they are carrying around internally.

His message it to look beyond the first backpack and approach interactions with students differently. “Before you can change the world around you, you have to change the world within you,” he said. “The tree is in the seed. Don’t destroy the seed before the tree has opportunity to grow.”

Below, Brown makes his way through the auditorium to connect with staff.
Brown strides through the packed High School Auditorium 

Updated: 5/10/2017