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Rigorous Academics and a Sense of Community

A Walking the Talk conversation on fostering healthy classroom cultures, featuring insight from Uncommon Schools

April 30, 2018

How can educators best serve low-income students from diverse backgrounds? Two pillars, says Julie Jackson, chief schools officer at Uncommon Schools, should guide the way: rigorous academics and a strong sense of community.

“When you can instill in [students] that they can achieve, while pushing them to their max,” Jackson explains to host Domonic Rollins in this episode of Walking the Talk, “then great things happen.”

At Uncommon Schools, a network of urban charter public schools in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, these pillars shape curriculum and school cultures, says Jackson. For educators in these schools, acknowledging their own implicit biases and identifying what students are doing well are key to healthy classroom environments that encourage students do more and prepare for college.

“You have to look into [students’] eyes and you have to see them for who they are and who they become,” says Jackson of educators’ ten-month journey with their students. But, she adds, "once you do that, you still have to have high expectations.”

Jackson explores other influential factors in education systems with Rollins, from cultures of feedback to financial resources and genuine love for your students. This and previous episodes of Walking the Talk, a series of live video conversations that challenge questions of diversity, inclusion, and identity as they are lived and expressed in the real world, are available here.

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Diversity and Inclusion K-12 School Leadership