More than ever, schools need to be a “welcoming and affirming” space — especially for students of color
Principle 6: Students have social-emotional support and access to a culturally responsive, antiracist, restorative learning environment.
Gail Joyner-White, principal of Cross Hill Academy in Yonkers, is meticulous about building good leaders and creating a culturally responsive learning environment.
Throughout the past several months, Joyner-White has been hands-on with her staff to ensure teaching practices and school programs maintain an equity focus. She wanted to make sure the mostly Black and Latinx student body would see themselves in the curriculum and have a learning environment that is “welcoming and affirming.”
For example, earlier this year Joyner-White helped teachers come up with tangible methods they could use to integrate students’ cultures into lessons. Teachers are including things like asking students about the animals from their home country or teaching that basic and advanced math concepts originated in the continent of Africa.
When girls at the school started asking why there was a My Brother’s Keeper program, but nothing for young girls of color, she created My Sister’s KeepHer, which has met online every Thursday during the current school year.
Part of her goal is to empower other school leaders to think of student–centered solutions, even when they don’t have additional budget resources.
“I want to make sure that we don’t have another set of schools 20 years from now that look like the ones we had for the last 20 years,” Joyner-White said.