Cultivating belonging: Black Teacher Collaborative partner spotlight

The Partner Spotlight blog series highlights an organization that has been instrumental in the research, development, and content creation of Along. This month, we are focusing on Black Teacher Collaborative, an organization that engages and develops a collective of Black educators who support high academic achievement in Black children while preparing them to actively participate in their communities. Along spoke to Wallace Green, Director of Innovation, about how belongingness is a critical aspect of relationship building for students of color. Read the Q&A below:

What brought you to Black Teacher Collaborative (BTC)?

I was interested in the organization’s mission, and particularly the role school racial demographics plays in Black student success. I started at BTC as a consultant to work on grant writing, but then month after month, I took on more responsibility and that eventually turned into a full-time Director of Innovation role. 

Why did BTC collaborate with Along?

BTC was asked to collaborate on content development since our research is focused on best teaching practices for Black students. BTC applied our pedagogical framework to a review of Along’s content. Personally, and at BTC, we think a lot about positive relationships, belongingness, and empathy for Black students – and the role that teachers play in creating these for Black students. We brought these considerations to our content review. As an educator, I have experienced the important impact positive relationships have on Black children and youth. I just really believed in Along early on as a potentially powerful tool for Black students in particular. All the research shows that nurturing relationships matter in particular ways for Black students.

What lens did you use to review Along’s content?

How can the knowledge about Black teachers’ successful pedagogical practices with Black students inform pedagogical practices with Black students more broadly? When I was reviewing content for Along, I was really reviewing it from that perspective. I was imagining what a really successful Black teacher educating Black students would be doing in terms of belongingness and relationship building. What are they doing, how are they saying things? That’s the layer of consideration I looked at to make the content more resonant for Black students, and therefore all students. More specifically, I used BTC’s Black Liberatory Pedagogical (BLP) Framework and its eight elements as I reviewed content. For example, I would look at a teacher prompt and consider which of our BLP elements could be most instructive for the content, and I would use that element to thoroughly review the prompt and make suggestions for edits, or new prompts entirely, based on our framework. 

How different would it be if relationship building was central to the classroom?

I could talk about this for the rest of my life and career. Teachers know, because we can feel it and see it, that relationships truly are the thing that matters for learning. Everything happens within the context of your relationship with that student—your ability to motivate them, your ability to hold them to high expectations but they still feel your support, to redirect behavior in a loving way. The challenge is that there really isn’t the space for teachers to develop more specific practices to cultivate those relationships. I was so attracted to the Along tool because I understand the profound power of relationships. Along does make this much easier for teachers. I really hope we stay in a moment where we are talking about how building relationships with students can help them experience things that matter such as belongingness and resilience, which helps to facilitate the teaching and learning process too.

What are you pursuing with your doctoral studies?

I’m pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies – Social Sciences and Education, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interests are around well-being, learning, and development for Black children and youth. So, much of my research examines school context, how it affects well-being for Black students, and how that relates to their learning. 

For more information about Along’s partners, please read our recent blog. And to learn more about Black Teacher Collaborative, please visit their website.