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Ready to commit to learn from your students about how and where they learn—and from whom?


Expand the educator community


You’re here to begin the journey of expanding the concept of educator and community in schools. The first step? Learn from your students about how and where they learn—and from whom.

Across this journey, you will be prompted to record your answers during some activities. You can record them or type them on your own device and save the files so you can come back to them later. If you see the option to take notes within the text boxes, you can print and/or email them to yourself at the end of the activity for your personal use. You can also access a digital download of this Experience Journey if you prefer.

If this is your first Experience Journey with The Elephant in the (Class)room, make sure you Pack for Your Journey before you depart.
Pack for your journey

“Learning happens everywhere.”
—Karen Pittman, Cofounder and Senior Fellow, Forum for Youth Investment


Think of a time when you had a powerful and positive learning experience outside of school that no one at school knew about. Tell a story about that experience. Do your best to put yourself in that particular space and time and describe what precisely was happening that contributed to your experience. Feel free to use a first-person narrative if helpful.

What was it about that experience that made it powerful and positive? Who were you with? What were you doing? Where were you? How did the learning happen? Why do you remember it?
How did you feel engaged, connected, and humanized as a learner during the experience with this adult who is not a classroom teacher?

Record your answers

Record your answers on your own device. You can refer back to them later.

Next up: Listen to Learn

Listen to the conversation

Karen Pittman, Atyani Howard, Carlo Ramirez-Truse

Taken from an episode of the Changing the Odds Remix podcast called “Why It’s Time to Humanize Teaching”, here we will listen to Karen Pittman, Atyani Howard, and Carlo Ramirez-Truse — two practitioners and a student — speak about humanizing education, how Carlo learns outside of the classroom, and his definition of “educator.”

Listen twice to what Karen, Atyani, and Carlo have to say. These repeated listens are essential to deepening your understanding, as we will be prompting you to listen with different “ears” or orientations.

First listen:
from a learners lens
  • Carlo describes an educator as a “role model that will help you and educate you, not only on subjects that we learn at school, but I think subjects overall in life, too, and they are key figures in your life that guide you.” With this description in mind, who were the educators for you as a learner beyond your classroom teachers? 
  • What would it have been like if Carlo’s academic teachers knew how he approached learning in this instance?
Don’t forget to record your answers!
Second listen:
from an educator lens
  • Remember Carlo’s description of an educator. With this description in mind, who might be the educators in your school or system?
  • Think about how Carlo compares his experience with his soccer coach to his experience with his content area teachers. What do you notice?
  • Think of a time that you learned from your students about what engages or motivates them. Describe it, including the context and the concrete behaviors of both students and teachers.
Don’t forget to record your answers!

Now that you have reflected, told a bit of your own story, and learned from other educators, use this template to capture your learnings and concrete implications for your craft.

Weaving it together can expand your concept of educator and community in schools and support educators by integrating student voice and feedback as a foundational element of effective teaching practice.

Here it may be helpful to remember Chrystal’s reflections on her approach to instructional practice from the Embrace Commitment 1 Experience Journey.

Activity: Connect with students about educators outside the classroom

Ask 1-3 students to think about and name for you the adult role models who will help them and educate them, not just in academics but in life skills.

You can make this an informal quick conversation that happens in a hallway or a more formalized classroom activity, but you want to prompt them to think outside classrooms, and name the adult, their role, what they learn, and who else is learning with them. See disclaimer on privacy and protection of info.

You can use this template to record this information:

    Who is their educator?
    What is the educator's role?
    What does your student learn from the educator?
    Who else do these educators serve?
    Who is their educator?
    What is the educator's role?
    What does your student learn from the educator?
    Who else do these educators serve?
    Print my responses

    Reflections: Learning about how and where students learn–and from whom

    Regardless of how many educators you learn about, reflect on what surprised you about:

    • who was named?
    • what and how young people learn from them?
    • what they do in the community?

    What are the implications for you and your practice? How might you connect with these adults and leverage the learning that is happening in those spaces?

    Last step: Commit and Connect

    Now that you’ve woven it all together, where do you go from here?

    Connect with others on this journey so that we as educators can learn and grow together in community rather than in isolation. Commit to equity as an ongoing practice and explore more content on The Elephant in the (Class)room.

    Engage others in your system

    You might start with engaging others in your system – for example, your colleagues, a grade-level team, a professional learning community structure already established – and invite them to join you in this experience. The power of additional stories, reflections, and learning in community can be harnessed at your school and/or district.

    Connect with us

    Connect with the Elephant team to join a cohort of like-minded educators from across the country to redesign systems for equity. Send us a message at .

    Explore more on The Elephant in the (Class)room

    Explore other ways to commit to expanding your concept of educator and community in schools.

    co-design Experience Journey

    Create the time and space for building an equity practice
    start journey
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    teaching and learning as a dynamic relational human exchange

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    our concepts of educator and community in schools

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    systems to sustain equity