Beth Rajan Sockman who joined PEDC in 2021 and is Professor of Professional & Secondary Education, and Department Chair at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.
PEDC’s mission is to increase the diversity of the educator workforce & create a culturally relevant and sustaining education system here in PA. How do you push this work forward in your personal and/or professional capacity?
Increasing diversity of the educator workforce and create culturally relevant and sustaining education system demands attention and action. Professionally, I work with various ESU teams to develop our curriculum, messaging, granting writing and recruiting to determine ways to increase diversity. We offer courses for dual enrollment and specifically to recruit BIPOC students. We are currently starting the journey to align our courses to the Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education Competencies. We created a DEI in Education graduate certificate of four courses that was designed with brilliant school partners so that the experience is meaningful to teachers. In the area of research, I have focused my research agenda I have begun to use equity or social justice as a lens to view work. Personally, I have grown in my critical consciousness over the past four years. “Acceptance” has been my strength, but like all strengths, was also my weakness; I accepted “what is” without pushing for change. As I seek societal - systemic change, beyond my work, I continue to push for Fair Trade, indigenousness/native – single source-point-to-point development, investigation of root causes, and look for unintended consequences to initiatives that reward the dominant power – so that we can forge win-win solutions in a complex world.
Have you worked on any projects or initiatives that positively impact the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the well-being of BIPOC teachers? If so, how?
Not at this time. We have begun talks with local BIPOC teachers to determine ways we can support them, and have a facilitator. We would like to get identify supports for those that invest their time so that the time space is meaningful for them.
Why are you passionate about increasing educator diversity?
Increasing teacher diversity produces a stronger society with greater understanding and belonging of all people. In the long run, diversity produces more innovative and robust organizations. This practice starts with our schools. In the short term, the presence of BIPOC teachers has positive effects on student self-regulation, well-being, and students have a greater propensity for presence in advanced classes and college admissions. Therefore, having greater teacher diversity had the propensity to influence a more ardent society. Funny to think about – right! It is something that seems so simple!
What challenges are you experiencing in this work?
Are there any regional (or statewide) specific challenges you are facing?
There are many challenges when working to diversify the workforce: competing priorities for time, understanding the problem and lastly, and resistance to change within the large and small scale. We’ll go through each. First, education currently faces overall demoralization which is felt in the schools. The demoralization was caused by factors such as teachers as political scapegoats, Covid’s remote learning to the resocialization and social-emotion issues dominating schools while they are being pushed to regain academic loses.
The second, is a regional concern – the “why”? There is data that shows we need teachers of color in PA, and little research investigates WHY BIPOC persons do not choose education, and the insufficient research leaves questions. If answered, we can better understand so that we can support needs to attract and support teachers of color.
Third, some do not see the need and feel that we are doing everything we can to attract and support teachers. They feel that if we support the social and emotion needs of all, it will address the BIPOC teacher needs. However, historically, PA has not had proportional teachers of color, and so, that need has not met, even when we did not have this social and emotion concern.
Currently, success in school is mostly based on items that are easily measured: academic test focused on limited knowledge; attendance; discipline. None of these addresses the curriculum and learning experiences. Most students operate as if students’ same way and at the same time with dominant culture curriculum. Until we unlock the curriculum to support different learning needs and empower educators with the ways to meet those needs, we will hold back the creativity to empower all students. The larger issue leads to more demoralization in the individual schools.
What are some of your needs?
In order to support current BIPOC teachers, time and funding would be helpful. Time would be used to talk through focus groups, talking to our partners and alum, and current teachers, to determine what is needed to help them thrive, not just survive. Funding would be helpful to provide compensation to the BIPOC teachers and students that are giving extra time to provide input and experiential expertise that could guide our development. We also need to systemize the processes to attract and support BIPOC teachers, and reflect on how actions and mindsets need to shift to create the best possible experience for our teachers in a challenging landscape.
Are you affiliated with any other organizations working towards addressing the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the wellbeing of BIPOC teachers?
Not at this time. Most of the other groups examine social justice in different aspects, but PEDC is the most focused on recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the wellbeing of BIPOC teachers out of the organizations I belong to.
Did you attend the recent 2022 PEDC virtual summit? What were some valuable takeaways?
This year’s Summit was strong when thinking about teachers and students of color, and all students – our world that values human life and the gift that each person brings as seen in “Reimagining Anti-Racist Teaching: Envisioning Just, Humanizing Education.” The important aspect for me was the development of critical consciousness through questions that emerged in talks. Meaningful questions were “what do you believe should be learned and unlearned in schools and other such spaces of teaching? What ideas about race, racism, and anti-racism should be taught as fundamental truths, and how might these be instilled in children in service of a just, humane world?” Resources are always beneficial in my work: James Baldwin to Talk to Teachers and the aggregated thought on Padlet Resources. These are things I can go back to and share with others.
Have you used any of the PEDC available resources & toolkits? If so, how?
The recruitment tool kit is something that we review to guide our program development. When we wrote some grants, the information in the tools gave us ideas if we were on the right track and how we could improve. For example, we have a dual enrollment program, but we haven’t coupled it with mentoring. Also, we are examining ways we can cultivate an earlier interest in teaching with area schools. We hope to examine both areas further this year, and are looking to the toolkits to guide our steps.
How can people connect with you and continue to follow your work?
Latest Publication: Systems Thinking for Instructional Designers: Catalyzing Organizational Change
Instructor – Interactive Notebook - What is your Truth? (Examining Ontology, Epistemology & Axiology)
Instructor – Teachers Writing Naturally Course
The Instructional Design Trainer’s Guide
Sockman, B., & Kieselbach, L. (2022). Instructional design embedded in culture. In J.E. Stefaniak, & R.M. Reese. (Eds.). Instructional Practices and Considerations for Training Educational Technology and Instructional Design Professionals. Routledge.
Sorry. I have suspended my self-promotion outlets due to time. I didn’t have time to maintain my website, and social media in a sustainable - up-to-date way. The best suggestion: Get involved with PEDC to work with the network!