On March 12, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, led an inspiring half-day presentation and workshop to teams from every Berkeley Unified school, preschool through high school. He called it: “Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete”.
The title of the talk references a Tupac Shakur poem called “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”, which became a song of the same name. Dr. Duncan-Andrade uses this poem from Tupac to illustrate the concept that some urban youth are growing up in conditions that cause stress to body and mind. Rather than lamenting the deficits that children may exhibit we should celebrate their tenacity, their grit and will to keep on going (despite their ‘damaged petals’).
He shared insights and lessons learned from 21 years as a teacher in East Oakland, his research and writing, and from his work on issues of educational equity including:
- Urban youth are twice as likely to show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as are soldiers returning from active duty. Symptoms of PTSD include: depression, attention problems, intrusive thoughts about traumatic event, flashbacks, disrupted sleep, and hypervigilance.
- The cause of PTSD in urban youth is often ‘toxic stress’. Toxic stress is the accumulation of multiple negative stressors without the resources to cope.
- How educators respond to student’s who are experiencing toxic stress is significant. A caring adult is the number 1 protective factor.
- Educators need to demonstrate genuine care for students in order to effectively deliver academic instruction. “If you don’t win the heart, you can’t access the head.”
Dr. Duncan-Andrade’s workshop was part of on-going work in the Berkeley Unified School District to strengthen services to all children and youth in our schools, both in and outside of the classroom. His work has implications for positive behavior supports, counseling and mental health, parent outreach, and the instructional program, and staff is looking for other opportunities to work with him.
Brief Bio: Dr. Duncan-Andrade is Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education at San Francisco State University and Director of the Educational Equity Initiative at the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational, and Environmental Design (ISEEED). In addition to these duties, he continues as a high school teacher in East Oakland where for the past 21 years he has practiced and studied the use of critical pedagogy in urban schools. He is also the author of two books, lectures around the world, and provides support and consultation to numerous stakeholder groups on the conditions of urban education, urban teacher support and development, and effective pedagogy in urban settings.