So what? Now what? 

I will be the first to admit that I don’t utilize TED Talks as much as I should. But when I do, I am always impressed with the topics and speakers. One video, in particular, resonated with me “How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard” by Linda Cliatt-Wayman. Growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia, she returned as a teacher and then an administrator. Her TED Talk is posted below.

I think this video is a must-watch for teachers at least once a year. It’s a good reminder of why we do what we do. Now, I don’t work at an inner city school with the same obstacles as Cliatt-Wayman, but I do work at a Title I school with its own share of issues. But no matter where you work or the issues your school has, I think her slogans are spot-on:

  • If you’re going to lead…LEAD
  • So what? Now what?
  • If nobody told you they loved you today, remember I do, and I always will

Cliatt-Wayman never referred to culturally responsive teaching practices in her talk, but the way she went about changing the school culture at Strawberry Mansion utilized several components that empowered students, gave each of them a voice, and displayed empathy for what they (her students) were going through. One component of culturally responsive teaching practices that Cliatt-Wayman exemplified without a doubt is demonstrate cultural caring and build a learning community (Gay, 2002). She changed the school culture and climate not only for her students but for the faculty and staff by her actions, words, and follow-through.

Some aspects of her talk that resonated with me include the following (most of these are direct quotes):

  • Non-negotiables for positive behavior.
  • I love my students. I only see what they can become.
  • Spend time with them. Talk with them.
  • Weekly Town Home meeting (for students).
  • Every moment is a teachable moment.
  • My reward? Their earned respect. Because of this, we can accomplish things together.
  • Focus. Tradition. Excellence. Integrity. Perseverance.
  • Education can truly change their lives.
  • Every one of our students is a child.
  • We should always provide them with hope.

How can one not be inspired to do what’s best and what’s right by our students after watching her TED Talk? I believe the students were attracted to what Cliatt-Wayman had to say because she was once one of them. She wore those shoes. But that doesn’t mean that those of us who did not grow up with the same challenges as our students cannot be effective educators. It just means that we need to listen with our heart. We need to break the pedagogy of poverty cycle (Haberman, 2010). Our students–still children–want to learn. We can begin by providing a supportive, caring, and safe learning environment for them.

So what? Now what?


Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53, 106–116. doi:10.1177/0022487102053002003

Haberman, M. (2010). The pedagogy of poverty versus good teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 92, 81-87. doi:10.1177/003172171009200223

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