More Profound than Test Scores: S1E10 with Malika Ali

In Season 1 Episode 10, we hear from Malika Ali, Highlander Institute’s Director of Pedagogy. As an advocate for teachers and students alike, she brings a spotlight to the importance of compassionate and inclusive planning within the classroom. 

Providence and Central Falls, two of the most populated cities in Rhode Island, are where Malika feels most at home. When the COVID-19 numbers were disproportionately high within her community, she stood firm in her belief that with the right technology and support in place, teachers and learners would have a meaningful, successful school year. 

She encourages teachers to think outside of the box and do all they can to connect with their students by including parents, grandparents, and extended family members in school based projects for credit. Malika goes on to acknowledge the hesitation of some teachers; learning each student’s cultural background can seem daunting but reminds us to go to the source. Connect with the families.

Families have these deep, rich funds of knowledge from which we can draw to co-construct meaningful learning experiences, for and with students.

Malika provides one example of working with teachers to develop a mini-unit that put students in the interviewer seat and gave them a chance to discover familial resiliency and apply it to the current pandemic. 

Spoiler Alert – each project was unique and completed with support from the student’s family, and the teachers learned about every single student, without conforming to subpar curricula and without spending countless hours trying to pry information out of children. This genuine gesture to design student-centered projects fostered connections, provided unique learning opportunities, and the stack of projects were vibrant, interesting, and products of proud, confident learners.

Teachers, I think, are seeing that it’s not more work, it makes their lives easier… It’s a more efficient process for them and is more meaningful for the kids. And it brings their families in as genuine partners and equal partners in their kids’ learning.

Malika doesn’t stop at this example. Tune it to hear “four key considerations” for teachers working in these unprecedented times. 

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