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Turn it Upside Down and Watch African Americans (All Learners) SOAR!

Learning to Read Our Way (ltROW)

Our Schools are the most racist institutions in our society

Liberating Teaching and Learning (LTL) provides a protest tool for “learner- led classroom reform” – moving classrooms from a controlling, white, male supremacy model, to a 21st century, learner-centered, all ethnically inclusive model.

To educate the Negro, we must find out exactly what his background is, what he is today, what his possibilities are, how to begin with him as he is and make him a better individual of the kind that he is. Instead of cramming the Negro’s mind with what others have shown that they can do, we should develop his latent powers that he may perform in society a part of which others are not capable. — Carter G. Woodson, 1933

We must liberate learning environments and trust you to create tailor-made experiences that meet your needs and interests. You will really begin to learn, maybe, for the first time because:

  • Teachers don’t know it all and can’t do it all!
  • The teacher is only ONE. S/he has twenty-five to thirty potential partners.
  • Learners bring knowledge and experiences—not empty vessels.
  • Coplanning and coteaching create a rich, dynamic classroom for teachers and learners.
Learning to Read Our Way (ltROW)

Knowledge Bits

In a 10th-grade geometry.....

In a 10th-grade geometry class whose teacher collaborates with students to decide about curriculum and grades, a student explained to me that being able to make such choices “leads to learning rather than just remembering.”

The truth is that, if we want children.....

The truth is that, if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions. Constance Kamii

When teachers of inner-city black children were trained.....

When teachers of inner-city black children were trained in a program designed to promote a sense of self-determination, the students in these classes missed less school and scored better on a national test of basic skills than those in conventional classrooms.(23)

When second-graders spent the year in a math.....

When second-graders spent the year in a math classroom where textbooks and rewards were discarded in favor of an emphasis on “intellectual utonomy” – that is, where children, working in groups, took an active role in figuring out their own solutions to problems and were free to move around the classroom on their own initiative to get the materials they needed – they developed more sophisticated reasoning skills without falling behind on basic conceptual tasks.(24)

An intrinsic value. Finally, it needs to be.....

An intrinsic value. Finally, it needs to be said that allowing people to make decisions about what happens to them is inherently preferable to controlling them. It is more respectful and consistent with basic values to which most of us claim to subscribe. Apart from the skills that will be useful for students to have in the future, they ought to have a chance to choose in the present. Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. Put it this way: students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.(30)

Effects on teachers. Despite attitudinal barriers to creating.....

Effects on teachers. Despite attitudinal barriers to creating democratic classrooms and schools, which I will discuss later, educators who are willing to share power may well find that they benefit directly from doing so. One’s job becomes a good deal more interesting when it involves collaborating with students to decide what is going to happen. As one fifth-grade teacher in upstate New York explained.

I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years.....

I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years, and I would have been burned out long ago but for the fact that I involve my students in designing the curriculum. I’ll say to them, “What’s the most exciting way we could study this next unit?” If we decide their first suggestion isn’t feasible, I’ll say, “Okay, what’s the next most exciting way we could study this?” They always come up with good proposals, they’re motivated because I’m using their ideas, and I never do the unit in the same way twice.(28)

Choices for Children
Why and How to Let Students Decide
By Alfie Kohn

Click Here to listen to Dr. Haybert's talk about her book on the "Lee Peeped It" Podcast.


Liberating Teaching and Learning (LTL) requires a paradigm shift in the educational experience. LTL is an instructional strategy where teachers and learners share equally in creating and executing the learning experience. LTL incorporates educational philosophies that support a variety of researched teaching and learning models proven to be effective in increasing achievement for African American learners and others.

The pillars are as follows. LTL is:

  • Affective education— learners need to feel safe and cared for and feel that there is fairness and justice
  • Learner— centered (students have a choice, learn their way, take on the responsibility)
  • Focused on high expectations— believe learners can learn anything
  • Social justice and action-oriented— in the classroom, school, and world
  • Based on non- racist, relevant curriculum and instructional strategies— co-planned with learners and teacher;
  • Based on critical thinking through problem-solving in real-world contexts to change students’ lives and their circumstances
  • Informed by constructivism and progressivism— learner is the active constructor of meaning/understanding of knowledge
  • Based on cooperative/collaborative learning— interactive team learning

Teachers Don’t Know It All and Can’t Do It All!

What if teachers allowed learners to coplan and teach? When we teach, we learn! The more the teacher teaches, the more the teacher learns.

Our classrooms are extremely diverse.


  • Come from different cultures;
  • Have different;
  • Learning styles, interests, experiences
  • Levels of emotional and social maturity, and
  • Language needs,

Reflect different levels of academic readiness in various subjects.

What if learners were allowed to dovetail their diverse knowledge, perspectives, and experiences with school knowledge?

Learners would feel valued and motivated. When we endeavor to educate vs. train our citizens, we want to bring out of them what is already there, in order to empower them, to change their lives and society.

Teacher is Only ONE; She or He Has Twenty-Five to Thirty Potential Partners

What if learners and teaches worked together—co-planned what and how each learner learns her tasks?

Teachers and learners negotiate what (curriculum) and how (activity/instruction) of the learning experience, thereby creating relevant, an interesting curriculum and instructional strategies that eliminate boredom.

A Rich, Dynamic Classroom for Teachers and Learners


  • Teachers are learners; learners are teachers.
  • Coplan and teach with learners—free learners to plan and meet their own diverse learning needs and interests.
  • Lighter planning and teaching load relieves the pressure of teachers trying to be everything to everybody.
  • Learners show teachers who they are and what they need.
  • More learner responsibility and accountability.
  • Automatic integrated and multicultural education ensures curriculum relevancy.
  • The teacher’s view of learners changes; thus, expectations change. Expectations are less likely to change for learners if the teacher never sees different behavior or achievement.

Learners Learn To:

  • See themselves as capable independent and life-long learners
  • Feel valued and supported
  • Learn to work as a team
  • Understand:
  • How to learn
  • How they learn
  • How to teach others to learn while teaching the teacher how students learn

This simple technique is powerful and far-reaching. It can be used in all subject areas, with all learners. With each assignment, give choice. Read more in book, "Liberating Teaching and Learning".

The second part of LTL is cooperative learning (CL)/ academic teams—I call CL Academic Teams (ATs). No other instructional strategy has been researched as much as CL and it consistently proves to be effective for ALL children, especially, African Americans and Latinos.

CL is a cooperative interactive learning environment where students work together, contributing equally, in small heterogeneous groups, on academic tasks. Within such groups, students are encouraged to:

  • Share ideas,
  • Help each other learn,
  • Pool resources,
  • Share discoveries,
  • Justify their thinking, and
  • Critique each other’s ideas.

CL/ATs satisfy the learning needs of those who need to interact—talking, moving about, making decisions about assignments, supporting each other (the affective part)—while completing an academic task. It bridges the affective and physical to the cognitive.

Research on CL suggests, overwhelmingly, that when students work together in small groups, the following happen:

  • Learning improves—and to an equal extent in both elementary and secondary schools; in urban, suburban, and rural schools; and in diverse subject matter areas.
  • Problem—solving skills are enhanced.
  • Social and racial relationships improve, and students learn to like and respect each other.
  • Self-esteem improves.
  • Students have a more positive attitude toward school.

You will have fun with the many different ways to use CL/ATs.

One of the most important findings to come from the cooperative learning research is the strong achievement gains among learners of color in cooperative classrooms.

Additionally, students who are struggling with anger, social or family issues would have a safe place to discuss these struggles and develop ways to address them. Strong teams of learners support each other, lessening feelings of loneliness, and exposure to bullying.

Teachers and Learners Plan and Teach Together

Teachers, when you are to receive PD that deals with concepts and skills you are expected to learn and teach to your learners, then select some learners to go with you or have PD presented to your entire class- applies to K-12th graders. The more eyes and ears, the better. They will help you take the information and make it suitable for themselves, teach it to their peers, and you will have built-in coaches all year.

Teachers, I have provided professional development for you many, many times, and taught you at colleges and universities around the world. Yes, I and others have expected you to be able to come to a class or professional development sessions, receive information, and use it immediately in your classrooms. Some of you are able to do that, and many others are not. I remember when we expected you to plan a lesson to include all of these strategies:

  • Cooperative learning
  • Multiple intelligences
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Cultural learning styles
  • The history and culture of all learners

That’s a lot. However, when teaching and learning are liberated:

  • Lessons are automatically differentiated and individualized
  • Learners work in their preferred cultural styles
  • Learners present multicultural perspectives, and certainly, their multiple intelligences are honored
  • Automatically, learners use their history and experiences as the base for learning

When students have choice, they bring out the diversity in the class and contribute to a rich, dynamic learning environment. You learn so much about your learners and gain new knowledge as well.


You and your selected helpers learn and teach the learners what new strategy or information you want them to learn. Do it with them, rather than to them.


You will:

  • Have many ears to hear and eyes to see
  • Gain ideas for how to implement – your learners will think of strategies that you would never have thought of
  • Create lesson plans, in the training session or immediately thereafter, to fit you and your learner needs
  • Have support, directly in your classroom, all year
  • Be empowered, together, to use the strategy or information with learners

You and your learners list the benefits of this method of professional development for yourselves. You are partners. Customize your classroom experience.

Sign up for teacher and learner PD for implementing "Liberating Teaching and Learning".

The Teacher Learner Workshop

Bring your class into the 21st century


The Teacher Learner Workshop (TTLW), a life changing experience that you, learners and teachers, will create together - customizing teaching and learning for your classroom.

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