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Inquiry to Action Group (ItAG) - One Page

New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE)

Summary

An ItAG is similar to a study group, but the goal is that after the group inquires into a particular topic, its members will together create action around their area of study, making it a true community of praxis. The topics and themes are always consistent with our points of unity. Educators and allies such as teaching artists, organizers, high school students and activists participate in ItAG’s, linking social justice issues with classroom practice.

Goals of Project

ItAG's help fulfill several of NYCoRE's political goals, including networking isolated teachers who are interested in building community around educational justice. By providing opportunities for self-directed political education, teachers and allies read and probe social justice themes and connect theory with their classroom practice. Oftentimes participants continue working together either formally or informally. Several of the NYCoRE working groups were formed and are now lead by former ItAG participants. For example, NYQueer started as an ItAG two years ago on supporting LGTB students.idea.jpgIt now meets on an ongoing basis and has held two conferences and other events. The ItAGs have proven to be a great entry into the organization, giving teachers ongoing roles and leadership opportunities within the organization.  

 

Step 1

In the fall NYCoRE core leaders brainstorm potential topics for ItAGs and consult with members at open events, narrowing the list to about four or five topics. Sometimes these topics arise from issues raised in ongoing NYCoRE events, such as teachers voicing their concern about discipline policies in schools. Other times we identify powerful and dynamic members of the network and ask them if there is a topic they would like to facilitate. Now that we are entering our sixth year of ItAGs, we have several popular topics, such as integrating social justice into the mainstream curriculum, that we are able to offer every year.  

 

Step 2

We identify potential facilitators from within our network and we attempt to create co-facilitator teams that are diverse in race and gender. One is usually a classroom teacher, and the other has some knowledge or expertise in the topic area. For example, when we offered an ItAG on Parent Organizing for Teachers, the group was facilitated by an elementary school teacher and a parent organizer who had both worked at a school that was started by parents in Brooklyn. The ItAG facilitators typically have prior relationships with NYCoRE and our ongoing work, either as former ItAG participants or members of working groups.



Step 3

In November we hold a facilitators meeting in which we discuss the goals and purpose of the ItAGs and give facilitators the opportunity to brainstorm about their own ideas for their individual topics.  thought.jpgWe stress to the facilitators to not over plan as the goal of the ItAGs is to have them be participatory and co-constructed between the facilitators and the participants. The facilitators and NYCoRE members are all volunteers.

 

Step 4

We then spend about a month promoting the ItAGs [link to itage flier (this is in the email I sent)] idea.jpgthrough our listserv, website and word of mouth, and have participants register online.  

During this time, facilitators and NYCoRE identify donated spaces that are central for teachers throughout the city. In January, we bring all participants together at the kick-off [photos?] so that we can build a larger network and community of committed people and so people can see that they are part of something bigger. About half of that session is spent talking about NYCoRE and what we do. For the rest of the evening, the individual we break down into idea.jpgindividual ItAG groups over dinner to talk about why people signed up to join a particular topic. This discussion gives the facilitators an opportunity to gear their sessions to the needs and desires of the participants.

 

Step 5

Over the next 6 weeks, the individual ItAGs meet weekly (for a total of six, two-hour sessions plus a kick-off and finale) between January and March to share experiences, respond to readings, slashcircle.jpgexchange ideas and develop plans of action.Some groups have developed curriculum, such as the African Diasporic Arts ItAG. An ItAG on supporting English Language Learners created a parent and teacher rights guide.

 

Step 6

In March, we come back together at the end to share what each group worked on. This allows everyone to benefit from the work of each ItAG. In the past during our dinner finale, each group had about 15 minutes to share their work. Sometimes the groups performed a skit, showed a Powerpoint or shared a product of their group. Several of the final products of ItAGs are available on our website. We found that while this was successful at building community, it didn’t really give participants a full enough sense of the powerful work that had happened for the last six weeks. In 2010 we decided to hold a one-day conference in lieu of the finale, offering each ItAG a workshop slot to share their learning with an even larger audience.

 

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