John Raible - Excellence in Teaching


Building allies for diverse students, families and communities

Being an effective teacher is not an easy job. John Raible wants his students in Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education to understand that going in. Transparency is an important part of his teaching style. Transparency about the challenges. Transparency about diversity and relationships. Transparency about the realities of life in a K-12 public classroom.

He’s been there. He knows. Raible, associate professor, taught 15 years in elementary and secondary public schools. He draws on that experience to bring insight to his students—the next generation of Nebraska teachers.

I’m not some Super Teacher who has it all figured out. I will talk about things that I’m not proud of—mistakes I’ve made, especially as a beginning teacher or even later in my career…showing how I’ve struggled, and grown and changed. That’s what we’re all doing. We’re all on a journey towards learning more. Me included. I haven’t arrived and I haven’t figured it all out.
John Raible in classroom listening to student discussion

Raible’s academic research focuses on multicultural education and strengthening interracial and cross-cultural alliances and relationships between diverse families, schools and communities. He wants his students to be well-prepared for the diversity they will encounter in their classrooms. More than that, he wants them to be capable of being allies for their students and their families.

“I guarantee that students will encounter controversial topics and situations in the classroom,” Raible said. “This stuff does matter. It has real life application. I’m trying to set them up for success. I’m trying to minimize possible damage and maximize possible benefit.”

Some of Raible’s students have not had much experience living and communicating in diverse populations. He’s not interested in “political correctness.” He’s interested in reality and how to best prepare his students for real life as a teacher in a public school classroom.

To be an effective teacher, you have to figure out a way to have a positive relationship with every student.
John Raible in classroom discussion with students

“We don’t get to pick and choose our kids. That’s one of the great things about our public schools,” says Raible. “We take all comers. We have to get over our own implicit biases and figure out how to be an effective teacher for this kid from this particular kind of family. If you don’t figure it out, you might sacrifice the relationship. You might lose the kid. That’s the biggest incentive to take this stuff seriously.”

Sometimes he has to start at a surprisingly basic level. For example, not referring to people of color as “colored people.” That distinction may be part of the fiber of many Americans, but is lost on a few inexperienced students. Something so fundamental could end up wrecking a teacher-student or teacher-parent/family relationship.

“It’s not about making anyone feel inadequate or ashamed,” Raible said. “You want to empower them and go into it with their eyes wide open. We want students to be in it for the long haul. That’s how you make the most impact. We need to be candid about how tough it’s going to be so they won’t get disillusioned.”

It comes down to values, says Raible. Where do you stand? Are you prepared to help every child? How are you going to react to a transgender student, an immigrant student or a lesbian mom? This is real life.

You have to believe in who you are and what you’re bringing to the classroom. That has value and worth. Because that’s what you end up teaching. You teach who you are.


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